Child with a disability means a child evaluated in accordance with Sec. Sec. 300.304 through 300.311 as having mental retardation, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as "emotional disturbance"), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

U.S. Children are more affected by chronic illness than you would imagine 

Approximately 27% of U.S. children live with chronic health conditions that can affect their daily lives and normal activities. These maladies often contribute greatly to school absenteeism and require continual medical attention.

Many studies suggest chronic health problems, along with learning and developmental disorders, appear to be on the rise. These rising childhood illnesses include, but are not limited to:

  • Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADHD)

  • Arthritis

  • Asthma

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

  • Auto-immune disorders

  • Developmental/Learning Disorders

  • Cancer

  • Cardiovascular problems

  • Cerebral Palsy

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Diabetes

  • Epilepsy

  • Food allergies

  • Obesity

  • Respiratory allergies

  • Sickle cell anemia

  • Spina bifida



  • The percentage of children identified with ASD ranged widely across geographic area. 

  • Boys were 4.5 times were more likely to be identified with ASD than girls.

  • White children were more likely to be identified with ASD than black or Hispanic children. Black children were more likely to be identified with ASD than Hispanic children.

  • Among children identified with ASD who had IQ scores available, about a third also had intellectual disability.

  • About 43% of children identified with ASD were evaluated for developmental concerns by age 3 years.

  • Black and Hispanic children were less likely to be evaluated for developmental concerns by age 3 years than white children.

  • Even though ASD can be diagnosed as early as age 2 years, most children were not diagnosed with ASD by a community provider until after age 4 years.

Autism Spectrum Disorder
Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles. CDC estimates that an average of 1 in 323 children in the U.S. have CP.

The symptoms of CP vary from person to person. A person with severe CP might need to use special equipment to be able to walk, or might not be able to walk at all and might need lifelong care. A person with mild CP, on the other hand, might walk a little awkwardly, but might not need any special help. CP does not get worse over time, though the exact symptoms can change over a person's lifetime.

All people with CP have problems with movement and posture. Many also have related conditions such as intellectual disability; seizures; problems with vision, hearing, or speech; changes in the spine (such as scoliosis); or joint problems (such as contractures).

ADHD medication and behavior therapy among children with ADHD (ages 4-17) with special health care needs

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.

Signs and Symptoms

It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.

A child with ADHD might:

  • daydream a lot

  • forget or lose things a lot

  • squirm or fidget

  • talk too much

  • make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks

  • have a hard time resisting temptation

  • have trouble taking turns

  • have difficulty getting along with others

Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome. Chromosomes are small “packages” of genes in the body. They determine how a baby’s body forms during pregnancy and how the baby’s body functions as it grows in the womb and after birth. Typically, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21. A medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is ‘trisomy.’ Down syndrome is also referred to as Trisomy 21. This extra copy changes how the baby’s body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges for the baby. Even

though people with Down syndrome might act and look similar, each person has different abilities. People with Down syndrome usually have an IQ (a measure of intelligence) in the mildly-to-moderately low range and are slower to speak than other children.

Children and mental health disabilities

3.5% of students with disabilities ages 6-7 were identified as having emotional disturbance; this percentage increases for each age group to 13% of students with disabilities in high school years (13.1% for ages 14-15; 13.0% for ages 16-17).


Overall, in the United States, an estimated 10.8% of children ages 6-17 were served by IDEA. Emotional disturbance was identified in .92% of the overall student population nationwide, although predicted prevalence is closer to 2%.

*The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.

*neurodevelopmental- having to do with the way the brain grows and develops.