Students with Disabilities

Below, you will find an interactive graph showing the distribution of disabilities represented in Brown County schools. While the distribution of most disabilities remains relatively stagnant from Kindergarten to Grade 11, there are two particularly stark changes throughout the twelve years shown. Speech or Language Impairment peaks in Kindergarten at 57.03% of all disabilities and slowly decreases until it is just 0.93% of all disabilities in grade 11. Contrarily, Specific Learning Disabilities are just 3.51% and make up 48.35% of all disabilities by grade 11. This is likely due to speech and language pathology interventions to mitigate language difficulties and increased attention to learning disabilities throughout middle and high school.

 This could be related to the change in diagnostic criteria by the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM V. The fourth edition of the DSM was released in 1994 and recognized Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) as three separate disorders. However, in the 2013 DSM V, these distinct diagnoses were removed and placed under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Additionally, it is important to note that the diagnostic criteria of medical professionals who use the DSM can differ greatly from the diagnostic criteria of schools. In some cases, a diagnosis of a specific disability does not translate to guaranteed disability accommodations in school. Instead, educational eligibility is determined by a team of school professionals and parents to qualify for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) [5]. For more information on educational eligibility for special services, please click here

Persons with disabilities make up an integral part of our community. In fact, 8.1% of those under 65 years old living in Brown County have a disability [1], while 29.2% of those over 65 years old have a disability [2]. Without the appropriate resources, it may be harder for persons with disabilities to pursue secondary and post-secondary education. 18.7% of those with disabilities in Brown County have less than a high school degree compared to 6.8% of those without disabilities. 12.2% of persons with disabilities have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, while 28.1% of those without disabilities do [3].

There is encouraging news when looking at the trend in the number of enrolled students with disabilities. The percentage of students with disabilities has been steadily dropping, from 16% in 2005/06 down to 14% in 2014/15. Part of this decline may be due to the introduction of the Response to Intervention program in some schools over the last six years. Response to Intervention is intended to assure that all students first receive classroom and small group help prior to making a referral for a special education evaluation and an official classification as a ‘Student with Disability’.[4]

While the overall number of students with disabilities has been slowly declining, there has also been a shift in the types of disabilities identified over the same time period. This means we have seen increases in speech or language impairment, autism and significant developmental delays at the same time as we have seen declines in the number of students in the categories of specific learning disabilities, emotional behavioral disabilities and cognitive disabilities.


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