Special Education by the Numbers: A Look into Today's Schools
This coming fall, the California Department of Education will be folding special education into mainstream education as part of a statewide reform initiative. With this change, not only will special education students become fully integrated into all state school systems, but California teacher preparation programs will also have special education and general education teacher certification programs fully aligned with each other.
Teachers must be prepared to celebrate, challenge, and support students with varying needs in an inclusive classroom.
In California and nationwide, the silos of self-contained special education are dissipating. As of 2010, more than 60 percent of special education students spent the majority of their time in general education classrooms.
Percent of IDEA Students Who Spent 80% or More of Their Time in General Education Classrooms, 1989-2010 
This represents a 90 percent increase in the time students spent with their general education peers when compared to 1989. As of 2015, 6.5 million young people ages 3-21 receive services for students with disabilities — about 13% of public school students.
"In the past, students with special needs were often sequestered in separate classrooms. Many teachers were also not adequately prepared to meet the needs of special needs students in their classrooms," she said. "However, in the modern classroom, students with special needs are very frequently included in classrooms with students who do not have special needs. Thus, teachers must be prepared to celebrate, challenge, and support students with varying needs in an inclusive classroom."
Here, we'll take a look at the who, what, where, why, when and how of the current state of special education.
Who Receives Special Education Services?
In order to be eligible for services, students must have 1 of the 13 defined types of disabilities and it must adversely affect their academic and educational performance. This is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that ensures children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education Before the creation of the IDEA, more than 6 million children with disabilities were either not allowed in public schools, placed in segregated classrooms, or placed in regular classrooms without the appropriate support
Disclaimer: While IDEA is a federal law, the definition of who qualifies under each disability type is governed by the state. Note that the definitions below vary on a state-by-state basis.
10 Types of Disabilities 
Specific Learning Disability
A person with a specific learning disability has a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes needed to learn spoken and written language. This includes an imperfect ability to think, listen, read, speak, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.
A speech/language impairment is a communication disorder that hinders articulation (such as a stutter), or a voice impairment that adversely affects one's education performance.
Other Health Impairment
Other health impairments include having limited vitality, alertness or strength due to acute or chronic health problems. These can include heart conditions, rheumatic fever, asthma, tuberculosis, hemophilia, nephritis, sickle cell anemia, epilepsy, leukemia, diabetes or lead poisoning, among other conditions.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that hinders a child's ability to communicate and interact with others.
An intellectual disability is a significant limitation in adaptive behavior and intellectual functioning that impairs a child's education performance.
A developmental delay is an ongoing major or minor delay in the process of development, including delayed development of language, thinking, social, or gross or fine motor skills. It is defined at the state level and applies only to 3- through 9-year-old children.
Emotional disturbance is a condition that manifests over a long period of time and adversely affects one's educational performance including:
- Inability to learn, which cannot be explained by health, sensory or intellectual factors.
- Inability to build or maintain interpersonal relationships with others.
- Inappropriate feelings and behaviors under normal circumstances.
- A prevalent and persistent state of unhappiness or depression.
- A tendency to develop fears or physical symptoms associated with school or personal issues.
Children with multiple disabilities have more than one disability which impairs educational performance. This term does not include deaf-blind students.
Hearing impairment means an incomplete ability to hear that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The impairment can be fluctuating or permanent, although deafness is defined separately from hearing impairment.
Orthopedic impairment is defined as a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Impairments can come from disease, congenital anomalies, or other causes.
Percent of students with these disabilities 
Inclusion vs. Self-Contained Classrooms
According to the Missouri Department of Education, consideration should be given to the following when assigning students to a self-contained classroom:
- The severity of the disability
- The age of the student's range of needs, as specified in the student's individualized education program (IEP)
- The student's needs, as specified in their IEPs
- The teacher's other duties and workload
- The level of paraprofessional support that can be provided
There are two types of special educations services in today's schools: push-in and pull out services.
As the field of special education continues to evolve, Dr. Hyde emphasizes that teachers must be prepared to celebrate, challenge, and support students with varying needs in an inclusive classroom.