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20 Horrifying Learning Disabilities Statistics

By Blog

We’ve been developing a much greater understanding of learning disabilities, especially over the past three decades, where our ability to diagnose, categorize, and measure their impact has improved significantly. Nowadays, we’re much more able to point out learning disabilities statistics that prove how they affect us on an individual level and collectively.

Below, we’ll take a deeper look at the learning disability facts and stats, such as prevalence rates of LDs, methods we take to address these conditions, how LDs affect lifetime achievement rates, and more.

Keep reading to get the real facts on learning disabilities.

Key Learning Disabilities Facts You Should Know

  • Around 5-9% of the population has a learning disability
  • Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting over 15% of children
  • Students with LDs are three times more likely to drop out of school
  • 14% of all public school students receive special education services.

Learning Disabilities Statistics 2020

1. Around 5-9% of the population has a learning disability.

One of the most important special education stats we need to look at first is the percentage of students with learning disabilities. Overall, the latest available stats suggest that around 5-9% of the general population has a learning disability.

The prevalence of learning disabilities in children says that this number is roughly 8% for children aged 3-17. Out of those, 4% were rated as having a mild disability and 4% as having a moderate or severe disability.

2. Over 15% of children may have dyslexia.

When looking at children with disabilities statistics, we must also look at the difference between specific conditions and the percentage of children with learning disabilities of different types.

Dyslexia is commonly understood to be the most prevalent learning disability at the moment, as shown by kids reading statistics. The lowest estimation for the number of children with dyslexia is 15%, but higher estimates put it in the 20% range. Furthermore, it’s estimated that 70-80% of people with poor reading skills are likely to be dyslexic, according to the statistics of language learning disabilities.

3. 9.4% of children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD.

ADHD statistics indicate that ADHD is much more commonly found in children than adults, primarily because the diagnosis criteria of the condition were designed with kids in mind. However, the latest special needs children statistics show that it is the second most commonly diagnosed learning disability.

Around 6.1 million children, or roughly 9.4% of all children in the US, have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to CDC learning disabilities statistics. This condition affects behavior in a variety of ways, with symptoms including disorganization, impulsive behavior, poor time management, difficulty with focusing on tasks, and more.

4. 3-6% of school children have been diagnosed with dyscalculia.

The intellectual disabilities statistics also show that dyscalculia is the third most prevalent LD in the US. Specific learning disability prevalence studies show that it affects school populations in a range of 3-6%.

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that makes it challenging to grasp even basic mathematical concepts. As such, children with the condition can have trouble with concepts of measuring, time, and estimating, feel lost when approaching a mathematics problem, and have difficulties with counting and grouping numbers.

5. An estimated 4% of school children may have dysgraphia.

Unlike general facts about children with disabilities, dysgraphia statistics are currently not as widely available. Because the learning disability is less commonly looked for, there is also a weaker understanding of its prevalence.

As such, statistics about learning note that 5-20% of children have some kind of difficulty with reading, while other disability statistics in America specifically note that 4% of elementary school children have dysgraphia. This condition affects a child’s ability to write legibly, meaning they may have messy handwriting, hold writing implements incorrectly, and take much longer to write than most children.

6. Dyspraxia is likely to affect as many as 6% of children.

The stats on disabilities, such as dyspraxia, are hard to pinpoint, in part due to how difficult it is to diagnose the condition in the first place. It is known as a condition that affects hand-eye coordination skills in children, which can include balance issues, as well as difficulty with any tasks that use fine-motor skills.

As a “hidden problem,” there are some estimates that dyspraxia may affect as many as 10% of children. However, more realistic mental disabilities statistics say that 6% is a more likely number. Furthermore, 2% of all children are thought to experience severe dyspraxia. This is in line with the percent of the population with learning disabilities of other kinds.

7. Students with LD are three times more likely to drop out of school.

Drop-out facts show that having a learning disability results in a 300% increased likelihood of dropping out of middle or high school. Many people who drop out may not have their learning disability monitored or treated, meaning the issue becomes invisible and doesn’t appear in stats as much.

8. 40% of people with autism also have a learning disability.

Comorbidity rates show that people with specific types of mental or emotional disabilities have an increased likelihood of also having a learning disability. Autism and learning disabilities statistics show that more than 10% of all children have either one or both. In these cases, autism is often counted as a learning disability, but some find that categorization inaccurate.

Autism statistics for 2017 give a more specific look at the rates of children with autism who also have a learning disability. According to the UK stats, this is as many as four in ten autistic people who have a learning disability.

9. 14% of all public school students receive special education services.

Conditions like dyslexia seem to be increasing in prevalence, mostly because we are better able to detect and diagnose them than ever. The latest special needs facts show that 14% of all students aged 3-21 receive services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

This translates to a number of around 7 million. Furthermore, 34% of students who received special education services had an LD, according to statistics about learning.

10. 4.4% of all college students have a learning disability.

As mentioned, children with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and similar conditions are more likely to drop out of school compared to other children, according to the latest special education facts. However, 2018 college students with disabilities statistics show that a sizeable portion of people living with LD still ends up going to college.

While 4.4% of college students with a learning disability is a lower number than that of people with LD among the general population, that’s still nearly as many as one in 20 enrolled students having one of the LD mentioned above. By comparison, college student mental health statistics show that 8.2% of college students have ADHD, while 1% have a speech or language disorder, as shown by statistics on post-secondary of high school graduates with learning disabilities.

11. There are eleven types of learning disabilities.

It could be challenging to tell how many learning disabilities there are. For instance, some studies list autism as a learning disability, even though it is not medically defined as one.

The Learning Disability Association of America lists seven specific types of learning disabilities and four disorders that are often classified as related to learning disabilities. The specific types are auditory processing disorder, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyslexia, language processing disorder, non-verbal learning difficulties, and visual perceptual/visual motor deficit. ADHD, dyspraxia, executive functioning, and memory disorders are considered related. 

The fact that some of these types are interchangeably considered as learning disabilities or related conditions has led to difficulties with determining disability rates across multiple studies.

12. There has been a 13% increase in special education enrollment.

As mentioned above, the latest special education enrollment statistics show that 7 million children are currently receiving education support services through the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA). However, the IDEA statistics show that this is a sizeable increase – over 13% compared to past years.

This increase is likely to be caused, at least partially, by the advances in effective diagnosis. Diagnosis is still difficult, which is why disabled people statistics for dysgraphia and dyspraxia are still not as well-supported as the stats for more established conditions like dyslexia and ADHD. However, as diagnosis practices continue to improve mental health in general, the percentage of students in special education may also continue to increase.

13. ADHD is amongst the commonly misdiagnosed conditions.

Learning disabilities misdiagnosed statistics are even harder to locate than other emotional disturbance statistics. Still, there have been enough studies showing that the overdiagnosis of some disorders is a real and significant problem. ADHD is widely recognized as one of the most overdiagnosed conditions.

According to studies, one of the reasons for overdiagnosis is the use of heuristics and the over-reliance on the symptom of inattention. Inattention often leads to a diagnosis of ADHD, but it can just as easily be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other learning disorders.

While our ability to recognize and diagnose earlier is improving, this overdiagnosis has led to some concerns that children are being singled out as having an LD when that may not actually be the case. Learning disabilities statistics worldwide show this problem to be widespread.

14. 85.9% of children pay for their own assistive learning devices.

Many people are concerned about what steps we are taking to help children with LD, given their increased likelihood of dropping out of education before college. When it comes to assistive technology for learning disabilities statistics, it is estimated that between 39-56% of all children who have a disability receive some assistive technology to help them with their learning.

However, the cost is most commonly mentioned as a barrier to acquiring the technology that children need. In fact, 85.9% of them have to pay for their own assistive technology.

15. There is an overrepresentation of learning disabilities in homeless people.

One concern that has recently become much more common for those looking into learning disabilities and its impact on long-term living standards is the prevalence of learning disabilities in homeless people. The statistics of homeless people with learning disabilities are lacking, with only a few local studies offering numbers.

However, studies point out that homeless people are significantly more likely to have a learning disability than the general population. Furthermore, there are significant barriers to diagnosing homeless people, including the fear of abuse and incarceration.

16. 28.3% of people with learning disabilities are obese.

Another factor of comorbidity worth looking at is obesity and language learning disability statistics. According to one study, people with LD are significantly more likely to be obese. Learning disabilities statistics show that 28.3% of those people are obese. This is much larger than 20.4% of the general population with obesity.

There are several hypotheses as to why people with LD are more likely to be obese. It may be in part due to side effects from antipsychotics and other medications, and may also be due to the higher prevalence of emotional disturbances in people with learning depression, as both depression and stress are more likely to lead to obesity.

17. Learning disabilities are half as prevalent in children living four times over the federal poverty level.

Statistics about poverty and learning disabilities are notoriously difficult to unpack because it’s hard to note any causal link between stats on poverty and the statistics for adolescents with learning disabilities.

However, the stats do show a correlation. Children raised in families living in 0-99% of the federal poverty level (FPL) are significantly more likely to have learning disabilities than those above the FPL. More precisely, 5.4% of children in the 0-99% FPL range have mild types, while 6.7% have moderate to severe learning types.

Meanwhile, learning disabilities statistics also suggest that 3.7% of children living in 100-199% of the FPL have mild LD, while 4.2% have moderate/severe LD. Around 4.1% of children living in 200-399% of FPL have mild LD, while 3.3% have severe LD, slightly breaking the trend. At 400% of FPL or higher, rate of mild LD in children are 3%, while it’s 2.6% for moderate/severe LD.

It seems that statistics of learning disabilities in America show that poverty not only correlates with a higher likelihood of developing conditions like dyslexia and dyspraxia, but also a higher likelihood of having a moderate/severe LD compared to a mild kind.

18. 46% of adults with learning disabilities are employed.

Disabled adults are significantly less likely to be employed compared to neurotypical individuals. In 2016, able-bodied people were employed at a rate of 76.6% in the US.

People with LD were employed at a rate of 46%, according to the latest employment learning disabilities statistics. This is significantly higher than the general levels of employment amongst work-age individuals with all kinds of disability, which is 35.9%.

Adults without any disability are twice as likely to be employed than adults with a disability. However, those with a learning disability are slightly more likely to be employed than adults with other kinds of chronic conditions.

19. One in six adults struggles with reading.

While there are some concerns about the overdiagnosis of certain conditions, with ADHD being the most prevalent worry, this is an exception to the rule. Learning disabilities are largely underdiagnosed, according to modern understanding.

However, reading facts and statistics tell us a different story. For example, one in six adults has difficulty reading, which could indicate that dyslexia, for example, is much more common in the general population than we realize. Learning disabilities do not have to account for every person who has trouble reading. Still, even if half of those people were diagnosed with dyslexia, it would greatly increase the prevalence of the condition reported by studies.

20. 85% of all people with an intellectual disability have a mild version of it.

When talking about the prevalence of learning disability and the risk of underdiagnosis, it’s important to know the context of why some conditions are largely diagnosed. Severe problems with dyslexia are significantly easier to pick up than mild or moderate versions.

Yet, in the case of all intellectual disabilities, the vast majority of people living with them are diagnosed with a mild disability. More precisely, 85% are diagnosed with a mild version, 10% have a moderate disability, and 5% have a severe disability.

Since learning disabilities may be milder through the general population, it may be harder to diagnose them as well.

learning disabilities statistics - boy

Conclusion

Learning disabilities facts discussed above show that they are becoming increasingly prevalent, mostly because we are better able to catch the symptoms and diagnose all kinds of learning disabilities. The statistics on special education indicate that dyslexia remains the most common learning disability, with ADHD, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia all filling in for the rest of the top five learning disabilities. 

However, learning disabilities statistics also show that we still have a lot of work to do to become more specific in how we diagnose. Some conditions are still underdiagnosed, while others, like ADHD, may be overdiagnosed. Moreover, the increased rate of children who suffer roadblocks to education due to learning disability shows that more work must be done to support children living with these conditions.

Hopefully, the stats on learning disabilities help you understand the state of disability and education in North America a little better.

FAQ

What percentage of the population has a learning disability? 

While there is no definitive answer, the latest available stats suggest that 5-9% of the general population has a learning disability.

Can you grow out of a learning disability? 

No, there is no evidence to suggest that someone can grow out of learning disability, but there are a wide variety of ways to treat it.

What are the main learning disabilities?

The main types are auditory processing disorder, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyslexia, language processing disorder, non-verbal learning difficulties, and visual perceptual/visual motor deficit. ADHD, dyspraxia, executive functioning, and memory disorders are considered related. 

What percentage of students have learning disabilities? 

Roughly 8% of children aged 3-17 have a learning disability.

How many special needs students are in the US? 

7.0 million, or 14%, of all public school students.

How many learning disabilities are there? 

Learning disabilities are categorized differently by different groups, but many put it at 11 different types.

Which category of disability has the highest incidence? 

Learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, speech and language impairment, and mild intellectual disabilities are considered high-incidence disabilities, according to IDEA.

The most commonly diagnosed learning disability is? 

Dyslexia, affecting 15% of all children.

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