Children with a disability likely to be poorer

Children with disabilities are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to a detailed analysis of a survey of young people with special educational needs.

The Economic and Social Research Institute has today published Insights into the Lives of Children with Disabilities: Findings from the 2006 National Disability Survey.

The report examines the profile, school experiences, and social and academic outcomes of children with disabilities and special educational needs, and draws on a detailed statistical analysis of more than 1,800 children with a disability or special educational need who were part of a national disability survey conducted by the CSO in 2006.

Among its findings, the report states there are 1.7 times more boys than girls experiencing a disability.

“Children with disabilities are also more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds in terms of household type and parent’s social class,” the report says. “Just under a quarter of children and young people with disabilities live in one-parent households, while less than one sixth of all children live in such homes. Similarly, in terms of social class background, 24% of children with disabilities are from the economically inactive social class category, compared to 17% for children in the general population.”

The analysis also revealed that children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be placed in special classes or in special schools settings.

About 72% of children with disabilities attend mainstream education, a further 13% are in special classes in mainstream schools, and 15% attend special schools.

Report author Dr Joanne Banks said the greater use of special education settings for children from disadvantaged backgrounds highlights the importance of a transparent approach in the placement of children and young people to special classes and schools.

“The results raise questions over the extent to which children and young people experiencing emotional and mental health difficulties receive adequate social and personal support,” she said.

“This research suggests the need for debate around the role of schools, and guidance services, in supporting children and young people with EPMH [emotional, psychological, and mental health disability].”

The report also found that:

  • More than two thirds of children with a disability have multiple disabilities;
  • 53% of children with a disability have an intellectual disability or learning difficulty as their main disability. The next largest groups are children with difficulties remembering or concentrating (8%), EPMH disabilities (8%), and speech difficulties (7%). Together these groups represent 77% of all disabilities experienced by children;
  • A higher percentage of students attend special schools at post-primary level compared to primary level, which suggests some children with disabilities move from mainstream to special education settings when transitioning to post-primary education.
  • Children with emotional psychological and mental health disabilities, particularly girls, are at greater risk of absenteeism compared to children with other disabilities. About 25% of children with EPMH accumulate at least three months absence from school, compared to 9% of young people with intellectual disabilities or learning difficulties.

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