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Study Finds Dramatic Increase in Childhood Disabilities

Posted on May 22, 2013

Are you the parent of a disabled child? You may not be surprised to know that children today are significantly more likely to have a disability than children were a decade ago. The increase in child disability rates was documented in a study that was presented on Sunday, May 5, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Researchers at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001-2002 and in 2009-2010. A total of 102,468 parents of children age zero to 17 years participated in the surveys.

Parents were asked if their child had any physical limitations that affected play or activity, if their child received special education services, if their child required help with personal care, if their child had difficulty walking without equipment, if their child had difficulty with memory or if their child had any other limitation. If a parent answered “yes” to any of these questions, they were asked if the limitation was due to any of the following conditions:

  • Asthma or breathing problem
  • Joint, bone or muscle problem
  • Intellectual disability
  • Emotional or behavior problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Learning disability
  • Speech problems
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Birth defect
  • Injury
  • Other developmental problem

The study found that the total rate of disability among American children has increased by 16 percent in the last decade. In 2001-2002, about five million children had a disability. By 2009-2010, the number had increased to almost 6 million.

However, not all disabilities have increased. Disabilities related to physical health conditions have decreased, while disabilities due to mental health problems and neurodevelopmental problems have nearly doubled. While autism was not singled out, the researchers believe that the increase may be due to the increase in diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.

For more information on this, or for help with your disability case, contact us today.

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John L. Keefe
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