INFOGRAPHIC: Prevalence, Requirements, and Outlook for Teaching Students with Special Education Needs

special needs by state


This interactive infographic (courtesy of Saint Joseph's) illustrates current and future special needs education outlook for each of the fifty states in the US.

Currently, 6,480,540 disabled students live in America, dispersed in varying concentrations across the country. On this map, the different shades of green that color the US map range from a pale green, representing only 20,000 disabled students with special education needs, to a dark green, signifying a staggering 600,000 disabled students. These students are categorized under one or more of the thirteen categories of disabilities which renders them eligible to receive special education.

California, the darkest state on the map, has a total number of 673,428 disabled students. Most common disabilities in the state include specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairment, and autism. There are currently 19,200 special education professionals there. This means, for every special education professional, there are 35 disabled students. However, a projected 20% increase is expected by 2018, raising the number of special education professionals to 23,300--a high number to match a high need.

In comparison, North Dakota only has 13,262 disabled students. Common disabilities in the state include speech or language impediments, emotional disturbance, and developmental delay. There are currently 810 special education professionals in North Dakota, with an expected 10% increase, up to 890 professionals, by 2018.

The clearance requirements for special education teachers vary within each state. In Washington, only fingerprints are required. Similarly, in Idaho, a simple background check is all that is needed. However, in Nevada, not only is a background check needed, a chest x-ray or TB skin test must be performed, along with proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status.

All states show a general trend of upward growth, with some states being more prominent than others. Texas, which currently boasts 14,410 special education professionals is going strong with a 41% growth, or 20,410 professionals by 2018. This would be a significant improvement, considering that there are currently 444,198 disabled students in Texas. On the other hand, Maine only expects at 6% growth, or 1,830 professionals by 2018. This is probably due to their relatively low number of disabled students (32,766).

With all these numbers in mind, it becomes clear that each state has different needs when it comes to special education. Are disabled students receiving appropriate education with their conditions in mind? Will the projected growths into 2018 be sufficient? Should special education teachers consider relocating based on need areas? What do you think?

--Sarah Liu,