2013 Statistics on Children with Special Needs

According to a 2005 U.S. Census study, 54.4 million Americans, or about one in five U.S. residents, have a disability. This demographic is equal to the population of Florida and California combined. Between 2002 and 2005, both the percentage and number of Americans affected by disability rose, as has been the trend for some time.1 Statistics also tell us that among children ages 3 to 17, nearly 14 percent have a developmental disability.2

Consider the increase in the incidence of autism. Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of autism diagnoses increased 289.5 percent.3 And by 2013, 1 in 50 children was identified with an autism spectrum disorder.4 The incidence rate among boys is actually as high as 1 in 31 (3.23%).5 Some professionals argue that these statistics are still too conservative, only taking into account children who have been formally diagnosed with an ASD (autism spectrum disorder). A respected South Korean study identified as many as 1 in 38 children as exhibiting characteristics associated with autism.6

With these statistics in mind, can any ministry ignore the need to prepare for participants with learning differences and disabilities?

  • .14 percent of babies are born with Down syndrome (1/691 babies).7
  • 2 percent of children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (1/50 children).8
  • 7 percent of children ages 3 to 17 have been identified with ADHD.9
  • 8 percent of children ages 3 to 17 have been identified with a learning disability.10
  • 14 percent of children ages 13 to 17 have been identified with a developmental disability.11
  • 17 percent of Americans are estimated to experience a communication disorder at some point in their life (1/6 Americans).12
  • 19 percent of Americans of all ages are classified as a person with a disability (12 percent are severely disabled).13
  • 25 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds are identified with an anxiety.14   



1. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb08-185.html

2. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdev_disabilities/index.html

3. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdev_disabilities/index.html

4. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf

5. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf

6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21558103

7. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/DownSyndrome.html

8. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf

9. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdev_disabilities/index.html

10. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdev_disabilities/index.html

11. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdev_disabilities/index.html

12. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/staticresources/about/plans/strategic/FY2009-2011NIDCDStrategicPlan.pdf

13. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb08-185.html

14. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYANX_child.shtml

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Amy Fenton Lee
Amy Fenton Lee is a writer and speaker focused on helping churches successfully include children with special needs. She is a regular contributor to children’s ministry publications and a variety of other Christian and secular magazines. Amy is a passionate children’s ministry volunteer and the daughter of a church senior pastor. Amy is a frequent speaker at children’s ministry conferences. Amy blogs about special needs inclusion at The Inclusive Church.