The latest report from a longitudinal study of students with disabilities shows that these youth are attending college and participating in community and volunteer activities in far greater percentages than they were 15 years ago.
SRI International, a research institute, compared outcomes using two long-term studies of youth with disabilities.
The first federally funded study, called the National Longitudinal Transition Study lasted from 1983 to 1990, and followed youth ages 13 to 21 at the time the study began. The NLTS-2 study collected data on youth from 2001 to 2009, and the students were ages 13 through 16 at the time the research began.
The researchers compared student information gathered in 1990 to reports gathered in 2005. According to the report, within four years of leaving high school, 46 percent of young adults in 2005 were reported to have enrolled in a postsecondary school versus 26 percent in 1990.
The gains spanned across a broad range of postsecondary programs: an 18 percentage-point increase in community college enrollment, a 13 percentage-point increase in postsecondary vocational, business, or technical school enrollment and a 9 percentage-point difference in enrollment at four-year universities.
However, students with disabilities were still less likely than youth in the general population to be enrolled in some postsecondary institution. In 2005, 63 percent of young adults in the general population attended some kind of postsecondary institution, a 17 percentage-point difference.
Youth with disabilities also increased their involvement in volunteer or community service. The participation rate rose from 13 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 2005.
However, the job outlook for youth with disabilities has not changed as dramatically as the postsecondary education rate. According to the researchers, 62 percent of youth reported being employed in 1990 compared to 56 percent in 2005; youth worked an average of 38 hours per week in 1990 vs. 35 hours a week in 2005, and the average wages were $9.10 an hour in 1990 compared to $9 an hour in 2005, adjusting for inflation.