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Perceptions and Expectations of Youth With Disabilities  (NLTS2)
NCSER 2007-3006
September 2007

Youth With Disabilities' Descriptions of Themselves and Their Lives

Adolescents' self-descriptions have been found to be related to multiple social and academic outcomes. To ascertain their self-perceptions, youth with disabilities were asked questions about their views of themselves, perceptions of their disability, and feelings about their lives in general.

  • Between 59 and 83 percent of youth with disabilities say that each of five positive attributes are "very much" like them—being nice, being proud of themselves, being able to handle challenges, feeling useful and important, and feeling that life is full of interesting things to do. Fifty-eight percent report that they enjoyed life in the previous week "most or all of the time."

  • Similarly, about 60 percent report that in the previous week they "rarely or never" felt depressed, lonely, or disliked by others.

  • Approximately three in five give themselves high marks on a broad measure of self-realization that assesses how youth perceive their strengths, limitations, and confidence in their abilities and interactions with others.

  • In contrast, almost 1 in 10 youth with disabilities do not consider themselves to be useful or important "at all," and 12 percent say they "rarely or never" feel hopeful about the future.

  • Fewer than one-third of those who had received special education services when they were ages 13 through 16 consider themselves to have a disability or special need by the time they are 15 through 19 years old.