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

Disability Category Differences

Disability category differences are apparent on many of the self-representations examined in this report. Some of the perceptions or views youth report are consistent with the fundamental nature of their disabilities. For example:

  • Youth in the other health impairment category, to which youth with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder as a primary disability typically are assigned, are more likely than those in several other disability categories to report having daily trouble paying attention in school.

  • Those with orthopedic impairments are less likely to report having strong athletic or mechanical skills than computer skills.

  • Youth with autism, which typically affects the ability to establish relationships with others and engage in daily activities, are less likely than those in most other categories to be involved in activities at school; they also are among the least likely to report they make friends easily or feel cared about by friends "a lot."

  • Youth with emotional and/or behavioral challenges often can have relationships in which conflict is common. Consistent with this, reports of infrequently having trouble getting along with others at school and of being cared about by other adults "a lot" are less common among youth with emotional disturbances than among youth in many other categories.

  • Youth with disabilities such as deaf-blindness, visual impairments, or orthopedic impairments are much more likely to report having a disability than youth with learning disabilities or speech/language impairments, for example.

More positive perceptions and expectations are apparent for some categories of youth with disabilities and more negative ones for others. Youth with visual impairments and those with mental retardation illustrate these differences.

  • Youth with visual impairments are more likely than those in several other categories to report a strong sense of being able to handle things that come their way and to report rarely or never feeling depressed. They report little trouble getting along with others at school and a strong sense of affiliation with and level of involvement there. They tend to have high self-advocacy skills, confidence in their ability to find a friend, and a strong sense of being cared about by their friends.

  • In contrast, compared with youth in several other categories, those with mental retardation are less likely to report there is an adult at school who knows and cares about them. They also are less likely than most categories of youth to be active participants in organized activities at school. Reports of feeling not very or not at all useful, not able to deal well with challenges, and rarely or never enjoying life are more common among youth with mental retardation than among those in most other categories. In addition, reports of feeling hopeful about the future most or all of the time are less common among these youth.

Despite these differences, there are some dimensions on which youth express similar views, regardless of their disability category. For example, there are no statistically significant differences across categories in the percentages of youth who report enjoying life most or all of the time and identifying strongly with a statement that their lives are full of interesting things to do.