Preparing for Life After High School: The Characteristics and Experiences of Youth in Special Education. Findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012. Volume 2: Comparisons Across Disability Groups (Full Report)

Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance
Mar 28, 2017
Stephen Lipscomb, Joshua Haimson, Albert Y. Liu, John Burghardt, David R. Johnson, and Martha Thurlow

Key Findings:

  • Five groups—youth with autism, deaf-blindness, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and orthopedic impairments—appear to be at higher risk than all youth with an IEP for challenges making successful transitions from high school.
  • Youth with intellectual disability and emotional disturbance are the most socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and the most likely to attend lower-performing schools.
  • Youth with autism, intellectual disability, and multiple disabilities are most likely to receive academic modifications but least likely to receive some other forms of academic support.
  • Youth with emotional disturbance are the most likely disability group to be suspended, expelled, arrested, and bullied. 

It is widely recognized that the 12 percent of all youth in the United States who have disabilities comprise a set of students with distinct capacities and needs. Federal legislation, including the most recent updates to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004, identifies different disability groups and mandates that students in each of them have access to a free and appropriate public education. Concern about the challenges youth with different disabilities face and interest in understanding differences in their experiences has persisted for decades.

The National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) 2012 provides updated information on youth with disabilities. The study offers a current picture of the backgrounds of secondary school youth and their functional abilities, activities in school and with friends, academic supports received from schools and parents, and preparation for life after high school.

This volume, the second from NLTS 2012, describes the characteristics of youth in 12 disability groups and how these groups of youth are faring relative to one another. The findings highlight the diversity of needs and challenges faced by youth in special education.


National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012


U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Time Frame


Senior Staff

John Burghardt
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Joshua Haimson
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Stephen Lipscomb
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