By: Chase Garland, Site Coordinator
When defining what considers a child homeless, it comes from the “means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence that includes the following: sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing and economic hardship. Children who have a nighttime residence or regular sleeping accommodation. Children who are living in public spaces, or substandard housing. These children qualify as homeless because their circumstances are described in clauses” (NCFH 2015). Although there is a high rate of students who have children who experience homelessness, the number is also high for children who are homeless and have a disability. The term “child with a disability'' means the child has intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments, speech or language impairments, serious emotional disturbance, autism, or a specific learning disability”(NCFH 2015). Due to poor health conditions such as poor nutrition and exposure to health hazards can disrupt a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities.
Due to the unsafe atmosphere of the household, it can be a challenge to determine what is the true factor that is contributing to the child’s disability due to the unstable condition. According to the National Center for Homeless Education, “19% of homeless students have some form of disability that compares to 14% of housed students in 2022”. (NCHE 2022) However, did you know they also reported that homeless students who receive IEPs early are more likely to remain with their grade level peers and achieve grade proficiency”.(NCHE 2022) The integrity of teachers and administration critically analyzing their IEPS plays a significant role in the child’s success in school. Homeless students whose IEP were not taken seriously are more likely to end up suspended than those who received their IEPs earlier.
Even though the issue is ongoing and not enough is being done in order for these children to receive a better quality in education, it means as a society including parents, teachers, friends, or close family should do whatever it takes to ensure the federal government is keeping track of the individual categories that homeless students have and provide additional services in schools that are free. According to the Education Week Resource Center, “They found that of the schools that require the federal law to serve homeless students with disabilities, less than one quarter of districts receive federal funding to assist in that effort” (EWRC 2018). Depending on the child, there can be considered having a specific learning disability versus having an impairment that requires a different type of support. Homeless children who have a disability are currently facing consistent challenges to make sure they get the help they need.
What can we do now to support our children with disabilities whose lives matter more just as much as children without disabilities? We can start providing services in school to support special education targeted for homelessness such as intervention services with behavior management plans for teachers to start with, priority seating in the classroom, creating a plan that eliminates social class expectations, assigning a peer mentor, regular meetings with parents or guardian, extra homework help and time to complete assignments, and providing free resources for children receive textbook, school supplies, food pantries, and clothing.
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC): dedicated to improving educational outcomes for
individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted.
National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE): established in 1938 to promote and support education programs and related services for children and youth with disabilities in the United States and outlying areas.
Parent Training and Information Centers: serve families of children and young adults from birth to age 22 with all disabilities: physical, cognitive, emotional, and learning. They help families obtain appropriate education and services for their children with disabilities; work to improve education results for all children; train and inform parents and professionals on a variety of topics; resolve problems between families and schools or other agencies; and connect children with disabilities to community resources that address their needs.
Coffey, Donavyn. “Disabilities Sometimes Go Undiagnosed in Homeless Students Targeted
by New Federal Education Funds, Experts Say.” Youth Today, 19 Nov. 2022,
Equity and Assessment: Moving towards Culturally Responsive Assessment - Ed.
Weiss, Thomas C. “Homeless Children with Disabilities in America.” Disabled World,
Disabled World, 9 Oct. 2021, https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/children/homeless-kids.php.