Special Education/Disability

SRI has been active in special education and disability work since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed in 1975. With the design and implementation of the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS), SRI pioneered the special education and disability studies which provided documentation of the characteristics and outcomes of, and services for, children and youth with disabilities.

Following the success of NLTS, SRI developed a portfolio of longitudinal studies to provide national information about the full range of students receiving services under IDEA. This program eventually included SRI's design and implementation of the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study (NEILS), the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS), and the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 (NLTS 2).

These longitudinal studies of nationally representative samples allowed for the disaggregation of disabilities. They provided accurate measurements of

  • Classroom practices and child and youth performance through interviews of sample members and/or their parents

  • Administrative records collection

  • School staff and service provider surveys

  • Face-to-face assessments

These studies continue to inform policies and practices that help students with disabilities reach their full potential.

SRI has conducted descriptive, correlational, and experimental special education and disability studies of children and youth in the critical areas of student assessment, behavior, response to intervention, and literacy.


high school students studying together around a table

SRI and partners will address the performance of economically disadvantaged students, American Indian students, English learners, and those receiving special education services.

smiling boy working on a computer

This capacity building project will contribute to foundational knowledge about what is already known, and what needs to be studied, about K-12 online STEM education for students with learning disabilities and those with autism spectrum disorder.

teacher and student working together

SRI is synthesizing findings across model demonstration projects to identify factors that lead to high-quality implementation, sustainability, and wider adoption of evidence-based practices.

little girl picking flowers

SRI's DaSy Center provides national leadership around developing or enhancing coordinated early childhood longitudinal data systems in states.

teacher reads with two young students

SRI conducted research to answer important questions about children in Head Start programs with the highest risk for poor health, developmental, and school readiness outcomes.

young school-age children smiling at the camera

SRI documented the school experiences of a national sample of students as they moved from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school.

NEILS logo: a teddy bear holding blocks that spell out NEILS

For the U.S. Department of Education, SRI conducted a national longitudinal study of infants, toddlers, and their families receiving early intervention services.

Press Releases

writing on a math board

A new SRI-led study finds that people with autism spectrum disorders are significantly more likely to choose science majors, if they attend college.

SRI International, a subcontractor to Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., will synthesize research and provide guidelines to improve special education reform efforts for the What Works Clearinghouse. Students with disabilities comprise approximately 12 percent of the U.S. K-12 student population.

SRI In the News

high school students in a classroom

The article notes that according to the NLTS2 longitudinal study directed by SRI, many learning-disabled students do not actively seek out the supports they need to succeed in college.


Mary Wagner, principal scientist in SRI's Center for Education and Human Services, is among those interviewed about the connection between special education and poverty.


Research colleagues at Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, and SRI found that more than half of young people with ASD were unemployed and not attending college in the first two years after leaving high school.


Using data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study–2, this study considers the influence of family socioeconomic status on the post–high school outcomes of youth with disabilities.

Findings suggest that students with an ASD had the highest STEM participation rates although their college enrollment rate was the third lowest among 11 disability categories and students in the general population.

Head Start programs are required to set aside at least 10% of program slots for children with disabilities, but the percentage of children with disabilities served varies depending on the criteria used and source of the information.

NEILS was part of a program of longitudinal studies funded by the U.S. Department of Education that were conducted by SRI International. Other studies in the program included the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS) and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2).

NEILS was part of a program of longitudinal studies funded by the U.S. Department of Education that were conducted by SRI. This report summarizes family outcomes based on interviews conducted with a primary caregiver around the child’s third birthday.

Blog Posts

Families are critical stakeholders for early childhood and educational services, and they need data literacy and an understanding of how data are being used to inform decisions.

The findings of our recently completed study show that there is a lot of room for improvement.

To understand the role of community colleges among students with autism spectrum disorders, SRI Education’s Center for Education and Human Services analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) study conducted for the U.S. Department of Education.

As a first step in understanding the types of services used by students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, SRI International researchers looked at 14 major special education services provided from the start of preschool until the end of high school.

DSM-5’s new Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis is a significant change that can lead to more individualized diagnostic approaches for people with ASD. It may increase the sensitivity and clarity of clinicians’ diagnoses as they consider the needs, symptoms, and severity of each patient.

There’s a common perception that people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are more likely than the general population to gravitate toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. It turns out the perception is true.