Autism Litigation Under the IDEA: A New Meaning of “Disproportionality”?

Help with Listen Feature Help with Listen Feature

September 2013

About this Article

This article examines the disproportionality and overrepresentation of children with autism in litigation. It states that children with autism accounted for about one third of sample of published court decisions concerning the core concepts of free appropriate public education (FAPE) and least restrictive environment (LRE) under the U.S. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.  The other major finding was that when comparing this litigation percentage with the autism percentage in the special education population for the period 1993 to 2006, the ratio was approximately 10:1.  The reasons for this disproportionality, or overrepresentation of children with autism in FAPE/LRE litigation, are complex.  Special education leaders need to pay particular attention to establishing effective communications and trust building with parents of students with autism and to optimize the use of various approaches of alternative dispute resolution.

Back to top

General Information

Read the article:

APA Citation:  Zirkel, P. A., (2011).  Autism litigation under the IDEA: A new meaning of “disproportionality”?.  Journal of Special Education Leadership, 24(2), 92-103.

Author: Zirkel, Perry A.

Title:    Autism Litigation Under the IDEA: A New Meaning of “Disproportionality”?

Year:   2011

Journal:  Journal of Special Education Leadership 

Publisher:  Council of Administrators of Special Education

Volume: 24

Issue: 2

Pages:  92-103

Back to top

Is this article copyrighted?

Yes. NICHCY expresses its appreciation to the Council of Administrators of Special Education for its generous permission to post this article on our website.

While material produced by NICHCY is copyright free, this article is not. The original publisher of this article the Council of Administrators of Special Education holds the copyright to the article, whether in print or electronic form. You may view, download, print, or save the article’s content for the purposes of research, teaching, and/or private study. Please do not reproduce, post, redistribute, sell, modify, or create a derivative work of this content without prior, express written permission of the publisher.
For permission to reprint or copy this article, contact the Journal of Special Education Leadership, 175 Hills South, School of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003.



NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resources' Library at This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to