Gender And Disabilities

The school experience is further complicated and the future even more uncertain for students with disabilities. Males have higher rates of autism, psychoses, and schizophrenia, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities. Females are more likely to be diagnosed with depression; however, teenage males are more likely to commit suicide. Female teens are more likely to display eating disorders. Many disorders have a genetic basis; however, social expectations also contribute to gender differences in prevalence.

Russo and Wehmeyer report in their recent book, Double Jeopardy: Addressing Gender Equity in Special Education, that the ratio of males to females in special education is 2:1. Students who are referred, assessed, and eventually placed are those who are noticed. It is hypothesized that more boys are referred because they are more likely to display noticeable behavior problems combined with learning problems. Boys are more often referred for services for anger and bullying. Girls often have attention deficits without hyperactivity and internalizing disorders such as anxiety and depression, which are less likely to be detected. As a result, girls often display greater academic deficits by the time they are referred for a special education evaluation.

School is not the same experience for boys and girls. Gender school is a term that was coined by Luria and Herzog (1985) to describe how peers reinforce gender-associated behavior. However, parents begin gender education at birth by their differential treatment of girls and boys. Schools and society promote innate differences by stereotyped curriculum and expectations. Eliminating gender bias will maximize the potential of all boys and girls.

—Marilyn S. Wilson

See also Aggression in Schools; Attention Deficit

Hyperactivity Disorder; Bullying and Victimization;

Depression; Discipline; Dropouts; Eating Disorders;

Gangs; Harassment; Puberty; Race, Ethnicity, Class, and

Gender; Social Skills

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