Special Education for Students with Mild Disabilities: A Third World Perspective
ALFREDO J. ARTILES, MARG CSAPO, AND ELOÍSA G. DE LORENZO
Special education in Third World countries has been a neglected area of development. This is unfortunate, for more than 70 percent of the world's population with disabilities lives in developing countries ( Marfo, 1986). Moreover, of the estimated 150 million disabled children in the world, 120 million populate the developing world, where only 0.1 percent are estimated to be receiving education ( UNESCO, 1988). Using the prevalence rate for moderately and severely disabled children aged five to fourteen years, Helander ( 1992) calculated that 24 million disabled children lived in developing countries in 1990 and estimated there would be 32 million by the year 2025. 1
Unfortunately, prevalence figures on children with mild disabilities (i.e., mild mental retardation, learning disabilities, and behavioral/emotional disturbances) are not available. However, if we consider that those with mild disabilities comprise the majority of all special education populations, we can assume that a significant number of individuals in the developing world suffer from learning disabilities, mild mental retardation, or behavioral/emotional disturbances.
Many people argue that the overwhelming presence of environmental risk factors in the Third World is directly related to the higher prevalence of disabilities in this region. Reportedly, poverty, inadequate mother and infant nutrition, lack of prenatal care, and poor health care systems-- which exacerbate the proliferation of infectious diseases--are related to the inflated rates of disability in the developing world. In turn, numerous reports and studies have documented the link between poverty, poor