Since the early 1990s numerous studies have found an overrepresentation of males, and underrepresentation of females in special education, yet until recently, research was not done to understand the cause for this outcomes. There are 14 different disability categories that are defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), that states use in order to define a disability and decide who is eligible for a free and appropriate public education under special education law. High incidence disabilities are disabilities that are high in prevalence such as Behavior and Emotional Disorders (EBD) and Learning Disability, which fall within the categories from IDEA regulations. These are the disabilities in which researches have found the highest discrepancies between referral and admission of males and females to special education programs. According to Rice (2008), girls with emotional disturbance make up 15% to 25% of all identified children and adolescents with disabilities, while it has been found that males make up 73.4% and 76.4% for learning and emotional disabilities (Wehmeyer, 2001).
Researchers have done studies in order to find why there is a great difference between the identification of high incidence disabilities of males and females, finding three possible explanations. The first explanation is biological differences between males and females. The second reason is gender bias on referral and admission to special education services. The third explanation is difference in the exhibition of behavior problems between the two sexes. By further studying these possibilities, we can begin to find different approaches to identifying and referring students for special education services, specifically for EBD and Learning Disabilities.
Biological factors have been considered in explaining the disproportionate gender representation in special education. The factors that have been used to support this case are genetics, hormones, maturation and development, brain function, cognition, and behavior (Oswald, 2010). Boys have been found to mature more slowly than girls. Maturity involves the ability to control emotions, the ability to share and cooperate with others, social and emotional maturity, and the ability to express anger in constructive ways. Due to slower development of maturity in boys, this may explain why they are more likely to be referred for behavioral disorders. Oswald (2010) also found that boys are usually more active at birth; this may be the cause for more hyperactivity in males than females, and the over identification of males with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Studies for biological explanations discover that some emotional behaviors are linked to specific hormones, particularly androgen, which is produced in higher amounts in males (Oswald, 2010). Biological determinism plays a part in over identification of males in special education due to the fact that...