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American Indian Kids with Disabilities

Articles l Reports & Publications l In Navajo l Additional Resources

native american childrenIn school year 2013–14, the percentage of children and youth served under IDEA was highest for American Indians/Alaska Natives - 17 percent. Among children and youth that received services, the 10 percent of American Indians/Alaska Natives who received services for developmental delay under IDEA were higher than the 6 percent of children overall. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 2016).


January 2017: U.S. government has ‘dismally failed’ to educate Native American children, lawsuit alleges. Nine Native children, all members of the Havasupai Nation, are taking to the courts to force Washington to take action. They attend an elementary school that is run by the federal Bureau of Indian Education and is, according to a lawsuit, hardly recognizable as a school at all.

Note: Oral argument is scheduled on October 24, 2017. Read the Complaint.

Education in Indian Country: Obstacles and Opportunity (2013) a special package of articles, photographs, and multimedia published online by Education Week.

Reports and Publications

Blueprint for Reform (2014) released by the American Indian Education Study Group outlines a two-phase process to restructure and redesign the BIE over the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years. 

American Indian Education Study Group (2013) convened to diagnose the systemic challenges facing the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and to propose a comprehensive plan for reform to ensure all students attending BIE-funded schools receive a world-class education.

Parent's Guide to Special Education (PDF) from the Native American Disability Law Center. Guides parents through the special education maze, covering eligibility, the Individualized Education Program (IEP), available services, and how to advocate on your child's behalf.

Indian Affairs: Management Challenges Continue to Hinder Efforts to Improve Indian Education (2013), testimony by George A. Scott, Director, Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues, before the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. In 2011, the federal government provided more than $800 million to Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools that serve approximately 41,000 Native American students living on or near reservations. Mr. Scott's testimony highlighted the role that the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) plays in educating these students and questioned how well the BIE is serving these students, many of whom have poor outcomes. Full text of GAO Report GAO-13-342T.

Resources and Publications from the Native American Disability Law Center.

National Indian Parent Information Center Newsletter archives.

Early Intervention Services with Native American Tribes in New Mexico from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Perspectives (2009).

National Indian Education Study from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2008) to describe the condition of education of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students by focusing on both their academic performance and educational experiences in grades 4 and 8.

American Indian and Alaskan Native Students with Disabilities from Project Forum (2005) provides background information on the education of AI/AN students, with a focus on AI/AN students with disabilities.

Understanding Disabilities in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities from the National Council on Disability (2003) Toolkit with information about disabilities, Indian tribes, suggestions for improving services, providing protections, and tapping resources in local tribal communities for people with disabilities. This guide focuses primarily on health care, independent living, education, and vocational rehabilitation. (Large 5.7 mb download in PDF format).

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In Navajo

Navajo Translation Project (Audio files) of the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Early Childhood Special Education Terminology in Navajo from the UNM Center for Development and Disability. Project Na'nitin was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs.

Navajo translation of the Parent Special Education Procedural Safeguards. Translated & Interpreted Alvino Sandoval, funded by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Parent and Child Rights in Special Education in Navajo - Audio Files

Additional Resources

American Indian Disability Technical Assistance Center

American Indian Parent Network

ARC of New Mexico

Arizona Department of Education - Special Education

Assistance for Indian Children with Severe Disabilities

Association of American Indian Physicians

Bureau of Indian Education

Bureau of Indian Education - Family & Child Education Programs (FACE)

Disability Rights New Mexico (formerly Protection & Advocacy)

EPICS. A community parent resource center for families who live in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado who have American Indian children with disabilities and/or special healthcare needs from birth to age 26 years old.

First Nations Community Health Care (Albuquerque)

Indian Health Service

Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center

National Indian Head Start Directors Association

Native American Professional Parent Resources (NAPPR)

Native American Disability Law Center

Native American Parent Technical Assistance Center

National Indian Child Welfare Association

National Indian Education Association (NIEA)

National Indian Parent Information Center. Mission: To strengthen our community through support, education and encouragement for American Indian families with children with disabilities or learning challenges, educating and supporting parents, families and professionals in building partnerships that meet the needs of children and youth with the full range of disabilities, ages 0-26.

Navajo Nation OSERS (Office of Special Education & Rehabilitation Services)

New Mexico Association for Infant Mental Health (NMAIH)

New Mexico Autism Society

New Mexico Behavioral Health Collaborative

New Mexico Department of Health

New Mexico Family Infant Toddler Program

New Mexico Family Network (formerly Parents of Behaviorally Different Children)

New Mexico Indian Affairs Department (IAD)

New Mexico Indian Children's Program

New Mexico Public Education - Special Education Bureau

New Mexico VOICES for Children

Office of Indian Education, U.S. Department of Education

PEAK Parent Center (Colorado's PTI)

Raising Special Kids (Arizona's PTI)

Region 5 Parent Technical Center (PTAC)

Utah Parent Center (Utah's PTI)

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Created: 03/26/13
Revised: 09/19/17

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