Children with disabilities and their family members have multiple needs, and are therefore entitled to a wide range of services. Planning, developing and optimizing services tailored to meet these needs require information about the proportion of children with disabilities in Israel, their characteristics and needs. To the best of our knowledge, the last comprehensive study on children with disabilities in Israel was conducted over twenty years ago. Since then, no up-to-date countrywide information was collected. The various government ministries have identified the need for a current study to be used as a basis for planning and executing a variety of activities for this population. Consequently, the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute decided – together with the Ministries of Education, Finance, Welfare and Social Affairs, and Health, as well as the National Insurance Institute and JDC-Ashalim – to conduct a comprehensive study on children with disabilities in Israel. The findings will be used to inform policymakers on allocating resources and optimizing the customization of services to the various characteristics of children with disabilities.
Estimate the proportion of children with disabilities in Israel, based on a national representative sample, and provide updated information about their disability types and their sociodemographic characteristics, such as gender, age and population group.
The research design included three main stages:
- In-depth interviews with 46 professionals, with parents of children with disabilities and with youth with disabilities.
- Survey of a national representative sample of 17,000 child allowance recipients. The participants – 6,821 parents – completed a structured questionnaire to identify children with disabilities. A total of 738 such children were identified.
- Analysis of administrative data collected from three government authorities: the Disabilities Administration at the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, the Special Education Division at the Ministry of Education, and the National Insurance Institute.
- In 2020, there were about 326,000 children with disabilities, including severe learning disabilities or ADHD, who represent 10.9% of all Israeli children.
- The most common disability was learning disability or ADHD. Additional disabilities found at a relatively high rate (1%-2% of all children) were: mental or emotional disability, difficulty with speech or language, developmental delay, conduct disorder, and autism spectrum disorders. Rarer disabilities (less than 1% of children) were chronic illness, motor disability, intellectual-developmental disability, and visual and hearing impairments.
- Multiple disabilities were reported for about one-third of children with disabilities.
- Differences between the characteristics of families of children with and without disabilities were found: a higher percentage of children with disabilities are raised in single-parent homes; higher rates of parents with disabilities and parents with low education were found among families of children with disabilities.
- The percentage of boys with disabilities is higher than that of girls.
- The percentage of children with disabilities increases with age.
- A comparison of Arab and Jewish children with disabilities indicates that the rate of the “visible” disabilities is higher among Arab children, whereas the rate of “invisible” disabilities is higher among Jewish children.
- The administrative data indicate a higher rate of disabilities that entitle potential recipients to some kind of government support in the Arab population. In practice, however, they appear to take up their entitlements less often, including disabled child benefit and other services from the Disabilities Administration. Services for Arab children with disabilities are also more limited, despite their higher relative ratio.
- Disability rates among ultra-Orthodox children are lower compared to non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish children.
- Comparison of the numbers and rates of children in the sample, divided by type of disability, and the administrative data collected suggests that while many of the children with disabilities receive adequate public services, the various state systems do not recognize some children with disabilities, who therefore receive no services.
- Develop unique and tailored services for single-parent families or families where the parents are separated and have a child with disability. For example, help in treating the child and emotional support for parents and siblings.
- Examine gender and age group differences in the rates of the various disabilities to help identification and diagnostic efforts and provide better customized services to each group.
- Initiate activities to improve the identification of children with disabilities in the Arab population and to learn more about the various barriers facing that population, in order to facilitate rights take-up, as well as develop a variety of services adjusted to the needs of that population, its characteristics, and the actual scope of disabilities within it. This can be done by training Arabic-speaking professionals and developing culture-sensitive services in Arab locales.
- Act to increase the awareness of the need to identify children with disabilities in the ultra-Orthodox population. Services also need to be adapted to that population, and additional services intended for them need to be developed, particularly in terms of cultural sensitivity.
- Databases for ongoing follow-up need to be developed on both the government ministry and the local authority levels, in order to regularly obtain broad, reliable and comprehensive assessments regarding children with disabilities. This will contribute to formulating policies and planning services according to the relative ratio and unique characteristics of each group (by gender, age, population group and geographic distribution).
- Examine the need for revising or clarifying the criteria for entitlement to services provided by various government entities. Moreover, regulate the treatment of children with disabilities that are not recognized or addressed by any government entity, such as mental or emotional disabilities.
 Naon, d., Yifrah, A., & Baich-Moray, S. (1998). A National Study of Children with Disabilities in Israel. Stage 1: The Screening Survey. RR-324-98. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (Hebrew). https://brookdale.jdc.org.il/publication/national_survey_children_disabilities_part1/
 The findings relating to the overall percentage of children with disabilities refer to learning disabilities or severe ADHD only, unless stated otherwise. This approach, which considers learning disabilities and ADHD a disability only in severe cases that affect the child’s functioning, is the most common, and has therefore been adopted in the current study.