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According to federal law, the following disabilities qualify a student for Special Education services programming and placement from pre-school through age 21.  


Thirteen Disability Categories Identified Under Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA):

  1. Autism

  2. Deaf-Blindness

  3. Deafness

  4. Emotional Disturbance

  5. Hearing Impairment

  6. Intellectual Disability

  7. Orthopedic

  8. Multiple Disabilities

  9. Other Health Impairment

  10. Speech or Language Impairment

  11. Traumatic Brain Injury

  12. Visual Impairment

  13. Specific Learning Disability

If your child (or a child that you represent) exhibits any of these disabilities, they may be eligible for Special Education services. Please consult my office to determine if I can be of assistance.

IDEA lists 13 disability categories under which individuals (ages 3 through 21) may be eligible for special education services.  The disability categories are:



  1. Autism:  Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3 that adversely affects a student’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the student has an emotional disturbance. 

  2. Intellectual Disability:  Intellectual Disability means significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior, communication, self-care and social skills that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.

  3. Specific Learning Disability:  Specific Learning Disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which manifests itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia.  The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage.

  4. Emotional Disturbance: Emotional disturbance is defined as a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:

    • An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors,

    • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers,                 

    • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances,

    • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression,   or

    • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
      The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.


  5. Traumatic Brain Injury: Traumatic brain injury means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both that adversely affects educational performance. The term includes open or closed head injuries or brain injuries from certain medical conditions resulting in mild, moderate or severe impairments in one or more areas,  including: cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem solving, sensory, perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing, and speech. The term does not include injuries that are congenital or caused by birth trauma.

  6. Visual Impairment: Visual impairment, including blindness, means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness. Legally blind: an individual with a visual acuity of 20/200 or less even with correction or has a field loss of 20 degrees or more. Low Vision: a person who is still severely impaired after correction, but whom may increase functioning through the use of optical aide, non-optical aids, environmental modifications and/or techniques.

  7. Hearing Impairment:  Hearing impairment means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects the child’s educational performance, but that is not included under the definition of deafness.

  8. Deafness:  Deafness means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

  9. Deaf-blindness: Deaf-blindness means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

  10. Speech or Language Impairment: Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

  11. Other Health Impairment:  Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment that (i) Is due to chronic or acute health problems such as, asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever and sickle cell anemia; and (ii) Adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

  12. Orthopedic Impairment: Orthopedic impairment means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomaly (e.g., clubfoot, absence of some member, etc.), impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputation, and fractures or burns which cause contractures).

  13. Multiple Disabilities:  Multiple disabilities means concomitant impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment, etc.), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in a special education program solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness.

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