NICHCY: http://nichcy.org 1 Categories of Disability Under IDEA1.800.695.0285(Voice/TTY)email@example.com://nichcy.orgMMMMMarararararccccch 2h 2h 2h 2h 2012012012012012CCCCCaaaaatttttegoregoregoregoregories ofies ofies ofies ofies ofDDDDDisabilitisabilitisabilitisabilitisabilityyyyyUUUUUnder IDEAnder IDEAnder IDEAnder IDEAnder IDEAInInInInIntroductroductroductroductroductiontiontiontiontionEvery year, under the federal lawknown as the Individuals withDisabilities Education Act (IDEA),millions of children with disabilitiesreceive special services designed to meet theirunique needs. Early intervention services areprovided through the state to infants and toddlerswith disabilities under three years of age and theirfamilies. For school-aged children and youth(aged 3 through 21), special education and relatedservices are provided through the school system.These services can be very important in helpingchildren and youth with disabilities develop,learn, and succeed in school and other settings.WWWWWho is Eligible fho is Eligible fho is Eligible fho is Eligible fho is Eligible for Sor Sor Sor Sor Sererererervicvicvicvicvices?es?es?es?es?Under IDEA, states are responsible formeeting the special needs of eligible children withdisabilities. To find out if a child is eligible forservices, he or she must first receive a full andindividual initial evaluation. This evaluation isfree. Two purposes of the evaluation are:• to see if the child has a disability, as defined byIDEA; and• to learn in more detail what special educationand related services he or she needs.InfanInfanInfanInfanInfants andts andts andts andts and TTTTToddlersoddlersoddlersoddlersoddlers,,,,,UUUUUnderndernderndernder TTTTThrhrhrhrhreeeeeeeeee YYYYYears of Aears of Aears of Aears of Aears of AgegegegegeUnder IDEA, “infants and toddlers withdisabilities“ are defined as individualsunder three years of age who need earlyintervention services because they—are experiencing developmental delays, asmeasured by appropriate diagnosticinstruments and procedures, in one or moreof the following areas:• cognitive development;• physical development;• communication development;• social or emotional development; and• adaptive development; orhave a diagnosed physical or mentalcondition that has a high probability ofresulting in developmental delay.The term may also include, if a state chooses,children under three years of age who would be atrisk of experiencing a substantial developmentaldelay if early intervention services were notprovided.★★National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities1825 Connecticut Avenue N.W. • Washington, DC 20009
NICHCY: 1.800.695.0285 2 Categories of Disability Under IDEACCCCChildrhildrhildrhildrhildren anden anden anden anden and YYYYYouthouthouthouthouthAAAAAgegegegeged 3d 3d 3d 3d 3 TTTTThrough 21hrough 21hrough 21hrough 21hrough 21IDEA lists 13 different disability categoriesunder which 3- through 21-year-olds may beeligible for services. The disability categories listedin IDEA are:• autism;• deaf-blindness;• deafness;• emotional disturbance;• hearing impairment;• intellectual disability;• multiple disabilities;• orthopedic impairment;• other health impairment;• specific learning disability;• speech or language impairment;• traumatic brain injury; or• visual impairment (including blindness).IDEA further defines each of thesedisability terms. We’ve providedthose definitions on pages 3and 4.Under IDEA, a child may notbe identified as a “child with adisability” primarily becausehe or she speaks a languageother than English and doesnot speak or understandEnglish well. A child mayalso not be identified ashaving a disability justbecause he or she has not hadenough appropriateinstruction in mathor reading.CCCCChildrhildrhildrhildrhildren Aen Aen Aen Aen Agegegegeged 3d 3d 3d 3d 3 TTTTThrough 9hrough 9hrough 9hrough 9hrough 9It is important to know that, underIDEA, states and local educationalagencies (LEAs) can use the term“developmental delay” withchildren aged 3 through 9:if they experience developmentaldelays in one or more of the followingareas:•physical development;•cognitive development;•communication development;•social or emotional development; or•adaptive development; andwho, because of the developmental delays,need special education and related services.If a state chooses to include developmentaldelay in its definition of an eligible “child with adisability,” it must define precisely what the termmeans and ensure that its definition is consistentwith IDEA’s definition. “Developmental delays”must be measured by appropriate diagnosticinstruments and procedures. The state also deter-mines whether the term applies to children aged 3through 9, or to a subset of that age range (forexample, ages 3 through 5).Three more points to note about the termdevelopmental delay:• A state may not require an LEA to adopt anduse the term developmental delay.• If an LEA uses the term, the LEA must conformto both the state’s definition of the term andto the age range the state has adopted.• If a state does not adopt the term, an LEA maynot independently use the term to establish achild’s eligibility under IDEA.★★
NICHCY: http://nichcy.org 3 Categories of Disability Under IDEATTTTThe 13 Dhe 13 Dhe 13 Dhe 13 Dhe 13 DisabilitisabilitisabilitisabilitisabilityyyyyCCCCCaaaaatttttegoregoregoregoregoriesiesiesiesies,,,,, DDDDDefefefefefineineineineinedddddIDEA provides definitions of the 13 disabilitycategories listed above. Federal definitions guidehow states define who is eligible for a freeappropriate public education under IDEA. Thedefinitions are as follows:126.96.36.199.1. AAAAAutism...utism...utism...utism...utism......means a developmental disabilitysignificantly affecting verbal andnonverbal communication and socialinteraction, generally evident beforeage three, that adversely affects achild’s educational performance.Other characteristics often associ-ated with autism are engaging inrepetitive activities and stereotypedmovements, resistance to environ-mental change or change in dailyroutines, and unusual responses tosensory experiences. The term autismdoes not apply if the child’s educationalperformance is adversely affected primarilybecause the child has an emotional disturbance,as defined in #4 below.A child who shows the characteristics ofautism after age 3 could be diagnosed as havingautism if the criteria above are satisfied.188.8.131.52.2. DDDDDeaf-Beaf-Beaf-Beaf-Beaf-Blindnesslindnesslindnesslindnesslindness..................means concomitant [simultaneous] hearing andvisual impairments, the combination of whichcauses such severe communication and otherdevelopmental and educational needs that theycannot be accommodated in special educationprograms solely for children with deafness orchildren with blindness.184.108.40.206.3. DDDDDeafnesseafnesseafnesseafnesseafness..................means a hearing impairment so severe that achild is impaired in processing linguistic informa-tion through hearing, with or withoutamplification, that adversely affects a childseducational performance.220.127.116.11.4. EEEEEmotional Dmotional Dmotional Dmotional Dmotional Disturbancisturbancisturbancisturbancisturbanceeeee..................means a condition exhibiting one or more ofthe following characteristics over a long period oftime and to a marked degree that adversely affectsa child’s educational performance:(a) An inability to learn that cannot beexplained by intellectual, sensory, orhealth factors.(b) An inability to build ormaintain satisfactory interpersonalrelationships with peers andteachers.(c) Inappropriate types ofbehavior or feelings undernormal circumstances.(d) A general pervasive mood ofunhappiness or depression.(e) A tendency to develop physical symptomsor fears associated with personal or schoolproblems.The term includes schizophrenia. The termdoes not apply to children who are sociallymaladjusted, unless it is determined that theyhave an emotional disturbance.18.104.22.168.5. HHHHHearearearearearing Impairing Impairing Impairing Impairing Impairmenmenmenmenmenttttt..................means an impairment in hearing, whetherpermanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects achild’s educational performance but is notincluded under the definition of “deafness.”22.214.171.124.6. InInInInIntttttelleelleelleelleelleccccctual Dtual Dtual Dtual Dtual Disabilitisabilitisabilitisabilitisabilityyyyy..................means significantly subaverage generalintellectual functioning, existing concurrently [atthe same time] with deficits in adaptive behaviorand manifested during the developmental period,that adversely affects a child’s educationalperformance.
NICHCY: 1.800.695.0285 4 Categories of Disability Under IDEA126.96.36.199.7. Multiple DMultiple DMultiple DMultiple DMultiple Disabilitiesisabilitiesisabilitiesisabilitiesisabilities..................means concomitant [simultaneous] impair-ments (such as intellectual disability-blindness,intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment),the combination of which causes such severeeducational needs that they cannot beaccommodated in special education programssolely for one of the impairments. The term doesnot include deaf-blindness.188.8.131.52.8. OrOrOrOrOrthopethopethopethopethopedic Impairdic Impairdic Impairdic Impairdic Impairmenmenmenmenmenttttt..................means a severe orthopedic impairmentthat adversely affects a child’s educationalperformance. The term includes impairmentscaused by a congenital anomaly, impairmentscaused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bonetuberculosis), and impairments from other causes(e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures orburns that cause contractures).184.108.40.206.9. OOOOOther Hther Hther Hther Hther Health Impairealth Impairealth Impairealth Impairealth Impairmenmenmenmenmenttttt..................means having limited strength, vitality, oralertness, including a heightened alertness toenvironmental stimuli, that results in limitedalertness with respect to the educationalenvironment, that—(a) is due to chronic or acute healthproblems such as asthma, attention deficitdisorder or attention deficit hyperactivitydisorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition,hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia,nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia,and Tourette syndrome; and(b) adversely affects a child’s educationalperformance.10.10.10.10.10. SSSSSpepepepepecifcifcifcifcific Lic Lic Lic Lic Learearearearearning Dning Dning Dning Dning Disabilitisabilitisabilitisabilitisabilityyyyy..................means a disorder in one or more of the basicpsychological processes involved in understandingor in using language, spoken or written, that maymanifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen,think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do math-ematical calculations. The term includes suchconditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury,minimal braindysfunction, dyslexia,and developmentalaphasia. The term doesnot include learningproblems that areprimarily the result ofvisual, hearing, ormotor disabilities; ofintellectual disability; ofemotional disturbance;or of environmental,cultural, or economicdisadvantage.220.127.116.11.11. SSSSSpeepeepeepeepeech or Lch or Lch or Lch or Lch or Language Impairanguage Impairanguage Impairanguage Impairanguage Impairmenmenmenmenmenttttt..................means a communication disorder such asstuttering, impaired articulation, a languageimpairment, or a voice impairment that adverselyaffects a child’s educational performance.18.104.22.168.12.TTTTTrrrrraumaaumaaumaaumaaumatic Btic Btic Btic Btic Brrrrrain Injurain Injurain Injurain Injurain Injuryyyyy..................means an acquired injury to the brain caused byan external physical force, resulting in total orpartial functional disability or psychosocialimpairment, or both, that adversely affects achilds educational performance. The term appliesto open or closed head injuries resulting inimpairments in one or more areas, such ascognition; 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 apply to brain injuries thatare congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuriesinduced by birth trauma.22.214.171.124.13.Visual ImpairVisual ImpairVisual ImpairVisual ImpairVisual Impairmenmenmenmenment Includingt Includingt Includingt Includingt IncludingBBBBBlindnesslindnesslindnesslindnesslindness..................means an impairment in vision that, even withcorrection, adversely affects a child’s educationalperformance. The term includes both partial sightand blindness.
NICHCY: http://nichcy.org 5 Categories of Disability Under IDEAMMMMMororororore Ae Ae Ae Ae About Dbout Dbout Dbout Dbout DisabilitiesisabilitiesisabilitiesisabilitiesisabilitiesIDEA’s definitions of disability terms—combined with comprehensive assessmentinformation on the child—help states, schools,service providers, and parents decide if the child iseligible for early intervention or special educationand related services. Beyond these definitions,there is a great deal of information availableabout specific disabilities, including disabilitiesnot listed in IDEA. NICHCY would be pleased tohelp you find that information, beginning with:• our disability fact sheets and other publica-tions on the disabilities listed in IDEA;• contact information for many organizationsthat focus their work on a particular disability.MMMMMororororore Ae Ae Ae Ae About Sbout Sbout Sbout Sbout SererererervicvicvicvicvicesesesesesSpecial services are available to eligiblechildren with disabilities and can help childrendevelop and learn. For infants and toddlers underthe age of three, early intervention services may beprovided through state systems such as the state’shealth department or education department. Ifyou are a parent and would like to find out moreabout early intervention in your state, includinghow to have your child evaluated at no cost toyou, try any of these suggestions:• ask your childs pediatrician to putyou in touch with the earlyintervention system in yourcommunity or region;• contact the pediatrics branch in alocal hospital and ask where youshould call to find out about earlyintervention services in your area;• visit NICHCY’s website, where youcan identify the contact informationfor early intervention in your stateon our State Resource Sheets, under“State Agencies.” The state officewill refer you to the contact personor agency in your area. Find ourstate sheets at: http://nichcy.org/state-organization-search-by-stateMMMMMororororore one one one one on“““““AAAAAdddddvvvvversely Aersely Aersely Aersely Aersely Affffffffffeeeeecccccts Ets Ets Ets Ets Educaducaducaducaducational Ptional Ptional Ptional Ptional Perererererfffffororororormancmancmancmancmanceeeee”””””You may have noticed that the phrase “adverselyaffects educational performance” appears in most ofthe disability definitions. This does not mean,however, that a child must be failing in school toreceive special education and related services.According to IDEA, states must make a freeappropriate public education available to “anyindividual child with a disability who needs specialeducation and related services, even if the child hasnot failed or been retained in a course or grade, andis advancing from grade to grade.” [§300.101(c)(1)]For children and youth ages 3 through 21,special education and related services are providedthrough the public school system. One way tofind out about these services is to call your localpublic school. The school should be able to tellyou about special education policies in your areaor refer you to a district or county office for thisinformation. You can also contact your state’sParent Training and Information (PTI) center forthis information. You’ll find the PTI listed onNICHCY’s State Resource Sheet for your state (lookunder “Organizations Especially for Parents”).State sheets are available online at: http://nichcy.org/state-organization-search-by-stateIf you are a parent who thinks your child mayneed special education and related services, besure to ask how to have your child evaluatedunder IDEA for eligibility. Often there arematerials available on local and state policies forspecial education and related services.There is a lot to know about earlyintervention, about special education and relatedservices, and about the rights of children withdisabilities under IDEA, our nation’s specialeducation law. NICHCY offers many publications,all of which are availableon our website or bycontacting us directly.We can also tell youabout materials availablefrom other groups.
NICHCY: 1.800.695.0285 6 Categories of Disability Under IDEAThere are many sources ofinformation about services forchildren with disabilities. Withinyour community, you may wish tocontact:• the Child Find coordinator foryour district or county (IDEArequires that states conduct ChildFind activities to identify, locate, andevaluate infants, toddlers, children, andyouth with disabilities aged birth through21);• the principal of your child’s school; or• the special education director of your child’sschool district or local school.Any of these individuals should be able toanswer specific questions about how to obtainspecial education and related services (or earlyintervention services) for your child.In addition, every state has a Parent Trainingand Information (PTI) center, which is anexcellent source of information. The PTI can:• help you learn about earlyintervention and specialeducation services;•tell you about IDEA’srequirements;• connect you with disabilitygroups and parent groups inyour community or state; and• much, much more!To find out how to contact your state’s PTI,look at the NICHCY State Resource Sheet foryour state (available on our website). Youllfind the PTI listed there (look under“Organizations Especially for Parents”), aswell as many other information resources,such as community parent resource centers,disability-specific organizations, and stateagencies serving children with disabilities.OOOOOther Sther Sther Sther Sther Sourourourourourccccces of Infes of Infes of Infes of Infes of Infororororormamamamamationtiontiontiontionfffffor Por Por Por Por ParararararenenenenentststststsNational Dissemination Centerfor Children with Disabilities1.800.695.0285 (Voice/TTY)firstname.lastname@example.org://nichcy.orgMarch 2012This publication is copyright free. Readers are encouraged to copy and share it, but please credit NICHCY,the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.We’d like to thank our Project Officer, Dr. Corinne Weidenthal, at the Office of SpecialEducation Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education, for her support of thispublication and of NICHCY itself. A special thanks goes out to the Office of Policy and Planning, at OSEP, for theirinvolvement and the fine-tooth-comb review to ensure this document’s consistency with the requirements of IDEA2004. NICHCY is made possible through Cooperative Agreement Number H326N080003 between OSEP and FHI360. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education,nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Govern-ment.