What Qualifies as a Disability?

According to IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004), there are thirteen recognized areas of disability. When your child has an assessment by a team of professionals, he or she will be eligible for special education services if he falls into one of the following categories:

1. Autism

2. Deaf-Blindness

3. Deafness

4. Emotional Disturbance

5. Hearing Impairment

6. Mental Retardation

7. Multiple Disabilities

8. Orthopedic Impairment

9. Other Health Impairment (ADD/ADHD)

10. Specific Learning Disability

11. Traumatic Brain Injury

12. Visual Impairment Including Blindness

13. Speech or Language Impairment

I will discuss these areas of disability in greater depth in future blog entries.

These thirteen categories are the same in every state, however, some states have different guidelines for what constitutes that particular disability. For example, one state may designate that an IQ of 70 or lower is considered mental retardation. Another state may have a different number or use other determining factors.

What Special Education Services Will My Child Receive?

Once your child is determined to be eligible, a team of educators will meet with you to create an IEP (Individualized Education Program). The IEP is a document outlining your child’s educational needs, goals, and a plan for achieving success. This IEP should be updated yearly, to evaluate your child’s progress, and whether the current educational program is adequate. A more detailed article on the IEP will follow.

Developmental Delays

Children from the age of 3 to 9 can be classified as developmentally delayed and receive early intervention or special education services WITHOUT being specifically placed in one of the thirteen areas of disability above. This is a grey area, and up to the assessment of a multi-disciplinary team (a group of varied professionals in areas such as speech, special education, or physical therapy, etc.) However, after age nine, the child must fall into one of those thirteen categories to receive government-funded services.

Here is a fabulous book that I would recommend to help you sort through the laws and red tape of special education:

A Parent’s Guide to Special Education by Linda Wilmshurst, Ph.D., ABPP, and Alan W. Brue, Ph.D., NCSP.

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