Disability Categories within Special Education

In order for a student to be eligible for special education services, he or she must meet specific criteria in one of 13 categories of special education. IDEIA, the law that covers special education services, has federal definitions. A school system will develop specific guidelines to help ensure that students are identified for special education based on the federal definitions. Schools consider specific categories when they suspect there might be a disability.

A school might consider Autism if a student has a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder including Asperger’s Syndrome.

They might consider Developmental Delay if the student is very young and is exhibiting delays in one or more areas.

Emotional Disability
is considered when a student is having significant emotional problems that are interfering with academics.

A school might consider Mental Retardation if a student displays subaverage cognitive abilities, educational achievement, and adaptive behavior. A student can be classified as Mild, Moderate, or Severe.

Orthapedic Impairment is considered when there is a phsyical condition causing difficulty in the school (i.e. cerebral palsy).

When a student has a medical condition that interferes with education, Other Health Impairment may be considered (i.e. ADHD, Epilespy)

A Specific Learning Disability is considered when a student is significantly struggling in one or more academic areas.

When a student’s speech or language is impaired, the school might consider Speech and Language Impairment.

A school might consider Traumatic Brain Injury if the student has recieved a head injury.

Hearing Impairment, VIsion Impairment, or Deaf-Blindness are considered when there is a documented hearing and or vision impairment.

Multiple Disabilities would be considered if there are multiple categories that a student would qualify under.

One Response to “Disability Categories within Special Education”

  1. Hi Erin:

    As a school psychologist I applaud your blog and your desire to share information. I too have a blog that focuses on both educational and assistive technology that your readers may be interested in learning about. I would appreciate it if you could add me to your Blog Roll and I will do the same on mine.

    Brian S. Friedlander