Hickman Lowder

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The 14 disability categories in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

On Behalf of | Sep 10, 2023 | Children With Special Needs, Special Education

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that schools provide additional education supports and/or services for eligible students. These additional supports are specifically defined in an Individual Education Plan (IEP). An IEP creates goals for a student’s specific needs including academic, social, emotional, and behavior. The IEP includes accommodations, modification and services that help the student manage their learning differences and make progress on their IEP goals. The IDEA and a good IEP allows students with learning differences to realize their true potential, maximize the benefits of their K-12 education and prepare for their post-high school aspirations.

That being said, a student must be found eligible under the IDEA to receive an IEP. To be eligible, a student must have a disability that has an adverse effect on their performance in school. The IDEA defines the disability categories for IEP eligibility.

The IDEA categories

The following is a list of the disability categories defined by IDEA:

  1. Developmental delay (DD), a special category for students ages 3 to 9
  2. Specific learning disabilities (SLD), such as dyslexia
  3. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  4. Other health impairments (OHI), such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  5. Emotional disturbance (ED), which may include anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder or depression
  6. Speech impairment, such as trouble pronouncing words or understanding them
  7. Visual impairments that are not fully addressed by corrective eyewear
  8. Hearing impairments
  9. Deafness, as defined by a medical diagnosis
  10. Orthopedic impairment, such as cerebral palsy
  11. A combination of symptoms, such as deaf blindness
  12. A traumatic brain injury, or a TBI
  13. An intellectual ability that can affect social skills, self-care or even communication. This may include Down Syndrome
  14. Multiple disabilities

Diagnosis is the first step

While a diagnosis can provide valuable information about an individual’s condition, it is not sufficient to determine their eligibility for specific services or scholarships. Each person’s needs and challenges are unique, and it is important to assess these within the context of their academic environment.

To determine appropriate support or accommodations, it is necessary to understand the specific struggles that the individual faces and how these impact their academic performance. This requires a comprehensive evaluation that takes into account various factors such as the nature and severity of the condition, the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and the specific demands of their academic program.

While a diagnosis provides valuable information, it is not sufficient to determine eligibility for specific services or scholarships. It is crucial to assess an individual’s unique needs and challenges within their academic context to determine appropriate support or accommodations. Understanding the specific struggles and their impact is essential for making informed decisions and promoting academic success.

Considering legal options

It is important for schools to follow the law. However, there may be situations in which this does not happen or where there is confusion about what is required. Those affected need to understand their legal rights so they can make informed decisions. Seeking help from our education attorneys and non-attorney advocate is a good way to gain clarity.