The following is a list and short descriptions of the various special education eligibility categories for which certain support services are available. In addition, clicking on headings that are bolded will lead to other pages providing more detailed information.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder refers to a lifelong developmental disability that typically shows up before 30 months of age. It is a neurological disorder that interferes with the child’s development in the areas of thinking and reasoning, social skills, motor ability, and speech and language functioning. Such children are characterized particularly by a disturbance in the ability to relate appropriately to people, events and objects; significant language and/or communication problems; unusual responses to various sensory stimuli; and certain stereotyped or repetitive behavior patterns, movements, or preoccupations.
Cognitive Impairment (CI)
A cognitive impairment refers to a wide range of developmental delay, from mild to severe, and reflects comparable levels of difficulty in thinking or problem-solving ability, adaptive behavior skills, and achievement in reading and arithmetic. To be identified as a student with a cognitive impairment, a student must score at or below the 2nd percentile for his/her age on measures of intellectual ability, at or below the 6th percentile in both reading and math, and show some impairment of adaptive (i.e., functional) behavior.
Deaf or Hard of Hearing (D/HH)
Students identified as being deaf or hard of hearing have a hearing loss that interferes with development and/or adversely affects their educational performance. It includes those who are “deaf” and are often unable to process language through hearing, with or without amplification, and those who are “hard-of-hearing” and have a permanent or fluctuating hearing loss, but are generally able to use hearing as the primary means of developing speech and language skills.
Early Childhood Developmental Delay (ECDD)
A child may be identified as having an early childhood developmental delay through 7 years of age if the primary delay does not fit with the criteria established for any of the other disability areas listed in this section, yet the child shows a delay in one or more areas of development equal to or greater than 1/2 of the expected development. Children who fall within this eligibility category are often those who manifest severe problems with language functioning, inappropriate behavior, or inappropriate affective responses to situations.
Emotional Impairment (EI)
An emotional impairment is identified when a student’s behavior problems seriously interfere with learning in the school environment, and these behaviors have been observed over an extended period of time. Such students often have trouble with self-control and are frequently, though not always, disruptive in the classroom. Their difficulties are so severe that they are deemed unable to profit from regular education learning experiences without special education support. To be formally identified as EI, it must be determined that such students’ problems are primarily affective in nature–that is, the behaviors reflect emotional responses that lead to poor choices–that are not solely the result of willful acts stemming from social maladjustment or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). In addition, these students must exhibit one or more of the following behavior characteristics: 1) inability to develop and maintain satisfactory relationships with peers and school staff; 2) inappropriate behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances; 3) unhappy or depressed most of the time; 4) physical symptoms or fears that are related to personal or school problems. Students identified as EI could also include those whose maladaptive behaviors are related to schizophrenia or similar disorders.
A specific learning disability is a disorder that affects a student’s ability to either process and interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. These limitations can show up in many ways, but particularly result in learning problems related to understanding and using spoken or written language, which is reflected in difficulties with reading, writing, math, listening and/or speaking. There could also be secondary problems with coordination, self-control or attention. Students may be identified as having a learning disability when they demonstrate a significant weakness in one or more of the five areas mentioned above, along with an overall pattern of strengths and weaknesses that is consistent with such a determination.
Other Health Impairment (OHI)
A student with a health impairment may have limited strength, energy, or alertness within the classroom to the extent that his/her performance and ability to learn in school is significantly hindered. It may include, but is not limited to: asthma, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, sickle cell anemia, leukemia, and other health conditions. Determination of eligibility must be based on and documented by an evaluation by a physician. Further, as with other eligibility categories, it must be demonstrated that the student requires special education support in order to succeed educationally.
Physical Impairment (PI)
A physical impairment refers to a severe orthopedic or physical challenge that significantly affects a student’s ability to learn in a school environment. Some such students may have congenital anomalies such as the absence of a limb, be afflicted with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, or have some other impairment that results in problems with mobility and/or physical dexterity. Special materials and equipment are often necessary for such students.
Severe Multiple Impairment (SXI)
A severe multiple impairment entails significantly below average cognitive development, along with one or more additional disability(-ies) in some physical domain (hearing, visual, physical, medical health). Given the nature and multiplicity of these students’ disabilities, they are often best served in specialized programs that provide a wide range of services and resources.
Speech and Language Impairment (SLI)
A speech and language impairment refers to a communication disorder that significantly interferes with the student’s educational performance. It includes impairments in language functioning (ability to understand and/or use language effectively), articulation (ability to produce sounds correctly), fluency (stuttering), and/or voice (inappropriate pitch, loudness or vocal quality). Students may be identified as having a language disorder when there is a severe discrepancy between their intellectual ability and their receptive or expressive language functioning. Such students may appear to be easily confused, use nonspecific generic labels, require more time to answer questions, or require verbal repetition.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
A traumatic brain injury is caused by a severe external blow to the head, and may result in significant problems with learning, social functioning, and physical functioning. Such students experience difficulties in one or more areas, including thinking and reasoning, language and communication, memory, behavior (judgment), and attention.
Visual Impairment (VI)
A visual impairment may be determined when the vision loss, even when corrected, interferes with the student’s development and/or negatively affects his/her learning in school. It includes visual problems ranging from partial sight to blindness.