Intellectual Disability

Significant below-average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Multiple Disabilities

A number of identifiable disabilities, the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the disabilities; this does not include children who are deaf-blind.

Orthopedic Impairment

A severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects the child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomalies, impairments caused by disease and impairments from other causes, but does not include a temporary condition that is anticipated to be of fewer than three weeks’ duration. (For short-term impairments, see Section 504.)

Other Health Impairment (OHI)

Limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, which is due to chronic or acute health-problems, including but not limited to ADD/ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, neurological impairment and heart conditions and are expected to last more than three weeks. (For short-term impairments, see Section 504.)

Specific Learning Disability

A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. The term shall not include children who have learning problems that are primarily the result of hearing.


A condition within the Specific Learning Disability eligibility category that is listed separately on the IEP form. Dyslexia impacts reading, specifically decoding and accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and spelling.

Speech and/or Language Impairment

A communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment or a voice impairment, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Visual Impairment

A measurable visual impairment that, even after correction, continues to adversely affect the child’s educational performance. The term shall include both partially sighted and blind children.

Identifying Children with Specific Learning Disabilities

Because children with learning disabilities now account for over one-half of all children receiving special services, many experts believe that the majority of identified children are victims of poor teaching. IDEA has changed the manner of identifying children with such learning disabilities from a discrepancy (“wait-to-fail”) model to a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. Schools shall, therefore, no longer be required to take into consideration whether or not a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability (whether it be in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation or mathematical reasoning). Instead, schools are strongly urged to use a process that determines if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention.

If a child does not respond to instruction that is effective for the vast majority of children — does not show responsiveness to a series of interventions — there is something

different about the child that is causing the lack of responsiveness. Under the RTI model, that child is considered to have a

learning disability and to be in need of special instruction.


How to Be an Effective Advocate for Your Child

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