Labels and Definitions for Eligibility Under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

1. Autism: is a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. (A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age 3 could be diagnosed as having autism if the other criteria of this Section are satisfied.) Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance.
2. Deaf-Blindness: means concurrent hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.
3. Deafness: means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.
4. Developmental Delay: for children ages 3-6. The term developmental delay, means a delay in one or more of the following areas: physical developmental,; cognitive development; communication; social or emotional development; or adaptive (behavioral) development.
5. Emotionally Disturbed: (includes schizophrenia but does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance) means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child's educational performance:

  • An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors;
  • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;
  • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances;
  • A general pervasive mood of anxiety or unhappiness or depression; or
  • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
6. Hearing Impairments: means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness.
7. Multiple Disabilities: means concomitant impairments (such as mental retardation-blindness, mental retardation-orthopedic impairment, etc.), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness.
8. Intellectually Delayed: means significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior an manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child’s educational performance
9. Orthopedic Impairment: means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomaly (e.g., clubfoot, absence of some member, etc.), impairments caused by disease (e.g., Poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments from other causes ( e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause substantial hospitalization.
10. Other Health Impairment: means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened sensitivity to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment that is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, or sickle cell anemia; and adversely affects a child's educational performance.
11. Specific Learning Disabilities: means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations, including such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
12. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Traumatic Brain Injury can have a significant impact on classroom performance and may affect cognitive, social, physical and psychological functioning which can vary from being quite severe or to being quite mild depending on the amount of damage. TBI usually results from accidents or from a blow to the head. TBI isn't used for a person born with a brain injury or injured during birth. For the most part, every brain injury is different as the part of the brain involved in the injury may vary. Many children will have lifelong disabilities as a direct result of TBI.
13. Speech/Language Impairment (SLI) Issues with communication that involve the hearing and understanding of spoken language (Receptive language). This also includes articulation, morphology, Phonology, and written language.