Resources: An Overview of Disability Categories
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
Although not a specific IDEA category, children with ADHD can receive special education, often times under the classification of other health impairment or due to the fact that they also have a specific learning disability.
The core symptoms of ADHD are developmentally inappropriate levels of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These problems are persistent and usually cause difficulties in one or more major life areas: home, school, work, or social relationships. Clinicians base their diagnosis on the presence of the core characteristics and the problems they cause.
Not all children and youth have the same type of ADHD. Because the disorder varies among individuals, children with ADHD won't all have the same problems. Some may be hyperactive. Others may be under-active. Some may have great problems with attention. Others may be mildly inattentive but overly impulsive. Still others may have significant problems in all three areas (attentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity). Thus, there are three subtypes of ADHD:
Predominantly Inattentive Type
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
Combined Type (Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive)
A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects educational performance.
Characteristics often associated with autism are engaging in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to changes in daily routines or the environment, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term autism does not apply if the child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has emotional disturbances.
A child who shows the characteristics of autism after age 3 could be diagnosed as having autism if the criteria above are satisfied.
A chronological delay in the appearance of normal developmental milestones achieved during infancy and early childhood, caused by organic, psychological, or environmental factors.
Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
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 unhappiness or depression.
- A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.
An impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but is not included under the definition of “deafness.”
Significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently [at the same time] with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
A severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a 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 contractions).
Other Health Impairment
Having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness 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.
Specific Learning Disability
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 to do mathematical calculations. The term includes 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.
Speech or Language Impairment
A communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
Traumatic Brain Injury
An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual, motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing, and speech. The term does not include brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by birth trauma.
Visual Impairment Including Blindness
An impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.