Special Education » Disabilities



The following disabilities are defined by Federal or Commissioner/State Board of Education Rules.


Auditory Impairment (AI) 

Deafness means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance. 

A student with an Auditory Impairment is one who has been determined to meet the criteria for deafness as stated in 34 CFR, §300.7(c)(3), or for hearing impairment as stated in 34 CFR, §300.7(c)(5). The evaluation data reviewed by the multidisciplinary team in connection with the determination of a student’s eligibility based on an auditory impairment must include an otological examination performed by an otologist or by a licensed medical doctor, with documentation that the otologist is not reasonably available. An audiological evaluation by a licensed audiologist shall also be conducted. The evaluation data shall include a description of implications of the hearing loss for the student’s hearing in a variety of circumstances with or without recommended amplification.


Autism (AU)

Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance. 

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, as defined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section. A child who manifests the characteristics of "autism" after age 3 could be diagnosed as having "autism" if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.


Deaf-Blind (DB) 

Deaf-Blindness means concomitant 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.


Emotional Disturbance (ED)

Emotional Disturbance is defined as follows: The term 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:

  1. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors,   
  2. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers. 
  3. Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances. 
  4. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. 
  5. 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. 


Intellectually Disabled (ID)

Intellectually Disabled is defined as follows: The child may be considered to be a child with intellectual disabilities if when given a standardized, individually administered test of cognitive ability, the child demonstrates significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning in which the overall test score is at least two standard deviations below the mean, when taking into consideration the standard error of measurement of the test. The child must demonstrate concurrent deficits in at least two of the following areas of adaptive behavior: Communication; Self-care; Home living; Social and interpersonal skills; Use of community resources; Self-direction; Functional academic skills; Work; Leisure; Health; and Safety. The child's deficits are manifested during the developmental period; and by reason of the intellectual disabilities, the child needs special education and related services


Learning Disability (LD) 

A Learning Disability is defined as follows: 

The term 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 to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. 

Disorders not included. 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


Multiple Disabilities (MD) 

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. 


Non-Categorical Early Childhood (NCEC) 

Non-Categorical Early Childhood: A student between the ages of 3-5 who is evaluated as having mental retardation, emotional disturbance, a specific learning disability, or autism may be described as non-categorical early childhood.


Orthopedic Impairment (OI)

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 contractures.


Other Health Impairment (OH)

Other health impairment means 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, and sickle cell anemia; and adversely affects a child’s educational performance. 


Speech or Language Impairment (SI) 

Speech or language impairment means 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 (TBI)

Traumatic brain injury means 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, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma. 


Visual Impairment (VI)

Visual impairment including blindness means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.