What Are the 13 Categories of Disability For Special Education Eligibility?

Does your child struggle with academics, and you are concerned that they may have a disability? Have you been told by special education personnel that your child does not fit any of the 13 eligibility classifications to receive special education services? This article will discuss the 13 classifications of disability, that are covered in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and make a child eligible for special education services. Whether a certain child is eligible is up to the parent and the IEP team, but having a disability in one of the 13 categories is required in order to be found eligible.

The categories are:

1. Autism: A developmental disability that can affect the verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction, and can have a negative affect on the child’s education. The prevalence of autism is 1 in 150 as determined by the CDC or Center for Disease Control.

2. Other Health Impaired (OHI): The child exhibits limited strength, alertness, due to chronic or acute health problems, including but not limited to asthma, ADD/ADHD, cancer, diabetes, which negatively affects the child’s education.

3. Mental Retardation: Defined as significantly below average general functioning, with deficits in adaptive behavior, which negatively affects the child’s education.

4. Emotional Disturbance (ED): Exhibits one of the following conditions over an extended period of time and these conditions negatively effect a child’s education. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors. For a child to be ED they are not supposed to have any other type of disability negative affecting their education.

5. Deafness: Residual hearing is severely impaired in processing the spoken word, negatively affecting the child’s education.

6. Hearing Impairment: Exhibits a hearing loss that is permanent or fluctuating, which even with amplification negatively affects the child’s education.

7. Visual Impairment: Impairment is such that educational potential cannot be fulfilled without special services and materials.

8. Deaf-Blindness: Child has both hearing and visual disabilities.

9. Specific Learning Disability (LD): Exhibits a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological process (such as visual, motor, language etc) which negatively affects a child’s education.

10. Multiple Disabilities: The child exhibits two or more severe disabilities, one of which is mental retardation.

11. Orthopedic Impairment: Displays severe impairments that are the result of congenital anomaly, developmental, or other causes (such as CP) which negatively affects the child’s education.

12. Speech or Language Impairment: Exhibits a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a receptive and/or expressive language disorder, that negatively affects the child’s education.

13. Traumatic Brain Injury: The child has an injury to their brain resulting in total or partial functional disability.

By knowing what categories are covered under IDEA you will be able to understand if your child has a disability that makes them eligible for special education services. You are the only advocate that your child has-do not let them down!

Sufficient Impacts on the History of Special Education

Special Education, over the years, has grown and improved substantially. The history of it contains many admirable historical figures and events that have defined and impacted Special Education. I, however, picked 4 people and one event that I thought had a great impact on Special education. Without these people, special education would not be where it is today. I believe Jean Itard, Edouard Seguin, Helen Keller, Samuel Howe and the Brown Vs. Board of Education, were all important highlights in the history of Special Ed. Although they are not the only ones that should be commended for doing an outstanding job in improving the status of Special Ed, education would not progress as much without them.

Jean Itard is perhaps best defined as “the Father of Special Education” Although he was not aware that his work would have been defined as Special education, his work had a profound effect on future generations. Itard was educated to be a tradesman. However, during the French Revolution, he joined the army to become an assistant surgeon. After the war, he took upon a new and challenging project called Victor. Victor was a wild, animal- like boy that was found running around in the forest. In 1800 he was bought to Paris for observation. When Itard saw the wild, uncivilized boy, he assumed that he had been recently abandoned by his parents. Like a wild animal that does not like to be caged, Victor escaped a couple of times from a widow’s bedroom window. He was normally deficient, but Itard believed he could educate the boy through experience. During Itard’s time, it was a common belief that mentally disabled people were uneducable. The remarkable guru spent five years trying to “cure” him. After 5 years, Victor could read and speak a few words, and could also show affection towards his caretakers. Unfortunately, he never reached normality. Itard thought he had failed as a teacher, but his experience with Victor taught others that in order to achieve the smallest success, he had to accept Victor as a person. His work implemented the most important truth of all, and that was that education had to be in harmony with the dynamic nature of life. 

The next important historical figure was not a teacher, but a remarkable student. Helen Keller had an illness which left her blind and deaf. As a young child, she suffered through severe retardation. She made animal like sounds, ripped her clothes off, and was not toilet trained. It was apparent that she lacked civilized traits. Many years later, even she said “I was an animal.” Poor Helen had become a very difficult child. She terrorized the house hold, and often endangered the people in it. The Kellers were advised to visit an expert on deaf children. This was the well known Alexander Graham Bell. Bell suggested that the family seek an instructor from Perkins University.

On March 3rd, 1883, she met her teacher and caretaker, Miss Anne Sullivan. During the first meeting of theirs, Anne spelled out the word d-o-l-l on her arm. After writing the word on her arm, Anne gave Helen a doll, to show her what “doll” was. The next word she was spelled out was “cake” Although she could quickly repeat the same finger movements, Helen never really understood what the words meant. While Anne was struggling to help her understand the meaning of a word, she also was struggling to try to control Helen’s undesirable behavior. Making her educated and civilized was a great challenge for Anne. After a month, her behavior did improve. It was that initial month that the bond between Anne and Helen was established. After that month was the time that people referred to as the “miracle. It was not until 1887, that Helen began to grasp an understanding of the words. Anne pumped water on to Helen’s hand, and spelled out the word on her hand. Something about this activity helped Helen understand the meaning of the words.. Helen progressed as an individual over the years.

The life that she lived has had an impact on teaching methods, as well as technology. With the aid of Anne, through her writing, lectures, and the way she lived life, she has shown people that being disabled is not the end of the world. Her impact on education can be shown through this quote of hers: “The public must learn that the blind man is neither genus nor a freak nor an idiot. He has a mind that can be educated, a hand which can be trained…”

Parental Retaliation in Special Education – How Can I Prove It – And Will It Ever Stop?

Are you a parent who has a child with autism or other disabilities that receive special education services? Have you experienced parental retaliation by special education professionals in your school district, because you have advocated for your child? This article will educate you on the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil rights (OCR) definition of retaliation, and also what standard they use to determine if parental retaliation has occurred. In addition this article will discuss whether retaliation can be decreased, so that you can truly be a meaningful participant in your child’s education!

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which is enforced by the Office of Civil Rights states that: “504 prohibits recipients or other persons from intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Section 504, or because the individual has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under Section 504.34 C.F.R. 100.7(e).” One of the protected activities under Section 504 is advocacy, and retaliation is prohibited if you advocate for your child.

The Office of Civil Rights has released information that OCR complaints have increased at a very large rate (which I believe is due to the amount of parental retaliation that special education professionals engage in). The types of retaliation I have seen are calls to Child Protective Services (CPS), banning parents from school grounds, and possibly punishment to a child. Parents need to stand up to this retaliation and gather evidence of the retaliation, so that they can file an OCR complaint.

OCR uses a five point test to determine if a parent has experienced retaliation:

1. “Has the parent engaged in a protected activity?”

2. “Is the district aware of the protected activity?”

3. “Was the parent or student subjected to an adverse action?”

4. “Will a neutral third party decide there is a causal relationship or connection between the protected activity and the adverse action?”

5. “Can the school district offer a legitimate non-discriminatory (non-retaliatory) reason for the adverse action, which a neutral third party will not consider to be pre-textual?”

A few comments about the five point test:

1. Under #1 advocacy is considered a protective activity as well as filing a state complaint or a due process complaint.

2. Under #2 most special education professionals know of parent’s advocacy especially if the parent has filed a complaint or due process.

3. Under #3 the adverse action means a negative action such as suspending a child or calling CPS and making a child abuse complaint.

4. Under #4 the retaliation must be closely-timed to the protected activity of advocacy, or OCR could rule against you on your complaint.

5. Under #5 this in some cases is what causes a parent to lose the complaint–If the school can come up with a plausible non-discriminatory reason for the action, and then the finding may be against the parent.

OCR recently released a Dear Colleague letter (April 2013) about retaliation that can be downloaded at, http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201304.html. This is a great resource that can ensure successful advocacy.

The only thing that will decrease retaliation is enforcement, which is usually left to the parent. I do believe that you should file an OCR complaint for ever retaliation action done by special education professionals (that you can prove of course). Work hard to secure written evidence to prove your case, as well as include the five point test in your retaliation claim, (with all of your evidence listed, and attached of course). Parental retaliation often occurs in the dark, and if light is brought to it, the situation very well could improve! Never stop fighting for your child-he or she is worth it!