Note 8: Student Disabilities (2008)

Indicators 8, and 22 use data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which collects information on students with disabilities as part of the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). OSEP classifies disabilities according to 13 categories. (For more detailed definitions of these categories, see the part B and C data dictionaries at http://www.ideadata.org.)

DISABILITY CATEGORIES

Autism

A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that 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.

Deaf-blindness

Concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational problems that the student cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

Developmental Delay

This term may apply to children ages 3 through 9 who are experiencing developmental delays in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development, and who therefore need special education and related services. It is optional for states to adopt and use this term to describe any child within its jurisdiction. A local education agency (LEA) may use the term if its state has adopted it for use, but it must conform its use of the term to that of the state.

Emotional Disturbance

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.

Hearing Impairment

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 in this section.

Although children and youth with deafness are not included in the definition of hearing impairment, they are counted in the hearing impairment category.

Mental Retardation

Significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Multiple Disabilities

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.

Orthopedic Impairment

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

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

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, including conditions such 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, 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 Impairments

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

Students with Disabilities and Exiting School

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) calculates the graduation rate for students with disabilities by dividing the number of students age 14 or older who graduated with a regular high school diploma by the number of students in the same age group who are known to have left school (i.e., graduated with a regular high school diploma, received a certificate of completion, reached a maximum age for services, died, moved and are not known to be continuing in an education program, or dropped out). This percentage should not be confused with other graduation rates because it is based only on those students leaving school. It does not account for students who remain in school nor does it follow a specific cohort over time.

Because states have different eligibility criteria for each disability category, state-to-state comparisons by disability should be interpreted with caution. Further, in 2002–03, the definitions of several categories were clarified. The definition of “graduated with a regular high school diploma” was revised to make it clear that this category should only include those students who met the same standards for graduation as those for students without disabilities. Students who received a high school diploma, but did not meet the same standards for graduation as those for students without disabilities should be reported in the received a certificate category. Not all states distinguish between students who met the same standards for graduation and those who did not. For more information, see
https://www.ideadata.org/docs/bfactsheetex.pdf.