Disability Category

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a child can qualify for services under one of the 12 disability categories.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism means 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.  Fact Sheet | Resources

Blindness and Low Vision

Blindness and low vision refer to impairments in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a learner’s educational performance. The term includes a reduction of acuity at distance or near, visual field restrictions, a deteriorating eye condition, and a visual loss caused by a disturbance of the posterior visual pathways and/or cortex. Fact Sheet | Resource

Speech/Language Impairment

Speech/language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairments, or voice impairment adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Fact Sheet | Resources


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

Orthopedic Impairment

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.), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures). Fact Sheet | Resources

Deafblindness or Combined Vision and Hearing Loss

Deafblindness disability 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. Note: Multiple Disabilities does not include deafblindness. Fact Sheet | Resources

Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability means significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Fact Sheet | Resources


Giftedness is exceptional intellectual abilities and potential for achievement that requires specially designed instruction and services beyond those normally provided in the general classroom instruction. Fact Sheet | Resources


Other Health Impairment

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, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome; and adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Fact Sheet | Resources

Specific Learning Disability

Specific learning disability (SLD) 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 the 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.  Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, intellectual disability, or emotional/behavioral disorders, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. Fact Sheet | Resources


Emotional/Behavioral Disorder

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:

(A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors. 

(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances. 

(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. 

(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. Fact Sheet | Resources

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury is 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; psycho-social 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.  Fact Sheet | Resources