Categories of Disabilities
At a Glance
The law requires that schools
provide special education services to eligible students.
The Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA) covers 13 conditions.
Not every student with learning or
attention issues qualifies.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
requires schools to provide special education and related services to eligible students. However, not every child with learning
or attention issues qualifies. To be covered, a child’s school performance must
be “adversely affected” by one of the 13 conditions below.
For kids with learning and attention issues, two of these
conditions are the most relevant. They are “specific learning disability”
and “other health impairment.”
1. Specific learning disability (SLD)
The umbrella term “SLD” covers a specific group of learning
issues. The conditions in this group affect a child’s ability to read, write,
listen, speak, reason or do math. Here are some of the issues that could fall
in this group:
· Auditory processing disorder
· Nonverbal learning disability
2. Other health impairment
The umbrella term “other health impairment” covers
conditions that limit a child’s strength, energy or alertness. One example is
an attention issue like ADHD.
3. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
ASD is a developmental disability. It covers a wide
range of symptoms and skills, but mainly affects a child’s social and
communication skills. It can also influence behavior.
4. Emotional disturbance
Children covered under the term “emotional disturbance” can
have a number of mental disorders. They may include anxiety disorder,
schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.
(Some of these issues may also be covered under “other health impairment.”)
5. Speech or language impairment
The umbrella term “speech or language impairment” covers a
number of communication problems. Those include stuttering, impaired
articulation, language impairment or voice impairment.
6. Visual impairment, including blindness
A child who has vision problems is considered to have a
visual impairment. This condition includes both partial sight and blindness. If
eyewear can correct a vision problem, then it doesn’t qualify.
Children with a diagnosis of deafness have a severe hearing
impairment. They aren’t able to process language through hearing.
8. Hearing impairment
The term “hearing impairment” refers to a hearing loss not
covered by the definition of deafness. This type of loss can change or
fluctuate over time. Remember that being hard of hearing is not the same as having an auditory processing disorder.
Children with a diagnosis of deaf-blindness have both
hearing and visual impairments. Their communication and other needs are so
great that programs for the deaf or blind can’t meet them.
10. Orthopedic impairment
Any impairment to a child’s body, no matter what the cause,
is considered an orthopedic impairment.
11. Intellectual disability
Children with this type of disability have below-average
intellectual ability. They may also have poor communication, self-care and
social skills. Down syndrome is one example of an intellectual disability.
12. Traumatic brain injury
This is a brain injury is caused by an accident or some kind
of physical force.
13. Multiple disabilities
A child with multiple disabilities has more than one
condition covered by IDEA. Having multiple issues creates educational needs that
can’t be met in a program for any one condition.
Accommodations are changes that can be made in the way the
student accesses information and demonstrates performance.
Questions can be a constant source of irritation for the learning disabled student. Fortunately, there are many techniques available that can relieve this irritation:
- ask more common type questions,
- ask fewer questions,
- reword in easier terms,
- avoid essay type questions,
- utilize matching,true or false and multiple choice types of questions,
- allow more time for response.
If these choices do not appeal to you, you may want to try one or more of these options.
Next to the question, write down on what page the information may be found. This would work really well on information that has been color-coded.
Number the paragraphs of a chapter and cue answer with number of paragraph.
Same as above, but underline or color code the answer in the paragraph.
As questions occur, either within the context of the chapter or at the end of the chapter, list the questions with the correct answer. Record the page number where the question/answer may be found.
Study Sheets/Guides and Test Modifications
Students with learning challenges often need study sheets in order to focus on key elements of information to be learned. Some examples are:
Provide students with review outlines to guide their studying.
List steps in a mathematical process, or a lab activity, so that the student knows exactly what they are to do. (ETP: Clear Information)
Ask the student to create their own study sheet by listing important people, events or facts. Then ask them to list relationships between the items. (*ETP:Effective Teaching Practice
Teach students to recognize signal words in lectures and written material to guide studying. Example: “most of all”, “a key feature”, “a major event”,
When students have learning challenges, it often takes them more time to complete assignments. Shortened assignments that still provide key practices, allows the student to complete work in a reasonable time period without undue pressure and frustration. Students with delayed processing speed or physical handicaps always require more time to complete any given assignment.
- Identify terminology, concepts and skills that are most important and require that these items be completed first.
- Star the essential items, allowing bonus points for other items completed.
- Reduce the number of questions or problems to be done at one time. Shorter assignments made more frequently provide the same amount of practice.
Some students with disabilities have difficulty taking notes. For example, a student with an auditory processing problem may take few or unclear notes. Physical and hearing impairments may also limit speed and make note taking difficult. A note taking accommodation is intended to provide information that the student would have gotten on his own, if it were not for his disability. Common ways to provide note taking accommodations include the following:
- Guided notes
- Instructor lecture notes
- Copies of notes by a designated note taker
- Audio recordings
> Guided notes are outlines, provided by the instructor, with spaces or blanks that the student can fill in during the lecture.
> Copies of presentation overheads might also serve as guides for note taking.
> Guided notes encourage student participation during class and minimize the amount of writing required to keep up with the information being presented.
> Students should consider using a laptop computer and note taking software for note taking. Teachers could then provide outlines electronically.
> An instructor can provide their lecture notes to a student prior to the lecture. This allows the student to concentrate on the information given and participate in discussions. For some students it is helpful to refer to these notes during the lecture.
> Copies of notes, from a designated note taker or volunteer from the class, can be written on NCR (no carbon required) paper, photocopied or shared electronically. While these methods are easy to use, the legibility or clarity of the notes may limit their usefulness. These notes are also the writer's interpretation of the lecture, which may not match what the student needs to help her remember key concepts. For these reasons, it is better if the student can take some notes for herself.
> Audio recording is the most accurate and complete way to capture class information, except in situations where the lecture format is highly visual, as it might be in math or science classes (math problems on the board or demonstrations in science). ***Recordings are also time-consuming to review and not useful for a person with a hearing impairment.
Upon request, most colleges provide note taking services for students with documented disabilities.
> K-12 teachers might consider having a designated note taker in each of their classes for the benefit of anyone who needs notes because of an absence or a disability. Collaborative learning techniques, such as Think/Pair/Share and Jigsaw, can help students grasp key concepts and ensure that notes are complete. Having students summarize their thinking verbally or in a journal may also be useful.
Preparing Assignment Sheets
Pre-Teach Content Vocabulary
Highlighted Text and Materials, Visual Aids
If student has difficulty - then try this!
The Role of a Teacher...
The "Slow Learner"
Suggestions for Parents...