Special Education Eligibility

What is Special Education?
 
California Education Code (section 56031) defines special education as:

Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of individuals with exceptional needs, whose educational needs cannot be met with modification of the general instruction program; and Related services that help individuals with special needs to benefit from specially designed instruction. Special education is an integral part of the total public education system. Other features of special education are:
  1. It is provided in a way that promotes maximum interaction between students with and without disabilities in a manner which is appropriate to the needs of both;
  2. Services are provided at no cost to parents;
  3. It provides a full range of program options to meet the educational and service requirements of individuals with exceptional needs in the least restrictive environment (LRE).   The LRE is generally the setting that is most similar to those attended by general education students.
It provides a full range of program options to meet the educational and service requirements of individuals with exceptional needs in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The LRE is generally the setting that is most similar to those attended by general education students.

 
Who is eligible for Special Education services?
 
A student, ages 3 through 22, having one or more of the following thirteen Federally defined disabling conditions that adversely affect his or her educational performance, may be eligible to receive special education services.

To qualify as a student with a disability under the IDEA, a student must meet the definition of one or more of the following 13 categories of disabilities and need special education and related services because of her disability or disabilities. 34 CFR 300.8. The following chart provides a brief overview of each of the disabilities identified in the IDEA.

DISABILITY

LEGAL DEFINITION

WHAT TO KNOW

Autism

Defined in IDEA regulations at 34 CFR 300.8(c)(1)(i) as: "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."

No two students with autism are alike. Some students with autism may exhibit difficulties with communication and social interaction. They may engage in self-stimulating or repetitive behaviors, become frustrated when overstimulated, or show inappropriate emotions. Some students may resort to yelling, while others are mute.

Deaf-blindness

The regulations implementing the IDEA at 34 CFR 300.8(c)(2) define this disability as "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."

Communicating with others is the biggest barrier for students with a combination of sight and hearing loss. Students may have development delays, and socialization and mobility challenges. They may use a wide variety of communication tools and require a reduced-noise environment.

Deafness

The Part B regulations define this term to mean " a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects a child's educational performance." 34 CFR 300.8(c)(3).

Deaf students may have difficulty with language and communication. Some may require instruction delivered in sign language, or in the use of sign language. Others may use lip reading as a means of obtaining information. Some students may have a cochlear implant. A deaf student may have unclear speech, ask for things to be repeated, and struggle to participate in classroom discussions or oral exams.

Emotional disturbance

Under the IDEA Part B regulations at 34 CFR 300.8(c)(4)(i), 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.

The term includes schizophrenia, but doesn't apply to children who are socially maladjusted. 34 CFR 300.8(c)(4)(ii).

Students with ED often have a history of social and emotional issues; frequent absences; depression; turbulent relationships. They may exhibit aggression, disruption, oppositional behavior, and negativism.

Hearing impairment

Defined in the IDEA regulations at 34 CFR 300.8(c)(5) as: "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."

Some students may have difficulties with social skills, and speech and language development. They may have difficulty controlling the tone and volume of their speech, and be difficult to understand. They may use hearing aids, frequency modulation system, and rely on visual cues.

Intellectual disability

The regulations implementing the IDEA at 34 CFR 300.8(c)(6) define the term as "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."

Students with intellectual disabilities may face challenges in communication, socialization, and self-care. They may have difficulty with problem-solving, goal setting, understanding new information, and comprehending abstract concepts. They may learn differently than their peers.

Multiple disabilities

34 CFR 300.8(c)(7) of the Part B regulations defines the term as "concomitant impairments (such as [intellectual disability]-blindness or [intellectual disability] -- orthopedic impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Multiple disabilities does not include deaf-blindness."

Students with multiple disabilities may have medical, developmental, sensory, and neurological issues. No two students' needs are the same. Students with multiple disabilities may have anxiety, difficulty regulating their emotions and with social interactions, and engage in self-soothing behaviors.

Orthopedic impairment

34 CFR 300.8(c)(8) defines the term to mean a severeorthopedic impairmentthat adversely affects a child's educational performance caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).

A child with an orthopedic impairment may experience pain or fatigue, need more time for movement and transitions, or have low muscle tone. She may use specialized equipment.

Other health impairment

The IDEA Part B regulations at 34 CFR 300.8(c)(9) defines a student with OHI as "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."

Depending on their individual health problem/s, students eligible under the OHI category may require medication, one-to-one support, frequent meals, or fidgets. They may have difficulty staying on task, experience stress and fatigue, exhibit anxiety-related behaviors, and be subjected to bullying.

Specific learning disability

The regulations implement the IDEA at 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10) state define the term as "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." The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Students with a specific learning disability may exhibit academic problems, reading difficulties, poor motor and social skills, lack of attention, and oral language difficulties. They may experience anxiety, depression, or a sense of inadequacy. Students may have difficulty attending class.

Speech or language impairment

34 CFR 300.8(c)(11) of the IDEA Part B regulations defines this disability as a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

A student with a speech or language impairment may have difficulty making himself understood and communicating effectively. He may have difficulty following directions; speak with an unusual voice or pitch; repeat sounds, words, or phrases; and have low classroom participation.

Traumatic brain injury

34 CFR 300.8(c)(12) define the term as "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."

A student with TBI may exhibit frustration, mood swings, and impulsivity. She may have hearing or vision problems, memory loss, seizures and/or headaches, speech delays, and loss of balance. Students with a TBI may have difficulty paying attention or concentrating, and experience frustration or depression.

Visual impairment (including blindness)

34 CFR 300.8(c)(13) of the IDEA Part B regulations defines the term as an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

A student with a visual impairment may have mobility issues and difficulties learning to read, write, do math, use computers, and participate and make progress in the general curriculum. They may feel isolated and exhibit atypical behaviors such as rocking.


Eligibility is determined through an assessment process that identifies one or more impairments that prevent a student from achieving at his/her potential. A student may be performing significantly below the districts standards and additional interventions may be necessary for the student to maximize access to the educational program.