The 13 Different Categories of Special Education Under IDEA

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 7.3 million students received special education services during the 2019-2020 school year.

There are thirteen different categories of special education. If a student falls under one of these categories then their public school would be required to provide adequate services to accommodate their needs. Some categories are specific, covering blindness and traumatic brain injuries. Others are generalized, reflecting the wide range of learning differences. Keep reading to learn more.

1. Specific Learning Difference

A specific learning difference affects a specific learning skill. A child with dyslexia may not be able to read texts fluently. Yet they may have no other impairments.

A child with dyslexia may need different tools in the classroom. They can use line readers so they keep their place while they are reading. They can use a keyboard overlay with different colors of letters so typing is more accessible to them.

2. Speech or Language Impairment

A child may experience several different speech impairments. They may have a chronic stutter or they may not be able to articulate certain sounds with their mouth. Their impairment may be due to a disorder like ASD, or they may have a physical condition like a cleft palate that impedes their speech.

A specific language impairment interferes with a child's language skills. They may have a language delay, not learning how to talk until they are several years old. They may not be able to understand idiomatic speech, taking things literally.

3. Other Health Impairment

"Other health impairment" refers to an impairment that does not fit in the other categories. A child who struggles with their energy levels may qualify for special education services under this category. ADHD, diabetes, and heart disease can count as other health impairments.

A child with ADHD may need help with classroom coping skills. They can use mantras to build their self-esteem and they can establish a routine to get their work done.

4. Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. A child may experience a wide range of symptoms, including difficulty with responding to nonverbal cues.

A child with ASD may need a wide range of special education services. They may need communication therapy, and they may need a space to calm down when they are frustrated.

5. Intellectual Impairment

"Intellectual impairment" is an umbrella term in the IDEA special education law. A child may have a genetic anomaly that impacts the way they learn and interact with the world. They may also have a communication impairment or poor social skills, which may not be symptoms of a particular disorder.

6. Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury that causes significant damage to the brain. Not all TBIs result in permanent impairment. But a child who sustains one may suffer from memory loss, poor coordination, or mood swings, which would constitute their receiving special education.

A congenital or degenerative brain injury does not count as a TBI. Children who experience congenital and degenerative injuries can receive special learning services, but they fall under another category, potentially Intellectual Impairment.

7. Visual Impairment

Any eyesight problem counts as visual impairment. A child may be blind or have partial vision in one or both eyes.

A child who has their impairment corrected with eyeglasses does not need special education. If wearing eyeglasses does not help their educational performance, they may need accommodations. They may need to read texts with larger fonts.

8. Hearing Impairment

A child who suffers from hearing loss has a hearing impairment. They may have diminished hearing in one or both ears. Children with degenerative conditions that cause hearing loss qualify for services under this category.

A child may need hearing aids so they can receive instructions. Their teachers may also need to use written words and sign language in order to communicate with them.

9. Deafness

Deafness is the complete loss of hearing in one or both ears. A child cannot hear most sounds, even if they have a hearing aid in. A child may need to be placed in a special class for students with deafness.

10. Deaf-Blindness

A child with deaf-blindness has simultaneous hearing and sight impairments. Deaf-blindness is a serious condition that may require extensive education services.

Classes for children with deaf-blindness are centered around touch. Children learn how to read texts in braille and they use tactile learning devices like blocks.

11. Orthopedic Impairment

An orthopedic impairment affects how a child moves and coordinates their body. Cerebral palsy, paraplegia, and the absence of a limb count as orthopedic impairments.

A child may need to use a wheelchair, crutches, or an artificial limb. They may need physical therapy that teaches them how to walk or hold objects properly.

12. Emotional Disturbance

An emotional disturbance creates emotions that inhibit a child's performance over time. They may act out in inappropriate ways. They may struggle to form relationships with other students, or they may feel anxious about their work.

Depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia can contribute to emotional disturbances. A child may need to take medication and receive psychiatric support outside the classroom.

13. Multiple Impairments

A child who experiences multiple impairments at once can qualify for extensive special education. Some children who have deaf-blindness also have an intellectual impairment. They may need a tutor who can teach them braille through alternative means.

The Essentials of Special Education Under IDEA

IDEA creates 13 categories of learning differences. A school is required to provide services for all children who qualify for special education under IDEA.

Some categories are specific, covering blindness and traumatic brain injuries. Others are generalized, reflecting the wide range of emotional and verbal impairments.

A child receives services specific to their needs, such as learning how to read braille. If they have multiple or significant impairments, they can receive tutors and aides to help them.

You can also find institutions geared toward children with learning differences. Eagle Hill School helps support Connecticut and New York children with language-based learning differences. Request more information today.

Topics: Learning Differences, IDEA