Special Education Services - Terminology

Preschool Child with a Disability

The term "preschool child with a disability" means a child three, four, or five years old whose developmental progress is delayed to the extent that a program of special education is required in order to ensure his or her adequate preparation for school-age experiences.

Intellectual Disability

The term "intellectual disability" means a significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning and levels of achievement, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period.

Specific Learning Disability

The term "specific learning disability" 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 an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or perform mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not apply to students who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Emotional Disability

The term "emotional disability" means an emotional disturbance exhibited by one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to such a marked degree that it adversely affects the student's educational performance:

  • an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors;
  • an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;
  • inappropriate types of behavior or feelings in normal circumstances;
  • a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression;
  • 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 a serious emotional disturbance.

Other Health Impairment

The term "other health impairment" means a limitation in strength and vitality that can include a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, and that adversely affects a student's educational performance. This limitation is generally due to such chronic or acute health problems as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia.

Traumatic Brain Injury

The term "traumatic brain injury" means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, that results in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, and that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairment in one or more functions that are controlled by the brain, 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.

Autism

The term "autism" means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three (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 experience.

Multiple Disabilities

The term "multiple disabilities" means concomitant impairments (e.g., mental retardation and blindness, mental retardation and orthopedic impairment), that together cause such severe educational problems that a student cannot be accommodated in a special education programs for one impairment only. The term does not include deaf-blindness and there must be two or more impairments, excluding speech.