Disability Categories

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how an individual processes information and interprets the world. Core features of autism are persistent deficits in social interaction and communication and restricted, repetitive or stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests or activities.

    Blind / Visually Impaired: “Visually impaired” means a medically verified visual impairment accompanied by limitations in sight that interfere with acquiring information or interaction with the environment to the extent that special education instruction and related services may be needed. A student with visual impairments and a functional need may be considered for special education under the Blind – Visually Impaired (BVI) category.

    Deaf / Hard of Hearing: Children and youth who have varying types and degrees of hearing loss may be eligible to receive special education and related services.

    Developmental Cognitive Disability: Developmental Cognitive Disability (DCD) is defined as a condition that results in intellectual functioning significantly below average and is associated with concurrent deficits in adaptive behavior that require special education and related services.

    Developmentally Delayed (Early Childhood Special Education, Birth - 7 only): A child up to age seven who is experiencing a measurable delay in development according to diagnostic instruments and procedures fits the Developmental Delay (DD) disability category.  

    Emotional / Behavioral Disorder: An established pattern characterized by severely aggressive or impulsive behaviors, severely withdrawn or anxious behaviors, generally pervasive unhappiness, depression or side mood swings or severely disordered thought processes manifested by unusual behavior patterns, atypical communication styles or distorted interpersonal relationships.

    Other Health Disabilities: Other Health Disabilities (OHD) includes a wide range of chronic or acute health conditions, including Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), that can range from mild to severe. Medications, treatments, therapies and repeated hospitalizations can affect a student’s ability to learn and function at school. A student with such a condition may be considered for special education under the OHD category

    Physically Impaired: Students determined to be Physically Impaired (PI) have medically diagnosed, chronic, physical impairment, either congenital or acquired, that may adversely affect physical or academic functioning and result in the need for special education and related services. Examples of diagnoses that may meet these criteria are cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, osteogenesis imperfecta and arthrogryposis.

    Severely Multiply Impaired: Learner has severe learning and developmental problems resulting from two or more disability conditions.

    Specific Learning Disability: Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language. The disability may be exhibited as an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. SLD also includes conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia.

    Speech / Language Impairment: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines speech/language impairment as “a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment or a voice impairment that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.”

    Traumatic Brain Injury: Traumatic brain injury means 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. Traumatic brain injury 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. Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

    These definitions have been adapted from the Minnesota Department of Education.