Acronyms and Terms Glossary


After the evaluation, the PPT team is responsible for determining the eligibility of the child for special education and related services. Parents have the right to participate fully in this important meeting. The following definitions describe the areas of special needs/disabilities through which a child may qualify for special education services under IDEA 2004. The results and conclusions of the child’s evaluation will be compared with these definitions. If the results correspond with one or more disability definition and if, due to this disability, the child requires special education and related services, the child will be eligible for appropriate services.

School personnel are prohibited from requiring a child to obtain a perscription for a controlled substance (e.g., Ritalin, Adderal) to attend school, receive an evaluation or receive special education services.

The following are definitions of federal categories for which children may be eligible for special education services:

Developmental Disability

A child (ages 3-6) who is experiencing developmental delays, as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in one or more of the following areas: physical, cognitive, communication, social, emotional, or adaptive development, and who needs special education and related services.


A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.


Co-existing 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 who are deaf or children who are blind.


A hearing impairment that is so severe that it impairs the child’s ability to process linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, and adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Hearing Impairment

A measurable hearing impairment which, with or without amplification, impairs linguistic processing and adversely affects educational performance.

Emotional Disturbance

A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree, which adversely affects educational performance:

    a) an inability to learn, which cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors;
    b) an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationshipswith peers and teachers;
    c) inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances;
    d) a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or
    e) a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Intellectual Disability

Significant below-average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Multiple Disabilities

A number of identifiable disabilities, the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the disabilities; this does not include children who are deaf-blind.

Orthopedic Impairment

A severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects the child’seducational performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomalies, impairments caused by disease, and impairments from other causes, but does not include a temporary condition that is anticipated to be of fewer than three weeks duration.(For short-term impairments, see Section 504)

Other Health Impairment(OHI)

Limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, which is due to chronic or acute health-problems, including but not limited to ADD/ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, neurological impairment, and heart conditions and are expected to last more than three weeks. (For short-term impairments, see Section 504).

Specific Learning Disability

A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term shall not include children who have learning problems that are primarily the result of hearing.

Identifying Children with Specific Learning Disabilities

Because children with learning disabilities now account for over one-half of all children receiving special services, many experts believe that the majority of identified children are victims of poor teaching. IDEA 2004 changed the manner of identifying children with such learning disabilities from a discrepancy (“wait-to-fail”) model to a Response to Intervention (RTI) model.

Schools shall therefore, no longer be required to take into consideration whether or not a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability (whether it be in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation or mathematical reasoning). Instead, schools are strongly urged to use a process that determines if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention.If a child does not respond to instruction that is effective for the vast majority of children — does not show responsiveness to a series of interventions — there is something different about the child that is causing the non-responsiveness. Under the RTI model, that child is considered to have a learning disability and to be in need of special instruction.

State Dept RTI Executive Summary; Wrightslaw RTI; Wrightslaw Parent Guide.

Speech and/or Language Impairment

A communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Visual Impairment

A measurable visual impairment that, even after correction, continues to adversely affect the child’s educational performance. The term shall include both partially sighted and blind children.