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The disabilities, listed below, may qualify for special services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If, after an assessment conducted by the school district or an assessor hired by you, your child falls into one of these categories, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team, including you and your Special Education Law Firm advocate, will meet to structure an education plan which allows your child to maximize the benefit of the education he or she receives.

We serve children with the following needs (click on the particular problem for a general list of its characteristics):

Attention deficit disorders
Autism/Asperger’s syndrome
Serious emotional disturbance and behavioral issues
Developmental delays
Hearing impairment (including deafness)
Intellectual Disability
Orthopedic impairment
Other health issues
Reading difficulties
Specific learning disability
Speech and language impairment
Traumatic brain injur
Visual impairment

For your child to qualify for special education under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) it is not enough that he or she has one of these disabilities. In addition, there must be evidence that your child’s disability adversely affects his or her educational performance.

The following is a list of disabilities that may affect a child’s education. Included are characteristics of these disabilities. Only testing by qualified practitioners can identify and determine the effects and severity of these disabilities.

ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDERS

Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.
Children who have symptoms of inattention may:

1.        Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another.

2.        Have difficulty focusing on one thing.

3.        Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable.

4.        Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new.

5.        Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities.

6.        Not seem to listen when spoken to.

7.        Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly.

8.        Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others.

9.        Struggle to follow instructions.

 

Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:

1.        Fidget and squirm in their seats.

2.        Talk nonstop.

3.        Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight.

4.        Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time.

5.        Be constantly in motion.

6.        Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.

Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may:

1.        Be very impatient.

2.        Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences.

3.        Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games.

4.        Often interrupt conversations or others’ activities.

5.        ADHD can be mistaken for other problems. Parents and teachers can miss the fact that children with symptoms of inattention have the disorder because they are often quiet and less likely to act out. They may sit quietly, seeming to work, but they are often not paying attention to what they are doing. They may get along well with other children, compared with those with the other subtypes, who tend to have social problems. But children with the inattentive kind of ADHD are not the only ones whose disorders can be missed. For example, adults may think that children with the hyperactive and impulsive subtypes just have emotional or disciplinary problems.

 

AUTISM/ASPERGER’S SYNDROME

Irregularities and impairments in communication.

Engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements.

Resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines.

Unusual responses to sensory experiences.

Qualitative impairment in social interaction, by stereotyped and restricted patterns of behavior, activities and interests, and by no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or general delay in language.

Intense preoccupation with a narrow subject, one-sided verbosity, restricted prosody, and physical clumsiness are typical of the condition.

 

SERIOUS EMOTIONAL DISTURBANCE AND BEHAVIORAL ISSUES

Inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors.

Inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

General pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

Tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

 

DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS

Means a child ages three (3) through nine (9) who is experiencing developmental delays as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures in one or more of the following areas: physical, cognitive, communication development, social or emotional, or adaptive development that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Other disability categories should be used if they are more descriptive of a young child’s strengths and needs. Local school systems have the option of using developmental delay as a disability category.

 

HEARING IMPAIRMENT (INCLUDING DEAFNESS)

Student’s hearing is at, or below, a 20 decibel hearing loss threshold or worse for one or more of the frequencies from 500 to 4000 Hz.

Residual hearing is not sufficient to enable the student to understand the spoken word and to develop language normally.

Hearing loss prevents full awareness of environmental sounds and spoken language, limiting normal language acquisition and learning achievement.

Sensorineural hearing loss or a permanent conductive hearing loss with aided sensitivity of 30 decibels or worse bilaterally. (Sensorineural hearing loss is a type of hearing loss in which the root cause lies in the vestibulocochlear nerve (Cranial nerve VIII), the inner ear, or central processing centers of the brain.)

 

INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY

Significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior.

Manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

“General intellectual functioning” is typically measured by an intelligence test. Persons with mental retardation usually score 70 or below on such tests. “Adaptive behavior” refers to a person’s adjustment to everyday life.

Difficulties may occur in learning, communication, social, academic, vocational, and independent living skills.

Mental retardation is not a disease, nor should it be confused with mental illness. Children with mental retardation become adults; they do not remain “eternal children.” They do learn, but slowly, and with difficulty.

 

ORTHOPEDIC IMPAIRMENT

Impairments related to congenital anomaly, disease or other causes (e.g. cerebral palsy, amputations, fractures or burns which cause permanent shortening of a muscle or tendon in the human body in response to continued hypertonic stress exerted on that muscle or tendon, such as constant spasticity).

 

OTHER HEALTH ISSUES (DIABETES, OVERWEIGHT, ETC.)

Limited strength, morbid obesity, vitality or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems, such as limited alertness, heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia or diabetes.

Based on physician’s opinion regarding existence of disability that affects the student’s ability to function.

Category may include children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

 

READING DIFFICULTIES

Reading disorder is a learning disorder that involves significant impairment of reading accuracy, speed, or comprehension to the extent that the impairment interferes with academic achievement or activities of daily life. People with reading disorder perform reading tasks well below the level one would expect on the basis of their general intelligence, educational opportunities, and physical health. Reading disorder is most commonly called dyslexia. Dyslexia, however, usually includes deficits in spelling and writing as well as reading.

Reading disorder is a learning disorder characterized by a significant disparity between an individual’s general intelligence and his or her reading skills. Learning disorders, formerly called academic skills disorders, are disorders that account for difficulty learning and poor academic performance when low performance cannot be attributed to mental retardation, low intelligence, lack of learning opportunities, or such specific physical problems as vision or hearing deficits. Common learning disabilities include reading disorder (often called dyslexia), mathematics disorder, disorder of written expression, and some language processing disorders.

Reading disorder can cause severe problems in reading, and consequently in academic work, even in people with normal intelligence, educational opportunities, motivation to learn to read, and emotional self-control. Reading disorder is different from slowness in learning or mental retardation. In reading disorder, there is a significant gap between the expected level of performance and actual achievement. Difficulties in reading can occur on many levels, and reading disorder may have several causes that manifest in different ways. Common problems in people with reading disorder include:

1.        Slow reading speed

2.        Poor comprehension when reading material either aloud or silently

3.        Omission of words while reading

4.        Reversal of words or letters while reading

5.        Difficulty decoding syllables or single words and associating them with specific sounds (phonics)

6.        Limited sight word vocabulary

Common characteristics of children with reading disorder include:

1.        Difficulty identifying single words

2.        Problems understanding the sounds in words, sound order, or rhymes

3.        Problems with spelling

4.        Transposing letters in words

5.        Omitting or substituting words

6.        Poor reading comprehension

7.        Slow reading speed (oral or silent)

In addition to these symptoms, children with reading disorder often have other delays or learning problems. These include:

1.        Delays in spoken language

2.        Confusion with directions, or right/left-handedness

3.        Confusion with opposites (up/down, early/late)

4.        Mathematics disorder

5.        Disorder of written expression

Evaluation of children’s reading ability must be done on an individual basis in order to make a diagnosis of reading disorder and distinguish it from slow learning or low intelligence. The examiner must take into account the child’s age, intelligence, educational opportunities, and such cultural factors as whether the language spoken at home is different from the language taught and used at school. Reading disorder is diagnosed when a child’s reading achievement is substantially below what would be expected after taking these factors into account.

Reading disorder is a learning disorder that involves significant impairment of reading accuracy, speed, or comprehension to the extent that the impairment interferes with academic achievement or activities of daily life. People with reading disorder perform reading tasks well below the level one would expect on the basis of their general intelligence, educational opportunities, and physical health. Reading disorder is most commonly called dyslexia. Dyslexia, however, usually includes deficits in spelling and writing as well as reading. In addition, the reading problems must interfere in significant ways with the person’s schoolwork or daily life. If a physical condition is present (for example, mental retardation, poor eyesight, or hearing loss), the reading deficit must be in excess of what one would normally associate with the physical handicap.

Diagnosis is complicated by the fact that 20%–55% of children with reading disorder have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a behavioral disorder that aggravates learning difficulties. In addition, about one-quarter of children with reading disorder have conduct disorder. Oppositional defiant disorder and depression also occur in higher-than-average rates in children with reading disorder. Almost all people with reading disorder have difficulties spelling, and about 80% of them have other language problems.

 

SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITY

A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written.

The disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

The term Specific Learning Disability includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

This term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

The student does not achieve adequately for his or her age or meet the state’s grade-level standards in one or more of the following areas:

1.        Oral Expression

2.        Listening comprehension

3.        Written expression

4.        Basic reading skill

5.        Reading fluency skills

6.        Reading comprehension

7.        Mathematics calculation

With mathematics problem solving (previously called “mathematics reasoning”), the student does not make sufficient progress to meet age or state-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the areas above when provided with a response to scientific, research-based intervention.

The student exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both relative to age, state-approved grade level standards or intellectual development (for example, an achievement test shows a discrepancy between reading and math, indicating strengths and weaknesses among your child’s academic skill levels).

The student has been provided appropriate instruction in reading or math. Information that demonstrates that the student received appropriate instruction from a qualified teacher in a regular education classroom must be considered by the team. In addition, there must be documentation of regular assessments of achievement. This documentation should have been provided to the student’s parents.

The student’s lack of achievement is not primarily the result of any of the following:

1.        A visual, hearing, or motor disability

2.        Mental retardation

3.        Emotional disturbance

4.        Cultural factors

5.        Limited English proficiency

6.        Environmental or economic disadvantage.

 

SPEECH AND LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENT

Speech and language disorders refer to problems in communication and related areas such as oral-motor function–sucking, swallowing, drinking, and eating. These delays and disorders range from simple sound substitutions to the inability to understand or use language or use the oral-motor mechanism for functional speech and feeding. Some causes of speech and language disorders include hearing loss, neurological disorders, brain injury, intellectual disability, drug abuse, physical impairments such as cleft lip or palate, and vocal abuse or misuse. Frequently, however, the cause is unknown.

A child’s communication is considered delayed when the child is noticeably behind his or her peers in the acquisition of speech and/or language skills. Sometimes a child will have greater receptive (understanding) than expressive (speaking) language skills, but this is not always the case.

Speech disorders refer to difficulties producing speech sounds or problems with voice quality. They might be characterized by an interruption in the flow or rhythm of speech, such as stuttering, which is called dysfluency. Speech disorders may be problems with the way sounds are formed, called articulation or phonological disorders, or they may be difficulties with the pitch, volume or quality of the voice. There may be a combination of several problems. People with speech disorders have trouble using some speech sounds, which can also be a symptom of a delay. They may say “see” when they mean “ski” or they may have trouble using other sounds like “l” or “r.” Listeners may have trouble understanding what someone with a speech disorder is trying to say. People with voice disorders may have trouble with the way their voices sound.

A language disorder is an impairment in the ability to understand and/or use words in context, both verbally and nonverbally. Some characteristics of language disorders include improper use of words and their meanings, inability to express ideas, inappropriate grammatical patterns, reduced vocabulary and inability to follow directions. One or a combination of these characteristics may occur in children who are affected by language learning disabilities or developmental language delay. Children may hear or see a word but not be able to understand its meaning. They may have trouble getting others to understand what they are trying to communicate.

Impairment in articulation, language, voice or fluency, as determined by a certified speech-language pathologist on the basis of results from a complete speech and language assessment.

 

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Injury to the brain caused by external physical force or internal occurrence (e.g. stroke or aneurysm), resulting in mild, moderate or severe impairments in one or more areas, including:

1.        Cognition

2.        Language

3.        Memory

4.        Attention

5.        Reasoning

6.        Abstract thinking

7.        Judgment

8.        Problem solving

9.        Sensory, perceptual and motor abilities

10.      Psychosocial behavior

11.      Physical functions

12.      Information processing

13.      Speech

This does not include brain injuries that are congenital, degenerative or induced by birth trauma.

 

VISUAL IMPAIRMENT (INCLUDING BLINDNESS)

Central visual acuity is 20/70 or worse in the better eye with correction or the peripheral field subtends an angle not greater than 20 degrees at its widest diameter as determined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

 

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