• Disability Information/Eligibility

    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, established in law in 1975, retains the basic rights and protections for children with disabilities. In 1997, amendments were made to the Act that focus on improving the education of children with disabilities by

    • Identifying children with special needs before they enter school and providing services to help them,

    • Developing individualized education programs (IEPs) that focus on improving educational results through the general curriculum,

    • Educating children with disabilities with their nondisabled peers,

    • Setting higher expectations for students who are disabled and ensuring schools are held accountable,

    • Strengthening the role of parents and fostering partnerships between parents and schools,

    • Reducing unnecessary paperwork and other burdens.

    “Child with a disability” means a child evaluated in accordance with Sections 300.304 through 300.311 of the IL School Code.  IDEA identifies 13 disabilities as the basis for students’ eligibility for special education and related services.  These disabilities are autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disability, hearing impairment, cognitive impairment, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment.    

    The terms used in this definition of a child with a disability are defined as follows:


    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.  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 experiences.  Autism does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance.  A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three could be identified as having autism if the criteria in this definition are satisfied.


    Concomitant 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 with deafness or children with blindness.


    A hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects the child’s educational performance.

    Developmental Delay

    For children from birth to age three and children from ages three through nine, the term developmental delay, as defined by each state, means a delay in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication, social or emotional development, or adaptive development.

    Emotional Disability

    A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’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 under normal circumstances;

    • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or

    • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

    Emotional Disability includes schizophrenia.  The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disability as defined in this section.  

    Hearing Impairment

    An impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness.

    Intellectual Disability

    The student has a significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

    Multiple Disabilities

    Concomitant impairments (such as mental retardation-blindness, mental retardation-orthopedic impairment) the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments.  The term does not include deaf-blindness.

    Orthopedic Impairment

    A severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.  The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomaly (e.g., clubfoot, absence of some member, etc.), impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.) and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).

    Other Health Impairment

    A student having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that 1) is due to chronic or acute health problems such 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 and Tourette syndrome; and 2) that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

    Specific Learning Disability

    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 the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

    Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; of intellectual disabilities; of emotional disabilities; of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.In accordance with 23 Illinois Administrative Code 226.130, Illinois districts are required to use a process that determines how a child responds to scientific, research-based interventions as part of the evaluation procedures to determine special education eligibility under the category of specific learning disability (SLD).

    Speech or Language Impairment

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

    Traumatic Brain Injury

    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.

    Visual Impairment Including Blindness

    An impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance.  The term includes both partial sight and blindness.