Disability Awareness

January/February 2019

This month's newsletter is designed to increase awareness of special education disability categories as well as increased understanding of IEPs. There are 13 eligibility categories in which students can receive special education services.

1. Specific Learning Disability (Ongoing need for substantial and additional interventions

that extend beyond the scope of general education).

  • The students require instruction utilizing multi-modal methods.
  • The students oftentimes have substantial working memory delays in addition to executive functioning delays.
  • ldonline.org is an online resource that provides an wealth of information on disabilities.
  • interventioncentral.org provided both behavior and academic interventions at each tiered level of support.
  • Do2learn.com provides academic and social/emotional interventions.
  • Some learning disabilities can be due to verbal reasoning delays or nonverbal reasoning delays (visual spatial; visual perception, etc).
  • Will require precise assessment to identify specific areas of weakness that need to be remediated within a small, specialized instructional program. Progress monitoring occurs more frequently to ensure that the student is responding to instructional strategies.
  • Will oftentimes require assistance with organization, time management, and metacognition.

2. Traumatic Brain Injury (An acquired injury to the brain caused by external force).

  • If frontal lobe damage, will likely have impaired emotional regulation and executive functioning.
  • Will oftentimes rely on visual supports to aid in both processing as well as during times of heightened anxiety.

3. Hearing Impairment (Impairment in hearing that affects a student's educational


4. Visual Impairment (Impairment in vision that affects a student's educational


5. Deaf-Blindness (Concomitant hearing and visual impairments).

6. Orthopedic Impairment (Severe orthopedic impairment that affects a child's educational


7. Multiple Disabilities (Concomitant impairments that cannot be accommodated in special

education programs solely for one of the impairments).

8. Developmental Delay (Moderate to severe below age expectations in one or more of the

following areas: Adaptive; Cognitive; Communication; Physical; Social/Emotional).

  • This eligibility can provide a student services through age nine.

9. Intellectual Disability (Significantly subaverage intellectual functioning as well as adaptive


  • Will oftentimes require concrete representations of concepts with manipulatives to improve understanding.
  • Scaffolding will often be necessary to help acquire higher level skills.

10. Other Health Impairment (Chronic or acute health problems that affects a child's

educational performance).

  • ADHD is the most common OHI that is identified among school-aged children.
  • For ADHD, it is oftentimes necessary to implement supports to increase engagement in the classroom such as: scheduled breaks; individualized self-monitoring form with a personalized goal; fidget items; preferential seating.)
  • May need to have larger assignments/tasks broken down into small, more manageable parts.

11. Emotional Disability (A condition that persists over a long period of time and to a marked


  • Be aware of tone because these students tend to be sensitive to tone.
  • Require direct instruction in social/emotional functioning.
  • Be flexible and responsive to his/her needs and work to identify triggers. Also, be willing to reflect on how your responses impact the student's behavior (either positively or negatively).
  • Provide as many choices as possible for the student to increase compliance.
  • Individualized behavior plan that is more specific and provides more feedback that a classroom management plan.
  • A positive relationship with that child is most crucial to his/her success. This can be done via activities such as spending extra time with that child in a nonacademic activity, surrendering the one-up relationship at specified times).

12. Autism (A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal

communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that affects a

child's performance).

  • Visual supports will increase engagement and joint attention/learning.
  • Social stories are effective at reducing negative behaviors or increasing positives.
  • setbc.org/pictureset (provides visual supports for behaviors/routines)
  • filefolderheaven.com/autism-tasks/folder-stories (social stories for both behavior and routines).
  • Discover each child's sensory needs and teach them tools to use across all settings.

13. Speech and/or Language Impairment (Communication disorder that affects a child's

educational performance).

All teachers need to be invested in providing for all students. A label does not define a student's needs!

Key Points to Consider:

  • Focus on a learner’s abilities and possibilities, rather than disabilities and deficits. This is an important concept in promoting literacy for all, since disability and deficit information do not help an educator teach.
  • Students with IEPs may have a different case manager; however, they are still your student! Assess them and get to know them as one of your students!
  • Spend extra time getting to know students with IEPs and study the IEPs! They are legal documents that can be used in the court of law and are to be used across all settings as legal guidelines.
  • There are legal requirements for eligibility into special education. This includes exclusionary and inclusionary factors as well as strict guidelines and definitions.
  • ISBE states that "it is critical that schools and districts utilize scientifically-based progress monitoring tools when making instructional decisions." This includes both IEP and non-IEP students.
  • Student diversity strengthens a classroom and strengthens literacy due to educators trying out a greater array of varied teaching and learning approaches.