Low Incidence Disabilities


Some Questions About Low Incidence Disabilities

What is a low incidence disability?

According to the IDEA low incidence disabilities include sever disabling conditions with an expected incidence rate that is less that 1% of the total statewide enrollment.

What are some causes of low incidence disabilities?

Some causes of LIDs are birth defects, brain trauma/injury, muscle-skeletal conditions, or even genetics.

What are some educational needs of learners with low incidence disabilities?

Students with LIDs need special education, which is provided for them for free under the IDEA. These students will get proper modifications according to their individual education plans or 504 plans. This may include extra time for test, mark in test book, read aloud test, as well as a variety of others.

What are some syndromes that are common low incidence disabilities?

There are things listed under what is considered a low incidence disability, I have provided a list below. However, for this flyer, the focus will be on Usher Syndrome, Down Syndrome, and Charge Syndrome.

Low-Incidence disabilities include the following IDEA categories...

  • Mental Retardation
  • Hearing Impairments
  • Orthopedic Impairments
  • Visual Impairments including Blindness
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Various Health Impairments (Sickle-cell anemia, TB, etc.)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

Usher Syndrome


Usher Syndrome the most common condition affecting both hearing and vision. The major symptoms of Usher Syndrome are hearing loss as well as an eye condition known as retinitis pigmentosa or RP. RP can cause night blindness as well as loss of peripheral vision. There are three types of Usher Syndrome with types 1 and 2 making up about 95% of cases. Usher Syndrome is genetic, meaning children get it from their parents who are carriers of the syndrome.

Classroom Modifications

  • Lighting should be adequate with minimal glare.
  • Students may need individual copies of charts presented in class or copies of the teachers notes or powerpoint presentation.
  • Furniture should be arranged in a way where it is easy to move around.
  • Include more tactile and auditory learning materials during instruction. Special education teachers can help!
  • Sign Language may benefit students with Usher Syndrome.
  • Provide students with extra time to work on assignments.
  • All things should be printed in maximum contrast and preferably on non-glare paper.

Characteristics of Each Type of Usher Syndrome

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Charge Syndrome


Charge is a very complex syndrome that occurs once in about every 9-10 thousand births. The name charge is actually an acronym for some of the things that occur with the syndrome. The letters in CHARGE stand for: Coloboma of the eye, Heart defects, Atresia of the choanae, Retardation of growth and/or development, Genital and/or urinary abnormalities, and Ear abnormalities and deafness. Children born with charge have severe birth defects which require surgery. They spend many of their first months in the hospital getting treatment. Even though children with charge go through a lot in their first years they often end up surpassing medical, physical, educational, and social expectations. Charge is genetic and is caused by a mutation of a single gene, most often CHD7.

Classroom Modifications

  • Total communication should be used at all times it can be. This involves incorporating anything and everything that would help a child to communicate.
  • Sensory breaks should be provided such as time sitting on a beanbag, a soft cushion on the floor, a quiet room, or even a weighted blanket or vest.
  • Students should get extra time to complete assignments.
  • Students should have the option for multiple testing sessions.
  • Spaces should be created that reflect the child's interest such as photos of family, favorite characters, or materials to make learning fun.
  • Make sure student is organized. Provide the student with checklist to make sure things get done.
  • Motivate the student with incentives based on what they enjoy.

Down Syndrome


Approximately 1 out of every 691 babies are born in the United States with down syndrome which means that it is the most common genetic disorder. The cause of down syndrome is a genetic disorder where a child has an extra chromosome. This does not mean that it is hereditary. People with down syndrome have certain physical characteristics such as; flat facial features, small head and ears, short neck, bulging tongue, eyes that slant upward, oddly shaped ears, and poor muscle tone. Intellectual and developmental symptoms are normally mild to moderate. These symptoms include, short attention span, poor judgment, impulsive behavior, slow learning, delayed language and delayed speech development.

Classroom Modifications

  • Use a wide range of sensory activities to accompany the lesson.
  • Preferential seating, near to or at the front of the room.
  • Large print standard test.
  • Extra time for assignments.
  • Keep student organized with checklist.
  • Provide a copy of teacher notes.
  • Read aloud test a quizzes.
  • Separate setting for test.
  • Read aloud test.
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There are similarities found in all three of the syndromes listed above. For example, all three have some overlapping modifications such as read aloud and extra time for test, copies of teacher notes, and using a variety of sensory materials to accompany lessons. One difference in the syndromes is the cause. Although all three result from genes, Usher Syndrome is the only one where it is hereditary as far as current research is concerned. Another thing that the three do have in common is how we as educators should treat them in the classroom. These children should not be looked at as incapable but we should try and push them to be the best that they can be and not hold them back. As long as educators provide resources and support along the way, these students will have the opportunity for a meaningful education just like their peers without a disability.

Flyer by : Sydney L. Byerly