What is a disability?

IDEA law defines a "Disability" as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits or restricts the condition, manner, or duration under which an average person in the population can perform a major life activity, such as walking, seeing, hearing speaking, breathing, learning, working, or taking care of oneself.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Council for Exceptional Children

ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education

NICHY: National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

What is a Learning Disability?

Fifteen percent of the U.S. population, or one in seven Americans, has some type of learning disability, according to the National Institutes of Health. Difficulty with basic reading and language skills are the most common learning disabilities. As many as 80% of students with learning disabilities have reading problems.

IDEA states that a specific learning disability means 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 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 mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. There are different types of learning disabilities. Some people have difficulties understanding written words/reading. Others struggle with solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts. Others might even have problems with writing and putting ideas on paper.

Learning Disabilities Online

Learning Disabilities of America

National Center for Learning Disabilities

Council for Learning Disabilities

Division for Learning Disabilities

International Dyslexia Association

What is a Cognitive Disability?

The prevalence of cognitive disabilities is much less that 3 percent of the student population. According to the federal government, slightly more than 1 percent (that is, 1 out of every 100) of our nation’s schoolchildren between the ages of 6 and 17 are identified and served as having a cognitive disability as their primary disability.

Cognitive Disability means significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. This disability originates before age 18.

The Arc

American Association on Mental Retardation

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

What is an Emotional Disorder?

Approximately 3 to 6 percent of all schoolchildren are identified as having an emotional disorder. Important factors in prevalence are gender and race. 74% of the those identified as having an emotional disorder are males. Asian-American and Hispanic students tend to be underrepresented whereas African-American students are overrepresented. According to IDEA, an Emotional Disorder is 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, a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.  As defined by the IDEA, emotional disturbance includes schizophrenia but does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.

Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights

American Psychiatric Association

American Psychological Association

Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders

What is Autism?

Autism occurs in as many as 1 in 1,000 children. Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle or educational levels do not affect the chance of autism’s occurrence. More than 1.5 million people today in the U. S. have some form of autism.

Autism is classified as a neurodevelopment disorder that significantly affects verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3. Other characteristic often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental changes or change in the daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Autism is a lifelong disorder.

Autism Society of America

What is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

The U.S. Surgeon General on Mental Health Report states that 3-5% of school-age children have AD/HD. Based on the General Accounting Office (GAO) report stating that there are 46.6 million public school students, this would mean that there are between 1.398 million (3%) and 2.330 million (5%) of school-age children with AD/HD. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is the most common psychiatric condition among children in the United States. Differing estimates suggest that 3 percent to 10 percent of school-age children have AD/HD, a disorder characterized by consistent inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness. Diagnosing AD/HD is difficult, since most people, and particularly children, are impulsive or inattentive some of the time. However, a patient with AD/HD demonstrates these behaviors to a degree that is inappropriate to a person’s age, according to guidelines from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Children & Adults with AD/HD

National Resource Center on AD/HD

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability among persons in the United States. Each year, an estimated 1.5 million Americans sustain a TBI. As a result of these injuries, 50,000 people die; 230,000 people are hospitalized and survive; and an estimated 80,000-90,000 people experience the onset of Traumatic Brain Injury. Traumatic Brain Injury means 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.

Brain Injury Association of USA

Brain Trauma Foundation

What is Other Health Impaired?

Other Health Impairment means 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 is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette Syndrome which adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Division for Physical & Health Disabilities

Epilepsy Foundation of America

What is Speech/Language Impairment?

More than one million of the students served in the public schools' special education programs were categorized as having a speech or language impairment. It is estimated that communication disorders (including speech, language, and hearing disorders) affect one of every 10 people in the United States. Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Stuttering Foundation of America

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders

What is a Visual Impairment?

he rate at which visual impairments occur in individuals under the age of 18 is 12.2 per 1,000. Severe visual impairments (legally or totally blind) occur at a rate of .06 per 1,000. Visual impairment increased with age and was greater in women. Visual impairment including blindness means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

American Printing House for the Blind

National Association for the Visually Handicap

American Foundation for the Blind

Statistics and Information current as of September, 2006.