After evaluation, the Planning and Placement team meets to determine the eligibility of a student for special education and related services. As parents, you have the right to participate in this important meeting as partners. The following definitions describe which areas of special needs qualify a student for special education services. The results and conclusions of your child's evaluation are compared to these definitions. If the results correspond with one of more definitions, your child will be eligible for special education services.

Definitions of Exceptionalities for Which Students Can Be Eligible for Special Education Services (34CFR300.5(b))


A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a learner's educational performance.

Hearing Impairment

An impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a learner'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 an imperfect ability to listen, to think, to speak, to read, to write, to spell, or to do mathematical calculations (Sec. 602(26)(A)).

·          Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia (Sec. 602(26)(B)).

·          Such 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 (Sec. 602(26)(C)).

·          In making a determination of eligibility…a  learner shall not be determined to be a learner with a disability if the determinant factor is lack of instruction in reading, math or limited English proficiency (Sec.(b)(5)).

Intellectual Disability/Mental Retardation

Significant sub-average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, which adversely affects a learner's educational performance.

Multiple Disabilities

Concomitant impairments (such as mental retardation-blindness, mental retardation-orthopedic impairment, etc.), 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.

Neurological Impairment (CT Only)

An impairment of the nervous system diagnosed by an appropriate medical specialist as the cause of physical and psychological disabilities which significantly impede the learner's rate of educational development and which can be corrected or ameliorated by special education to the extent that the learner's rate of educational development may be improved.

Orthopedic Impairment

A severe orthopedic impairment which adversely affects the learner's educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease, and impairments from other causes.

Other Health Impairment

Having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment.

Speech and/or Language Impairment

A communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a student'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 and/or psychosocial impairment.

Visual Impairment

A measurable visual impairment which, even after correction, continues to adversely affect the learner's educational performance. The term shall include both partially seeing and blind students.

Developmental Delay  (CT. Ages 3 - 5)  (300.313)

A child experiencing developmental delay as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development or adaptive development.

In Connecticut a developmental delay is defined as:

·          two standard deviations below the mean in one area of development or

·          one and one-half (1.5) standard deviations below the mean in two areas of development.


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 designed solely for learners with deafness or 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 educational performance.

Serious Emotional Disturbance

A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree which adversely effects 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 exhibited or expressed under otherwise normal circumstances.

·          A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

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

The term includes learners who are schizophrenic. The term does not apply to learners  who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they are seriously emotionally disturbed.

*Note: Having one of the listed disabilities is not enough to qualify a student for special education.  IDEA requires evidence that the disability adversely affects a student's performance at school.

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