Thirteen Categories of Disabilities Recognized by IDEA 2004
Thirteen different categories of disabilities are recognized by IDEA 2004. If children experience difficulties that fall within one of the thirteen categories and their education is significantly affected as a result of their disability, then they may qualify for special education and related services.
Reasons For Naming The Problem
One of the goals in education is to include children with special needs in the regular education classroom as much as possible. Therefore, children with special needs will most likely have ongoing contact with regular education teachers, and these teachers may not have experience in working with children who have a particular disorder. Usually, a psychologist or school psychologist conducts an assessment and diagnoses a child to determine which diagnostic category best describes the child's problems. The child may have an emotional problem, a learning disability, an intellectual disability, or some other disabling condition recognized by IDEA 2004. Every child is different, and even children whose diagnosis falls within the same category can be very different from one another.
But just what do these terms mean? Let's take a child with an emotional disorder, for example. The term emotionally disturbed does not really provide a great deal of information about that child. If the problem is of an emotional nature, it could be anything from a specific phobia to depression—any emotional problem that interferes with the child's ability to learn. However, the term emotionally disturbed does name the category under which the child will receive services. That category, which is directly related to a diagnosis such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder, helps others to understand some of the child's problems and helps school personnel better understand the child's needs. Naming a child's problem and giving it a label often means giving the child access to and assistance from a variety of school personnel.
The names of the thirteen categories are presented in Table 2.1, along with the different types of school personnel who might be involved with the child. Use this information only as a guide, because some school districts, particularly those that are small, do not employ all these personnel. As you can see, children with complex problems may require support from a wide variety of resources. When parents come to a school meeting, it is sometimes overwhelming to them when all the individuals involved in helping their child attend the meeting to report on the child's progress. Having an understanding of what to expect and knowing that everyone is there to help the child can help alleviate these feelings.
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