There are several categories of special education as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In order to qualify for special education, the IEP team must determine that a child has one of the following:

  • Autism

  • Deaf-Blindness

  • Hearing Impairment (Including Deafness)

  • Emotional Disturbance

  • Intellectual Disability (Mental Retardation)

  • Multiple Disabilities

  • Orthopedic Impairment

  • Other Health Impairment

  • Specific Learning Disability

  • Speech Or Language Impairment

  • Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Visual Impairment (Including Blindness)

In order for the IEP team to qualify a child for services, the student must be found to have one of the above categories of special education and it must adversely affect their educational performance.


Autism- means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotypic movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.
Deaf-blindness- means simultaneous 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 solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.
Hearing Impairment- means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness in this part.
Deafness- means 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.
Emotional Disturbance- means 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 education a performance:

  1. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors

  2. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers

  3. Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances

  4. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression or

  5. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance

Clinical diagnosis of emotional disturbance by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist is required
Intellectual Disability- means significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.
Multiple Disabilities- means concomitant impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-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.
Orthopedic Impairment- means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomaly (e.g., clubfoot, the absence of some member, etc.), impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns which cause contractures).
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 disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, Tourette’s Syndrome, and sickle cell anemia; and adversely affects a child's educational performance. The list of chronic or acute health problems included within this definition is not exhaustive. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) may be classified as eligible for services under the "other health impairment" category in instances where the ADD/ADHD is a chronic or acute health problem that results in limited alertness, which adversely affects the child's educational performance resulting in the need for special education and related services.
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 an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage.
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. The operational definition under Arkansas regulations, which is designed to be compatible with the Federal definition, is as follows: "Speech or Language Impairment" means a communication disorder such as deviant articulation, fluency, voice, and/or comprehension and/or expression of language, spoken or written, which impedes the child's acquisition of basic cognitive and/or affective skills, as reflected in the Arkansas Department of Education curriculum standards.
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. The term 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. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative or brain injuries induced by birth trauma.
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. This impairment refers to an abnormality of the eyes, the optic nerve or the visual center for the brain resulting in decreased visual acuity. Students with visual impairments are identified as those with a corrected visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the better eye or field restriction of less than 20 degrees at its widest point or identified as cortically visually impaired and functioning at the definition of legal blindness.