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Glossary of Terms


Autism is a developmental disability that generally appears before the age of three and significantly affects verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction. Children with autism may have significant qualitative differences in the ability to do some or all of the following:

  • use and/or process meaningful spoken language and nonverbal communication cues
  • related to people and be aware of their feelings
  • actively engage in social play and make peer friendships
  • develop a variety of activities or interests
  • handle changes in routines or the environment

The disability can affect broad areas of educational performance ranging from academic to social to behavioral. It can occur with other disabilities, but does not apply if a child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because of the existence of an emotional disturbance.


The combination of hearing and visual impairments causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational problems that the child cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.


A hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification.

Emotional Disability

A diagnosis of emotional disturbance means that the child exhibits one or more of the following characteristics to a marked degree and over an extended period of time:

  • difficulties in learning that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health impairments
  • problems relating to children and adults
  • inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances
  • a general mood of unhappiness and depression
  • a tendency to develop physical symptoms, pains, or fears associated with personal or social problems

There should be evidence that the child's behavior is not the result of a temporary reaction to home, school, or community situations.

Hearing Impairment

Hearing impairment includes any degree of hearing loss that results in a diagnosis of hard of hearing. Hearing loss for the hard of hearing can be either permanent or fluctuating. Hearing loss must be confirmed by a certified audiologist and the school district must complete an evaluation to determine how the loss affects the child in school. A child with a hearing loss often has problems learning and using language which can affect many or all areas of performance, including academic subjects as well as social development. Children with identical hearing levels can function differently.

Cognitive Disability

A child who is diagnosed with mental retardation typically learns at a rate below other children of the same age. Language, adaptive behavior (learning, social, daily living skills), and other skills are markedly delayed. Such mental impairment may be mild, moderate, severe, or profound.

Domain Meeting

A Domain Meeting is a Team meeting which includes the parents/guardians and is called to determine what areas of a Case Study Evaluation should be assessed and to obtain parent/guardian consent to conduct the evaluation.

IEP Eligibility Review Conference

An IEP Evaluation/Eligibility Review Conference is a conference held to determine, review, terminate, or consider changes in a student's eligibility for special education.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written educational plan for a student receiving special education and related services with goals and objectives to be attained during a calendar year. The IEP describes services, modifications, and accommodations that will be provided so your child can be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum. The IEP is developed, reviewed and revised at least annually and in accordance with Section 1414(d) [of the IDEA U.S.C. Section 1401(11)].

Multiple Disabilities

The school may diagnose a child as having multiple disabilities if they occur in combination with each other, cause severe educational problems, and cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Examples of such combinations are physically impaired/mentally impaired; physically impaired/visually impaired; and hearing impaired/mentally impaired. The term does not include deaf-blindness.

Orthopedic Impairment

An orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance may be caused by congenital anomaly (e.g., clubfoot), impairments caused by disease (e.g., bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations).

Other Health Impaired

A child may be diagnosed as other health impaired if there is a medically diagnosed physical or physiological condition, including but not limited to a seizure disorder, asthma, attention deficit disorder, or diabetes, that causes educationally related problems. The disability interferes with the student's ability to function at school using traditional instructional materials and techniques.

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are referenced in the federal and state education rules and regulations under the definition of other health impaired. A child with a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD is not automatically eligible for special education services. If a child with a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD meets the requirement(s) under "other health impaired" or one of the other disability categories due to a disability that adversely affects his/her educational performance, he/she may be eligible for special education and related services. A special education and evaluation and eligibility conference would be necessary to determine your child's specific disability.

Specific Learning Disability

The child exhibits 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.

Speech or Language Impairment

A child with a speech impairment has problems with the mechanics of speech production when speech is the primary way of communicating. Speech problems may occur with voice (pitch, intensity or quality), fluency (the flow of speech) or articulation (the way sounds are made). The disorder affects how others understand your child's speech.

A child with a language impairment has difficulty in understanding or expressing gestures (signs/mannerisms that express ideas), spoken, or written ideas. The disability may involve sounds or sound combinations, forming words, or putting words together in sentences. It may involve the meaning of words and combination of words. It may involve the function of language communication. The disorder can affect school functioning through listening, speaking, reading, and/or writing activities.

Traumatic Brain Injury

A child with a traumatic brain injury has had a sudden injury to the brain. This injury has been caused by an external event resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychological and social problems that affect educational performance. The term includes open or closed head injuries.

A child with traumatic brain injury may experience problems with vision (blurred or doubled), hearing, health or motor skills, thinking or functional living skills, learning, speech or language functions, or inappropriate or impulsive behaviors. Parents are encouraged to contact their local school district as soon as possible after a head injury occurs so that the district can begin planning for the child's return to school.

Visual Impairment

Visual impairment includes any type of sight problem which, even with glasses/contacts, adversely affects school performance. Children with visual impairments can be further described as partially sighted or blind based on the degree of visual impairment and their educational needs.

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