Special Education Eligibility Definitions in Illinois
The proposed changes to the Illinois special education regulations were accepted by JCAR on June 19, 2007, and were finalized and published on June 29, 2007. A full copy of these regulations can be found at:
To a large extent, the changes made to Illinois’ regulations were completed to have Illinois’ law mirror the new federal regulations, (34 CFR Part 300) which were published on August 14, 2006 and can be found at:
There are 13 disabilities that form the basis for student’ eligibility for special education and related services. The recently amended Illinois regulations no longer provide a definition of these disabilities and instead utilize the definitions provided in the federal regulations. These disabilities (autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disability, hearing impairment, cognitive disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impaired, specific learning disability, speech and language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment) are defined in 34 C.F.R. 300.8(c). However, the Illinois regulation does include a partial definition of autism, clarifying that children with Aspergers Syndrome could qualify as eligible under Autism. Below are the definitions of the 13 disabilities, as well as other terms that are often used in the eligibility process.
Autism: A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. (A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age 3 could be diagnosed as having autism if the other criteria of this Section are satisfied.) Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance. Autism shall include, but not be limited to, any Autism Spectrum Disorder that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
Deaf-Blindness: 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 solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.
Deafness: 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 a child’s educational performance.
Domain: An aspect of a child’s functioning or performance that must be considered in the course of designing an evaluation. The domains are health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communication status, and motor abilities.
Emotional Disturbance: (includes schizophrenia, but does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance): A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over an extended period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance 1:
- 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 anxiety or unhappiness or depression; or
- A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
Hearing Impairment: 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.
Mental Retardation: 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: 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 (does not include deaf-blindness).
Orthopedic Impairment: A severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance; includes impairments caused by congenital anomaly (e.g., clubfoot, 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 that cause contractures).
Other Health Impairment: Limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened sensitivity 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, and sickle cell anemia; and adversely affects a child’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, THINK, SPEAK, READ, WRITE, SPELL, OR DO MATHEMATICAL CALCULATIONS, INCLUDING SUCH CONDITIONS AS PERCEPTUAL DISABILITIES, BRAIN INJURY, MINIMAL BRAIN DYSFUNCTION, DYSLEXIA, AND DEVELOPMENTAL APHASIA. (THE TERM DOES NOT INCLUDE LEARNING PROBLEMS THAT ARE PRIMARILY THE RESULT OF VISUAL, HEARING, OR MOTOR DISABILITIES, OF MENTAL RETARDATION, OF EMOTIONAL DISTURBANCE, OR OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL, CULTURAL, OR ECONOMIC DISADVANTAGE.)
Speech or Language Impairment: A communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’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 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 to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.
Visual Impairment: An impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance (includes both partial sight and blindness).