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DEFINING A DISABILITY

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Designation Process for Individuals

The State of Iowa, as permitted by federal law, utilizes a noncategorical designation for all individuals, birth through age 21. The term “Eligible Individual” is used for individuals who are determined to be an individual with a disability and who are in need of special education and related services.

A list of federal categories that Iowa uses to determine if an individual is eligible for specially designed education. These categories include autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilties, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, or visual impairment, including blindness.

Find additional information on Iowa’s Position on Disability Categories here.

Iowa Performance Domains

In Iowa, the assessment areas for the comprehensive evaluation can be summarized within seven performance domains that represent the areas of skills and functions that are inherent in the thirteen federally designated disability categories. These domains assure that all children who have disabilities are identified and provide a framework for consideration of the child’s need for special education.

Academic

Grade level achievement of standards related to basic reading skills (e.g. early literacy, phonics, phonemic awareness, concepts of print, decoding, fluency), reading comprehension (e.g. vocabulary, comprehension, sequencing), basic math skills (e.g. early math readiness, math calculations, numeracy, number sense), applied math skills (e. g. mathematical problem solving, time, money), written expression, listening comprehension, and oral expression.

Adaptive Behavior

Everyday living skills (e.g., dressing, eating, toileting), work skills, or school functioning skills (e.g., meeting timelines, organization of materials, engagement and persistence) that a child learns in the process of adapting to his or her surroundings.

Behavior

Awareness of self, identification, and expression of emotions, self-regulation, and interaction with others.

Communication

Receptive and expressive language (understanding, form, content or use). This includes, but is not limited to, language (social communication), vocabulary, speech sound production, voice (nasality), or fluency.

Health

The general condition of the body or mind, especially in terms of the presence or absence of illness, injury, or impairments.

Hearing/Vision

The ability to perceive sound and/or the ability to see.

Physical

Gross/large motor skills, fine/small motor skills, and mobility for learning, living, and work.

Other Disability Definitions

There are many laws providing protections (e.g., civil rights) and services (e.g., public benefits, tax credits) to persons with disabilities. These laws do not have the same definitions of disability as required by IDEA for special education eligibility.

A child may be determined to have a disability by another agency (Department of Human Services (DHS), Social Security, etc.), or be diagnosed by a physician, clinic, or health provider with a disability. Such diagnosis or determinations may satisfy the “condition” component of suspicion of an educational disability, however, by itself, it does not establish eligibility for special education.

Explore Step 1 in the Child Find Process

The Child Find process begins with the suspicion of a disability.