• IDEA Disability Term

    Definitions of disability terms as defined by the “Individual with Disabilities Education Act.”


    Autism/PDD is defined as 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 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.

    Symptoms usually begin before age 3, are not usual for any stage of child development, and include two of the following: (1) lack of reciprocal social interaction, (2) impairment of communication and imaginative activity including verbal and nonverbal skills, (3) a very restricted repertoire of activities and interests--often involving resistance to change and motor or verbal stereotypes, (4) abnormal or inconsistent responses to sensory stimuli in one or more of the following areas--sight, hearing, touch, pain, balance, smell, taste, posture and motor behavior.


    Developmental Delay
    Developmental delay is a term limited to early intervention services and programs.


    Blindness or Visual Impairment
    This exceptionality is defined as a visual impairment that, even with correction, adversely affects the student’s educational performance.


    Deafness or Hearing Impairment
    This exceptionality is defined as a hearing impairment that is so severe that the student is impaired in processing linguistic information, with or without amplification, which adversely affects the student’s educational performance.


    Emotional Disturbance
    A student with emotional disturbance has a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree which adversely affects educational performance: an inability to learn which 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 behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances; a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; and/or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. The term includes schizophrenia.

    It does not include students who are socially maladjusted unless it is determined that they are also emotionally disturbed. A student may not be determined to have emotional disturbance for discipline reasons alone. Based on this definition, a student must have a problem in at least one of the five areas listed above and meet the three limiting criteria: severity, duration, and adverse impact on school performance. Therefore, the MDE must establish that a student’s inappropriate behavior or emotional responses are more than a temporary response to life stresses, are characterized as significantly different from appropriate age, cultural, or ethnic norms, and that the student’s behavioral and emotional responses are adversely affecting educational performance.


    Intellectual Disability
    Intellectual Disability is severely impaired mental development and commensurate impairment of adaptive functioning which adversely affects a student's educational performance. 


    Other Health Impairment
    "Other health impairment" is a condition in which a student exhibits limited strength, vitality or alertness, including heightened alertness to environmental stimuli that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that is due to a chronic or acute health problem, including heart condition, spina bifida, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, environmental illness, such as lead poisoning, leukemia, ADHD, fibromylagia, OCD, Tourettes or diabetes, etc., which adversely affect the student’s educational performance.


    Physical Disability
    Physical disability means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a student’s educational performance. The term 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).


    Multiple Disabilities
    Multiple Disabilities are concomitant impairments, (such as intellectually disabled-blindness, intellectually disabled-orthopedic impairment, etc.), the combination of which causes severe educational problems that cannot be accommodated in special education programs designed solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness.


    Specific Learning Disability
    A specific learning disability means a chronic disorder interfering with the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written and/or the development of nonverbal abilities. A learning disability may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, or to do mathematics. This term may include such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia, etc., if normal or above normal intelligence can be demonstrated. In Pennsylvania, the term "specific learning disability" also may include chronic disorders resulting from difficulties with receptive and expressive language and deficiencies in initiating or sustaining attention, impulsivity, and other specific conceptual and thinking difficulties such as a nonverbal reasoning, integrating with underachievement.

    The district uses the discrepancy model for identifying students with specific learning disabilities. First, the district provides scientifically based instruction in reading, math and written expression in regular education settings delivered by qualified personnel. Then, the district, using district-wide common assessments, monitors student progress in grades k-11, and provides parents with the results of those assessments. The Upper Darby School District utilizes the Response to Intervention and Instruction (RTII) model in order to address the academic needs of students.

    Students who are failing to meet state age or grade level standards receive additional targeted interventions to improve the skills deficits identified. Progress monitoring is employed to chart progress. When, in spite of the provision of additional intensive interventions in the targeted area of deficit, the student fails to make satisfactory progress, he or she enters the pre-referral process. The team at the student's school, including parents, determines additional supports and interventions to be used to address the area(s) of weakness.

    A case manager is assigned to gather data related to the student's current levels of performance, including parent input. An observation is conducted in the child's learning environment to document the child's academic performance and behavior in the areas of difficulty, and to note the relationship between the behavior observed and the child's academic functioning. Parent and staff input, a records review and observation are used to rule out the following factors as the primary cause of the student's failure to progress satisfactorily: a vision, hearing or orthopedic disability; mental retardation; emotional disturbance; cultural factors; environmental or economic disadvantage including lack of school attendance or experience, or a disruptive pattern of school enrollment; or limited English proficiency.

    A certified school psychologist conducts a comprehensive battery of tests, including cognitive and achievement testing, and uses other recognized instruments, as needed. Once other significant factors have been ruled out, the Upper Darby School District requires a severe discrepancy at the .05 level of significance between a student's scores on standardized tests of intellectual ability and achievement, or in relation to age or grade, as well as psychometric evidence of a disorder of one or more basic psychological processes involved in the understanding of, or in using language. Learning disabilities are identified in the following areas: basic reading skill, reading fluency, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation, mathematics problem solving, and written expression.


    Speech and Language Impairment
    A speech or language impairment is a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment or a voice impairment that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.


    Orthopedic Impairment
    Orthopedic Impairment is a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance.  The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).