Eligibility for Special Education
Kennett Consolidated School District
Eligibility for Special Education Programs and Services
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.
Assessment is designed to identify the student’s abilities and needs and will rely heavily upon ongoing progress monitoring. Information may be gathered in the following developmental areas:
- Comprehensive evaluation by psychiatrist or other qualified physician specifying the nature and degree of the impairment
- Speech and Language – S & L Evaluation, teacher/parent input, standardized tests, observation
- Communication – S & L evaluation, assistive technology input (if needed), teacher/parent input, observation
- Problem Solving – test observation, teacher/parent input
- Attention – observation, rating scales, teacher/parent input
- Behavior – observation, behavior rating scales, functional behavior assessment, if appropriate, teacher/parent input
- Socialization – observation, adaptive behavior scales, teacher/parent input
- Sensory – OT sensory integration evaluation, teacher/parent input, observation
- Physical/Motor (if warranted) – OT/PT evaluations, teacher/parent input, visual-perceptual-motor assessments
- Cognitive – standardized cognitive assessments, functional/developmental levels, basic concepts assessment
- Self-Help – observation, teacher/parent input, adaptive behavior scales
- Academic – curriculum-based assessment/standardized measures
Blindness or Visual Impairment
This exceptionality is defined as a visual impairment that, even with correction, adversely affects the student’s educational performance.
- Comprehensive evaluation by a qualified eye specialist specifying the nature and degree of the impairment
- Assistive technology assessment, if appropriate
- Visual-motor (OT) assessment, if appropriate
- Cognitive and academic assessment will be determined using assistive technology or enlarged print, and/or verbal/oral presentation of material
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.
- Comprehensive evaluation by an audiologist or otologist specifying the nature and degree of the impairment
- Assistive technology assessment, if appropriate
- Cognitive and academic assessment using assistive technology or non-verbal assessment measures
- Visual-motor assessment, if appropriate
- Speech and Language – Speech and Language evaluation, teacher/parent input, observation
Developmental delay is a term limited to early intervention services and programs.
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 Evaluation Report or Reevaluation Report 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. Assessments may include:
- An assessment of behavior may include: a functional behavioral assessment, behavior rating scales, teacher/parent input, classroom/test observation, projective test measures
- An assessment of cognitive/academic skills will be conducted to rule out learning issues or stressors
- A psychiatric evaluation may be recommended
Intellectual disability is severely impaired mental development and commensurate impairment of adaptive functioning which adversely affects a student’s educational performance. This term does not include students with IQ scores of 80 or above.
- Cognitive – standardized measure, informal assessment of developmental and functional behaviors, concept development
- Academic – standardized measures, instructional assessment
- Ecological – standardized adaptive behavior measures, teacher/parent input, observation
- Emotional/Behavioral (if warranted) – observation, rating scales, teacher/parent input, functional behavior assessment, if appropriate
- Speech and Language (if warranted) – S & L evaluation, observation, standardized tests, teacher/parent input
- Motor (if warranted) – OT/PT evaluations, standardized assessments, observation
A neurological impairment is 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 student’s educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, including: cognition; language; memory, 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. Assessments may include:
- Comprehensive evaluation by a Neurologist specifying the nature and degree of the impairment
- Based on the neurologist’s report, standardized and informal assessments selected to determine cognitive, academic, speech and language, motor, and social/behavioral levels
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. Assessments should include:
- Full assessment and report by a certified public school psychologist
- Diagnosis from a physician indicating the nature and severity of the condition
- A comprehensive battery of standardized and informal assessments to gather information regarding cognitive, academic, speech and language, motor, social/behavioral levels
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). Assessments should include:
- Comprehensive evaluation by a physician specifying the nature and degree of impairment
- Assistive technology assessment, if appropriate
- Motor Assessment – OT/PT evaluations, if appropriate
- Assessment of cognitive, academic, speech and language skills, social/emotional skills, as indicated. Assessments designed to accommodate for student’s physical impairments, i.e., motor free tests, verbal/oral tests
Multihandicaps are concomitant impairments, (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-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.
- When a student has a dual or multiple diagnosis which doesn’t seem to have a better “fit” with one of the other exceptionalities, the criterion is met. The assessment battery is designed to include: cognitive, academic, instructional, speech and language, motor, and social/emotional levels, as required for each category of exceptionality.
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 problems, motor coordination and social perception. The term is not synonymous 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.
Students who are failing to meet state age or grade level standards receive additional targeted interventions to improve the skills deficits identified.
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. If, within a 60 day trial period, the student fails to make sufficient progress, the formal special education evaluation process is initiated.
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 Kennett Consolidated 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, a language impairment or a voice impairment that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.