The IDEA’s Special Education Categories: Traumatic Brain Injury

The IDEA’s Special Education Categories: Traumatic Brain Injury

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There are 13 eligibility
categories under the IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, and it’s important for parents to
remember that an eligibility category is different
than a diagnosis. Just because a child has a
diagnosed disability does not necessarily mean that that child
meets the eligibility criteria under the
federal statute. So these are the definitions
under the educational model as to whether or not a child is a
special education child– a child with a disability
as defined by law. Traumatic brain injury means
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. Traumatic brain injury 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. Traumatic brain injury does not
apply to brain injuries that are congenital or
degenerative or to brain injuries induced by
birth trauma. Your state may have other
categories or slightly different categories. Right. So there are the 13 definitions
by federal law, and then, again, your state can
add to those, vary them slightly, as long as they don’t
take away a child’s right to receive services if
they meet the criteria under the federal law. And it’s important. I find, Julie, a lot of parents
get hung up on which eligibility category
the team selects. And obviously the parents should
be very integral to deciding which eligibility
category, but it’s important to remember this. Once you’re found eligible for
services, your child is entitled to receive services
based on their unique needs. It’s not the case that the
eligibility category drives the program. It’s not supposed to be
the case, anyway. And I have so many parents
who will call me and they’re confused. I’ll give an example. A parent knows their child
requires speech services, and they are hung up on whether or
not the eligibility category says that they have a speech
and language impairment. Because they think, I can’t
get those speech services unless that’s the label. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not supposed to
work that way. The way it’s supposed to work
under the law is that once you’re found eligible under one
of these categories, then, at that point, you get a
program that meets your child’s unique needs. And if that includes speech and
language services, that’s what the IEP, the individualized
education program, is supposed
to include. So while I think it’s very
important as a practical matter to select the right
eligibility category that really describes that child, I
would caution parents, don’t get hung up on which
eligibility category you select.

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