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Categories of Special Education

for the State of Georgia

Autism spectrum disorder: Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability generally evident before age three that adversely affects a child's educational performance and significantly affects developmental rates and sequences, verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction and participation. Other characteristics often associated with autism spectrum disorder are unusual responses to sensory experiences, engagement in repetitive activities and stereotypical movements and resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines. Autism does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance as defined in (4). Children with autism spectrum disorder vary widely in their abilities and behavior.


Deafblind: Deafblind means 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.


Deaf/hard of hearing: A child who is deaf or hard of hearing is one who exhibits a hearing loss that, whether permanent or fluctuating, interferes with the acquisition or maintenance of auditory skills necessary for the normal development of speech, language, and academic achievement and, therefore, adversely affects a child’s educational performance.


Emotional and behavioral disorder: An emotional and behavioral disorder is an emotional disability characterized by the following: (a) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and/or teachers. For preschool-age children, this would include other care providers. (b) An inability to learn which cannot be adequately explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors. (c) A consistent or chronic inappropriate type of behavior or feelings under normal conditions. (d) A displayed pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. (e) A displayed tendency to develop physical symptoms, pains or unreasonable fears associated with personal or school problems.


Intellectual disability (mild, moderate, severe, profound): Intellectual disabilities refer to significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning which exists concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior that adversely affects educational performance and originates before age 18.

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Orthopedic impairment: Orthopedic impairment refers to a child whose severe orthopedic impairments adversely affects their educational performance to the degree that the child requires special education. This term may include: (a) Impairment caused by congenital anomalies, e.g., deformity or absence of some limb. (b) Impairment caused by disease (poliomyelitis, osteogenesis imperfecta, muscular dystrophy, bone tuberculosis, etc.) (c) Impairment from other causes, e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures.


Other health impairment: Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that - (a) Is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficient hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, or heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette Syndrome, and (b) Adversely affects a child’s educational performance.


Significant developmental delay: The term significant developmental delay refers to a delay in a child’s development in adaptive behavior, cognition, communication, motor development or emotional development to the extent that, if not provided with special intervention, the delay may adversely affect a child’s educational performance in age-appropriate activities. The term does not apply to children who are experiencing a slight or temporary lag in one or more areas of development, or a delay which is primarily due to environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage or lack of experience in age appropriate activities. The SDD eligibility may be used for children from ages three through nine (the end of the school year in which the child turns nine).


Specific learning disability: Specific learning disability is defined as 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. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia. The term does not apply to children who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, intellectual disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage.


Speech-language impairment: Speech or language impairment refers to a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language or voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. A speech or language impairment may be congenital or acquired. It refers to impairments in the areas of articulation, fluency, voice or language. Individuals may demonstrate one or any combination of speech or language impairments. A speech or language impairment may be a primary disability or it may be secondary to other disabilities.


Traumatic brain injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) refers to 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 the child's educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments which are immediate or delayed 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, speech and information processing. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative in nature, brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

Visual: A child with a visual impairment is one whose vision, even with correction, adversely impacts a child’s educational performance. Examples are children whose visual impairments may result from congenital defects, eye diseases, or injuries to the eye. The term includes both visual impairment and blindness.​




Source: Excerpted from

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