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Chapter 6: Eligibility Determination: Determining Your Child’s Need for Special Education

Children With Needs - Special Education Law

Who is this for?

This chapter is for parents whose child has already been formally evaluated for special education services.

Why is this important?

For students suspected of having a Specific Learning Disability (SLD), IDEA requires that schools use several procedures that are in addition to the eligibility determination procedures used for all students suspected of a disability.

What can parents do?

Parents need to understand how their child’s school will go about deciding whether their child has a specific learning disability that requires special education services. Parents should be prepared to discuss their child’s evaluation results and provide information that will assist with the eligibility decision.

IDEA Words and Terms to Know

  • Child with a disability

    A child who has a disability as defined by one of the 13 disability categories in IDEA and who needs special education and related services because of the disability; or a child aged three through nine who is experiencing developmental delay.
  • Eligibility

    The determination that a student is a child with a disability as defined by IDEA.



referral_chart In the last chapter you learned about IDEA’s requirements for a formal evaluation. The evaluation process gathered information needed to determine if your child has a disability and needs special education services. In this chapter you'll learn about the eligibility determination process—both the general eligibility determination provisions of IDEA as well as additional procedures that are required when making a decision about whether your child qualifies for services under the Specific Learning Disability category of IDEA.

Your child may be determined to be a child with a disability based on any of the 13 disability categories in IDEA, including the Specific Learning Disability category.

To be found eligible for special education on the basis of a Specific Learning Disability, your child will need to meet the requirements established by IDEA as well as any state requirements.

green_exclamation[New] While the definition of Specific Learning Disability was not changed in IDEA 2004 from previous versions of the law, IDEA 2004 introduced substantial changes to the ways in which school districts can go about the SLD eligibility procedure. (Note: Many states have their own definition of a Specific Learning Disability, so be sure to check with your school district to get additional information on your state’s SLD definition.)

IDEA 2004 defines Specific Learning Disability as:

“A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written. The disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.


The term Specific Learning Disability includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. This term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.”

Tags: id-ld

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