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A Simple Breakdown of Special Education Categories for Parents

June 18, 2020

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Do you have a child with special needs who will soon need to get an education? Are you worried that your special needs child may not get the proper education? Do you want to know what the various special education categories are?

As per international law, every child has the right to an education. However, giving a special needs child the right education isn’t easy. Special needs children need institutions that provide individualized schoolwork for them.

These kids first need to be in one of the special education categories. Below, we’ll explain what these categories are and what types of disabilities they cover. Keep reading to learn more.

Special Education for Special Needs Children 

Like other kids, children with special needs also have to get an education. Because of their conditions, the typical school environment won’t be enough to help them. It may even cause stress if you put your child in schools that don’t specialize in special education. 

Special education is the type of education that children with disabilities need. It’s specialized to understand and improve their communication and comprehension skills. It addresses a disabled child’s unique needs by offering professionals and experts.

Each child with special needs fit in one of the special education categories. Below, we’ll discuss further the various special education categories.

A Simple Breakdown of Special Education Categories for Parents
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What’s the IDEA?

To address the problem in special education, the federal government created the IDEA. It stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The IDEA entitles children with learning disabilities to free appropriate education or FAPE.

It guarantees each special needs child an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The program ensures specialized instruction and services to children with an identified disability. The IEP helps special needs children in their elementary and/or secondary education. 

An example of these programs may include access to specialists or one-on-one classes. The educational program of your child gets modified to fit their needs. It may include more play rather than direct learning techniques, for example. 

What Are the Special Education Categories?

Below are the various special education classifications. There are 13 categories of special education in total.

A Simple Breakdown of Special Education Categories for Parents
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Developmental disabilities like autism affect the development of your child. This includes verbal and nonverbal communication and social interactions. This shows when kids make repetitive movements and can’t adapt to new environments.


This is the combination of blindness and deafness. Kids with this type of disability have severe communication and developmental needs. Programs in special education for deaf-blind children are unique to these needs.


Children with severe hearing impairment cannot process linguistic information. Deafness limits their educational performance. They may also find it difficult to communicate their needs.

Emotional Disturbance

Kids with emotional disturbance show unhappiness, depression, or inappropriate behaviour. They may also develop fears related to school problems. You may also notice certain kids cannot learn and/or build interpersonal relationships.

Hearing Impairment

Unlike deafness, hearing impairment is a loss of hearing that affects educational performance. It may be permanent or fluctuating. These include hearing-related conditions that don’t fall under deafness.

Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability (ID) is a sub-average general intellectual functioning. This disability may exist with deficits in adaptive behaviour. It often becomes known during the developmental period.

Multiple Disabilities

This is the combination of impairments that causes severe educational needs. For example, your child may be deaf and autistic at the same time. This puts them under the multiple disabilities category.

This doesn’t include the condition of deaf-blindness.

Orthopedic Impairment

Orthopaedic impairments include those caused by congenital anomaly, disease, and others. Amputations and fractures that cause contractures impair a child’s educational performance. Thus, they may receive specialized education under this category.

Other Health Impairment

A child’s limited strength, vitality, or alertness affects his educational performance. These problems may be because of chronic or acute health problems. They include conditions like attention deficit disorder, leukaemia, and Tourette syndrome.

Specific Learning Disability

This is a disorder that affects one or more of the basic psychological processes in using language. This may affect a child’s ability to listen, write, read, spell, think, or do math calculations. It includes conditions like brain injury, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

Speech or Language Impairment

Check if your child stutters, can’t articulate well, or has a voice or language impairment. These communication disorders can affect a child’s educational performance. Thus, IED is important to encourage a child to learn. 

Traumatic Brain Injury

An injury to the brain from an outside force may cause functional disability. The event may also lead to psychosocial impairment or both. It may affect:

  • Language
  • Judgment
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Cognition
  • Reasoning 
  • Problem-solving
  • Sensory abilities
  • Perceptual abilities 
  • Motor abilities
  • Psychosocial behavior 
  • Physical functions in information processing
  • Speech 

The term doesn’t apply if birth trauma led to any brain injury.

Visual Impairment

This refers to impairments in your child’s vision that affects educational performance. That includes partial sight and blindness. Special education for the blind is available in many parts of the country.

A Simple Breakdown of Special Education Categories for Parents
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Other Things You Need to Know 

It’s important to keep track of any developmental delays in your children. Certain developmental delays occur when your child is three years old or younger. Other conditions may appear when they grow older. 

The sooner you take note of these delays, the sooner you can know if you have a special needs child. It also helps to get your child diagnosed and observed by medical experts. You also get to bring up the child’s needs to the state, so that it may provide intervention services.

It’s wise to talk to special needs lawyers about any concerns you have with your child. They can help you take action against individuals who discriminate against or abuse your kid. They may also give you advice on any choices you need to make for your special needs child.

Give Your Kid the Best Education

Now you know the various special education categories for special needs children. We hope this guide helps all the strong parents out there learn more about their kid’s educational needs. 

Don’t end the journey here. If you enjoyed reading this guide on special education, feel free to check out our other posts as well.

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