Qualifying Disabilities Under IDEA

In order for a student to be covered by the IDEA (and, in Pennsylvania, covered under 22 PA Code Chapter 14), he or she must be an individual with a disability who, because of that disability, is in need of special education and related services.  Students who have a disability and who require accommodations and modifications to regular instruction, but no specialized instruction, may be entitled to a written, enforceable  service plan under  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (commonly referred to as Section 504, and in Pennsylvania, covered under 22 PA Code Chapter 15).  The IDEA lists several specific disability classifications that fall into three broad groups: physical impairments; mental, emotional and cognitive impairments; and a sort of "catch-all" category to serve children with other needs.  The most prevalent of these disabilities are described in more detail below.  (20 U.S.C. § 1401(3)(A)(i)).


In federal regulations, autism is defined as a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.  (34 C.F.R. §300.8(c)(1))(i)).  While the causes of autism remain unknown, many children with autism tend to exhibit delayed speech, limited social interaction, and self-stimulatory behaviors, which can make education in a traditional classroom setting without adequate supports difficult.  Autism is a term encompassing a number of diagnoses that comprise a spectrum of different abilities, called the autism spectrum. 

- Included on the autism spectrum are the following disorders:

  • - Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

  • - Asperger's Syndrome

  • - Rett Syndrome

  • - Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

  • Every child with autism is unique, with a specific set of strengths and needs that must be reflected in the IFSP or IEP.  At the Law Offices of Caryl Oberman, we can help you identify your child's needs, secure the necessary services to meet them, and ensure that the educational setting in which he or she learns will provide meaningful educational benefit.  We aim to empower you to become a knowledgeable advocate for your child and to help you get the services and programs necessary to achieve you child's goals.  We can also help you in obtaining behavioral and mental health services through the Medical Assistance system.