Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Does Classification Matter?

Students can have an IEP for a wide array of reasons. The IDEA specifies 13 different categories of disability that can be the basis for providing IDEA services to a student. But we know that children can have more than one area of disability. We often suggest that parents think of their child's classification on their IEP as a key that unlocks the right to whatever services their child may require, whether or not those services are directly related to the classification that appears at the top of the IEP document itself.

A student with a specific learning disability can also have an attention problem, which most often falls within the Other Health Impaired (OHI) classification. Or a child with an intellectual disability may also have an orthopedic impairment and require use of a wheelchair. An IEP does not have to list more than one disability for a child to receive services for more than one disability. The only situation where more than one disability might be listed on an IEP is where a student has educational or medical needs that can't be met by a single program. 

Parents sometimes ask if it matters what classification is listed on their child's IEP. It can, but only in very limited circumstances. Non-public schools that are approved by a state to provide educational services will be limited to students that are classified as having one of the disabilities for which that school is approved. So, a child with a classification of "other health impaired" will not be sent by her school district to a school that is approved only for students with a specific learning disability.

Even in that situation, if the school is otherwise a good fit for the child, it is possible to have the student's classification modified by the IEP Team to another classification, so long as the new classification reflects the reality of the student's difficulties. 

No one likes labels, but they are part of the IDEA. Even so, their impact on the day-to-day workings of a student's IEP do not limit the services and supports that a student should receive. Of far greater importance are the special education and related services, modifications, and accommodations that are provided to each student and the goals that are set out for the student to meet.  

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