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Disability Definitions according to TAC 89

A student with an auditory impairment is one who has been determined to meet the criteria for deafness or for hearing impairment:

  • Deafness means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
  • Hearing impairment means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness.
  • The evaluation data reviewed by the multidisciplinary team in connection with the determination of a student’s eligibility based on an auditory impairment must include an otological examination performed by an otologist or by a licensed medical doctor, with documentation that an otologist is not reasonably available. An audiological evaluation by a licensed audiologist shall also be con conducted. The evaluation data shall include a description of the implications of the hearing loss for the student’s hearing in a variety of circumstances with or without recommended amplification.

Listening & Spoken Knowledge Center

American Society for Deaf Children

Better Hearing Institute

Texas School for the Deaf

Region 11 ESC- Susie Tiggs- State Lead for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

A student with Autism is one whom has 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.

  • Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.
  • Autism does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in paragraph.
  • Students with pervasive developmental disorders are included under this category.

Texas Statewide Leadership for Autism Training

Texas Autism Conference

Texas Autism Research and Resource Center (TARRC)

National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders

Learn the Signs! Act Early

A student with deaf-blindness is one who has been determined to meet the eligibility criteria for a student with a visual impairment and has a suspected hearing loss that cannot be demonstrated conclusively, but a speech/language therapist, a certified speech and language therapist, or a licensed speech language pathologist indicates there is no speech at an age when speech would normally be expected; and has documented hearing and visual losses that, if considered individually, may not meet the requirements for auditory impairment or visual impairment, but the combination of such losses adversely affects the student’s educational performance; or has a documented medical diagnosis of a progressive medical condition that will result in concomitant hearing and visual losses that, without special education intervention, will adversely affect the student’s educational performance.

Center for Parent Information and Resources

American Association for the Deaf-Blind

National Center on Deaf-Blind -State Deaf-Blind Projects

Helen Keller National Center for the Deaf–Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC)

Deafblind International

A student with an Emotional disturbance is one whom has a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:

  • An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
  • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
  • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
  • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
  • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Emotional disturbance includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.

Partners Resource Network

Emotional Disturbance Information & Resources

Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders

Behavioral Disorders

A student with an intellectual disability is one who has been determined to have significantly sub-average intellectual functioning as measured by a standardized, individually administered test of cognitive ability in which the overall test score is at least two standard deviations below the mean, when taking into consideration the standard error of measurement of the test; and concurrently exhibits deficits in at least two of the following areas of adaptive behavior: communication, self-care, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health, and safety.


National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resources’ Library at This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to

American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Division on Developmental Disabilities

Texas Parent to Parent

A child with a learning disability does not achieve adequately for the child’s age or meet state-approved grade-level standards in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skill, reading fluency skills, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation or mathematics problem solving when provided appropriate instruction. Adequate achievement is indicated by performance on multiple measures such as in-class tests; grade average over time (e.g. six weeks, semester), norm or criterion-referenced tests; statewide assessments; or a process based on a child’s response to scientific research-based intervention, yet does not make progress upon provision of such interventions and exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance and/or achievement.

Learning Disabilities Association of America

Learning Disabilities Association of Texas

National Center for Learning Disabilities

LD OnLine

SmartKids Learning Disabilities

A child with multiple disabilities has concomitant disabilities (for example: an intellectual disability-blindness or intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment). The disabilities are expected to continue indefinitely and severely impair performance in two or more of the following areas: psychomotor skills; self-care skills; communication; social and emotional development or cognition.

Perkins Scout: Perkins School for the Blind

National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities

Center for Parent Information and Resources

A child between the ages of 3-5 who is evaluated as having an intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, a specific learning disability, or autism may be described as non-categorical early childhood (NCEC).

National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

Early Childhood Outcomes (ECO) Center

Early Childhood Outcomes and Prekindergarten Guidelines Alignment Document

Preschool Least Restrictive Environments/Settings Education Service Center Region 20

A student with an orthopedic impairment is one who has been determined to meet the criteria for orthopedic impairment by the multidisciplinary team that collects or reviews evaluation data in connection with the determination of a student’s eligibility based on an orthopedic impairment must include a licensed physician.

United Cerebral Palsy of Texas

Cerebral Palsy Guide

Center for Disability and Development

Easter Seals

Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities

A student with other health impairment is one who has been determined to meet the criteria due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette’s Disorder as stated in 34 CFR, §300.8(c)(9).

A student with a Speech or language impairment is one who has a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment.

Speech impairments include:

  • Articulation: where the child produces sounds incorrectly
  • Fluency: where a child’s flow of speech is disrupted by sounds, syllables and words that are repeated, prolonged or avoided or where they may be silent blocks, inappropriate inhalation, exhalation or phonation patterns
  • Voice: where the child’s voice has an abnormal quality to its pitch, resonance or loudness

Language impairments where the child has problems expressing needs, ideas or information and or/in understanding what others say

A student with traumatic brain injury is one who has been determined to meet the criteria due 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 a child’s educational performance:

  • applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas:
  • cognition
  • language; memory
  • attention; reasoning
  • abstract thinking
  • judgment; problem-solving; sensory
  • perceptual, and motor abilities
  • psychosocial behavior
  • physical functions
  • information processing; and speech
  • Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma as stated in Sec. 300.8 (c) (12).



(A) A student with a visual impairment is one who has been determined to meet the criteria for visual impairment. The visual loss should be stated in exact measures of visual field and corrected visual acuity at a distance and at close range in each eye in a report by a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist. The report should also include prognosis whenever possible. If exact measures cannot be obtained, the eye specialist must so state and provide best estimates.

A student with a visual impairment is one who has been determined by a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist to have no vision or to have a serious visual loss after correction; or to have a progressive medical condition that will result in no vision or a serious visual loss after correction and has been determined by the following evaluations to have a need for special services:

(I) a Functional Vision Evaluation by a professional certified in the education of students with visual impairments or a certified orientation and mobility instructor. The evaluation must include the performance of tasks in a variety of environments requiring the use of both near and distance vision and recommendations concerning the need for a clinical low vision evaluation and an orientation and mobility evaluation; and

(II) a Learning Media Assessment by a professional certified in the education of students with visual impairments. The learning media assessment must include recommendations concerning which specific visual, tactual, and/or auditory learning media are appropriate for the student and whether or not there is a need for ongoing evaluation in this area.

(B) A student with a visual impairment is functionally blind if, based on the preceding evaluations, the student will use tactual media (which includes Braille) as a primary tool for learning to be able to communicate in both reading and writing at the same level of proficiency as other students of comparable ability.

American Council of the Blind
Phone: (202) 467-5081 (800) 424-8666

National Braille Association

Family Connect

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired