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What Diagnoses Qualify for an IEP?

Posted by Paul Hefley | Apr 11, 2022 | 0 Comments

Parents with children who have disabilities often do not know whether a disability, disorder, or other condition affecting their child may qualify them for an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Every parent wants a proper education for their child, one that allows their child to develop, grow, and learn at a pace similar to students who are not disabled. The right educational environment and resources are critical to a student's educational outcome. Those who are curious about what diagnoses qualify for an IEP may want to consider visiting with the Law Office of Paul A. Hefley, Jr. at (619) 764-6168.

Defining Special Education

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education broadly describes educational instruction specially designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. Services provided are free and may include instruction at home, in the classroom, or in institutions or hospitals. Special services are also provided by public school systems for students with physical, emotional, mental, behavioral, and other learning disabilities. At its most basic, special education is tailored and provides an array of services designed to assist students with disabilities so that they can receive educational benefit.

Educational Areas Where Students Must Be Adversely Affected

Evaluations are performed so that disabilities can be determined; however, parents should know which evaluations are being performed ahead of time. It is recommended that parents make certain the appropriate evaluations are being performed which can be done through research.

In order to receive special education and related services through an IEP, the student must be adversely affected or impacted to the level the student is incapable of performing at grade level when provided educational instruction at that grade level. Areas that may be adversely affected by a child's disability include, but are not limited to:

  • Written expression
  • Reading fluency skills and comprehension
  • Oral expression
  • Basic reading skills
  • Listening comprehension
  • Mathematics calculation and problem solving

It is imperative that assessments are provided indicating the areas a student may have been conflicted in. To stress one point again - educational outcome must be adversely impacted in order for a child to qualify for an IEP. Those needing additional information may want to reach out to the Law Office of Paul A. Hefley, Jr..

Categories Requiring Special Education

A medical diagnosis alone does not necessarily qualify a student for special education. A child must have a disability that is educational in nature to be eligible for special education. Upon completion of evaluations, the IEP team (including parents) meet to contemplate all the information available in deciding whether a student has an educational disability. There are 13 categories in which educational disabilities are defined according to the United States Department of Education including:


The autism category comprises spectrum disorders including Asperger's syndrome. Autism substantially impacts social interactions and verbal/nonverbal communication.

Emotional Disturbance

Anxiety disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are examples of emotional disorders a student may suffer that may qualify them for an IEP. Students may exhibit any of the following symptoms for a prolonged period:

  • In normal circumstances the student may exhibit inappropriate behaviors or feelings;
  • Unhappiness or extensive depression in general;
  • Uncapable of learning that cannot be explained by health, sensory, or intellectual factors; or
  • Uncapable of maintaining or building proper relationships with teachers and peers

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

TBIs are not degenerative or congenital injuries occurring due to a birth trauma but acquired brain injuries that result in psychosocial or partial functional disability, or both. TBIs may cause impairments in memory, problem solving, cognition, attention, speech, information processing, judgment, physical functioning, and more.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Acquired brain injuries are those that occur after birth. These injuries may be caused by a lack of oxygen that results in psychosocial impairment, partial/total functional disability, or by disease or infection.

Multiple Disabilities

Multiple disabilities are those that result in substantial disability to the point the student's educational needs cannot be met in a program tailored solely for one disability. Examples of this would be a student who suffers from an intellectual disability and deafness or blindness.

Orthopedic Impairment

Clubfoot, amputations, cerebral palsy, and other conditions, diseases, or congenital anomalies that result in impairment may qualify for IEP.

Other Health Impairment (OHI)

Other health impairments a student may have that impact learning include epilepsy, asthma, anxiety disorder, nephritis, food allergies, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and sensory integration dysfunction. A student's alertness or strength in the learning environment may be impacted by these and other health conditions.

Other Categories

The remaining categories for which a student may qualify for a special education program include:

  • Intellectual disability
  • Hearing impairments
  • Language or speech impairment
  • Visual impairment - partially or totally blind
  • Specific learning disabilities - listed earlier in this article

While attention deficit disorder (ADD), dyslexia, non-verbal learning disorder (NVLD) and other conditions are not noted in the categories of educational disabilities, they may qualify for special education depending on the circumstances. These disorders and conditions generally fall under the categories of “specific learning disabilities” or “other health impairment.”

Consider Scheduling a Consultation with the Law Office of Paul A. Hefley, Jr.

What diagnoses qualify for an IEP? This is a common question among parents with children who may suffer from certain physical, mental, or emotional conditions or illnesses that may impact the child's ability to learn in the general education environment. An appropriate IEP can make a big difference in the quality of education a child receives, and their ability to make educational progress. Those with questions or concerns regarding their child's education and whether they may qualify for an IEP may want to consider visiting with the Law Office of Paul A. Hefley, Jr. at (619) 764-6168. 

Other Related Articles:

The Complete Guide to Understanding FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education)

FAPE Checklist

Can Parents Audio Record IEP Meetings?

Will an IEP Hurt My Child?

How Often is an IEP Reviewed?

About the Author

Paul Hefley

Paul is an experienced litigator and trial attorney. He has litigated special education cases in the California Office of Administrative Hearings, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.


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