The 13 Special Education Classifications in the NYC Department of Education

Parent Guide to Special Education- English_Page_35_Image_0001

The New York City Department of Education has thirteen (13) disabilities that exist for the purposes of providing special education services to students. Each disability, or classification, allows a child to become eligible to receive services on the Individualized Education Program, or IEP for short.

In alphabetical order, they are:

  1. Autism 
  2. Deafness
  3. Deaf-Blindness
  4. Emotional Disturbance
  5. Hearing Impairment
  6. Learning Disability
  7. Intellectual Disability
  8. Multiple Disabilities
  9. Orthopedic Impairment
  10. Other Health Impairment
  11. Speech or Language Impairment
  12. Traumatic Brain Injury
  13. Visual Impairment

I provided definitions of the most commonly used in my five years of experience in public and private schools.

Autism – A developmental disability, significantly affecting  verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction. 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.

Learning Disability– Learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which manifests itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations.

Speech or Language Impairment – A student with a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation or a language impairment.

Intellectual Disability – A student with significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive behavior and an IQ score lower than 70.

Multiple Disabilities -A student with concurrent impairments (such as intellectual disability–blindness, intellectual disability–orthopedic impairment, etc.), the combination of which causes educational needs that cannot be accommodated in a special education program solely for one of the impairments.

Emotional Disturbance – A student who exhibits one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects the student’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 generally pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. The term “emotional disturbance” includes schizophrenia. It does not apply to students who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.

If a child does not qualify under one of these 13 classifications, they are deemed to be ineligible for services and cannot receive special education intervention or supports. My next post will talk about the special education programs and classrooms the NYC DOE currently offers.

This post is written to empower the families who want to learn more about the convoluted and intricate matrix that is our Special Education system.


About Maya

I like words like "labyrinthian," "kerfuffle," and "serendipitous" because they're mellifluous. I love poetry, pumpkin ales, sangria, long summer days, Fall foliage, going out of my way to step on crunchy leaves in October, live music, Jazz, Salsa dancing, theater, film (foreign and indie), the arts (myriad varieties), dance (in theory and practice) and any place where I can sit outdoors and take it all in.
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2 Responses to The 13 Special Education Classifications in the NYC Department of Education

  1. Tacey says:

    Wow! Does APD fall under general learning disabilities?

  2. Leticia says:

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