Categories of Eligibility

  • There is Ability in Every Disability

    Categories of Eligibility     

    North Carolina Public Schools adhere to federal, state, and local regulation governing services for students with disabilities. Anyone who suspects a child has a disability may refer that child to school employees for consideration of eligibility. North Carolina recognizes fourteen (14) disabling conditions as the first prong of the comprehensive eligibility process, which may lead to special education services. These fourteen disabling conditions, along with each common acronym are listed below: 


    • (i) Means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, which adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotypical movements, restricted interests, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. 
    • (ii) Autism does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disability, as described in paragraph (c)(4) of this section. 
    • (iii)A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three could be identified as having autism if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.


    • means hearing and visual impairments that occur together, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.


    • 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 the child’s educational performance.

    Developmental delay 

    • means a child aged three through seven, whose development and/or behavior is delayed or atypical, as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development, and who, by reason of the delay, needs special education and related services. 

    Emotional disability 

    • (i) means 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: 
    • (A) An inability to make educational progress that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors. 
    • (B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers. 
    • (C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances. 
    • (D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. 
    • (E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems
    • (ii) Emotional disability includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disability under paragraph (b)(5)(i) of this section

    Hearing impairment 

    • means 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 in this section. The term “hard of hearing” may be used in this capacity.

    Intellectual disability

    •  means significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term “intellectual disability” was formerly termed “mental retardation.”

    Multiple disabilities

    •  means two or more disabilities occurring together (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment, etc.), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Multiple disabilities does not include deaf-blindness.

    Orthopedic impairment 

    • means a severe physical impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures, etc.).

    Other health impairment

    •  means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that--
    •  (i) Is 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 Syndrome, etc.; and
    •  (ii) Adversely affects a child's educational performance

     Specific learning disability

    • (i) General Means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the impaired ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. 
    • (ii) Disorders not included. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disability, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

     Speech or language impairment means- 

    • (i) A communication disorder, such as an impairment in fluency, articulation, language, or voice/resonance that adversely affects a child's educational performance. 
    • (ii) Language may include function of language (pragmatic), the content of language (semantic), and the form of language (phonologic, morphologic, and syntactic systems). 
    • (iii)A speech or language impairment may result in a primary disability or it may be secondary to other disabilities.

    Traumatic brain injury

    •  means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force or by an internal occurrence resulting in total or partial functional disability and/or psychosocial impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Causes may include but are not limited to, open or closed head injuries, cerebrovascular accidents (e.g., stroke, aneurysm), infections, kidney or heart failure, electric shock, anoxia, tumors, metabolic disorders, toxic substances, or medical or surgical treatments. The brain injury can occur in a single event or can result from a series of events (e.g., multiple concussions). Traumatic brain injury also can occur with or without a loss of consciousness at the time of injury. Traumatic brain injury may result in impairments in one or more areas, such as 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 but can include brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

    Visual impairment including blindness 

    • means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.