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IEP FAQs: Can More than one Disability Be Listed in an IEP?

by Wrightslaw

I was told that only one disability can be documented in the IEP. My son has an IEP for ADHD. He also has a sleep disorder. After our high school started block scheduling this year, my son missed so many of his first two classes that he fell far behind. He had to go to part time status.

The school refused to provide any support for him saying it wasn’t in his IEP.

I wanted to add it to the IEP. I provided the school with all the doctors information and notes documenting the condition. I was told that only one disability can be documented in the IEP.

Answer – of course. More than one disability can be documented in your child’s IEP. (Feel free to vote in the poll at the end of this article.)

Can a child be blind and in a wheelchair?

Can a child have a specific learning disability, a severe visual impairment, an orthopedic impairment – and ADHD?

The IEP is an individualized program based on your child’s unique needs. The special ed statute (IDEA) and regulations do not say that a child’s IEP can be limited to only one disability or need.

In the law it is clear that a child does not even have to have a label to be eligible for services.

Before getting into a battle with the school, you need to get a much better understanding of the law and your rights. As the parent of a child with a disability, you represent your child’s interests. You need to know what the law actually says and how to find answers to your questions in the IDEA statute and regulations.

School personnel’s knowledge of the law is often based what they were told in a training program or by “word of mouth.” Like parents, few educators question what they are told. Very few school staff have read the law.

If you don’t have a copy of IDEA 2004 and the regulations, get one now!

You can download most of these documents from the Wrightslaw site. Click here for an overview of the IDEA statute.

You’ll also find answers to your questions in the Commentary to the Special Education Regulations. In the Commentary, the Department explains why a regulation was changed, not changed, and often clarifies the “plain meaning” of a term.


Thanks for taking the time to vote in the IEP Poll below.

Is more than one disability documented in your child's IEP?

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67 Comments on "IEP FAQs: Can More than one Disability Be Listed in an IEP?"

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11/16/2015 10:27 pm

how do I get the school to change the primary eligibility category to the secondary? My son has DS, so ID is the first and Hearing Impairment is secondary. I want my son to go to the school of the deaf to learn ASL as they do such a poor job in neighborhood school, but school of deaf will only take HI as primary. Who decides what is primary and what is secondary?

Dorothy C
11/04/2015 1:44 pm

Grandson is non-verbal, austic 5 yr old, attends county school in VA. Dr said he also has adh., school says hes not, want add adhd to iep, how can they over rule a specialist? We need help!

03/13/2015 12:36 pm

My son has an IEP and is labeled with ADHD and SLD. He has also been recently labeled with DMDD. I am beside myself with him. He is suppose to graduate this year and is so scared he is self sabotaging himself so he does not. I need help and I don’t know where to turn.

10/16/2014 4:20 pm

My 8 year old 2nd grader was given an IEP last March under OHI for ADHD and Anxiety. She was in danger of retention but had not gone through tier 3 rTi to classify as learning disabled. Now their is sufficient data to qualify. Today a secondary classification of SLD was added. I am okay with this because her IEP has achievable goals and appropriate accommodations. I could fight for it to be primary but the school is doing an excellent job with her IEP.

05/08/2014 11:57 pm

I am fighting the school system from all levels. My son has ADHD and I kept him out of Special Ed for years. He went to middle school and they are fighting me to put him in special ed. Problem is they want ED label how can I fight that? I said no to reevaluation because of ED, four doctor notes that say he isn’t. School says he is and no testing has been done. This school is very nasty to deal with. Instead of helping they are hurting. How can they diagnose ED when you have doctors saying no?… Read more »

11/26/2013 10:12 pm

I am fighting the school to understand our daughter’s situation. She has Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis. VERY different disabilities, but the school only wants to acknowledge the Ds and keep saying they have no obligation to accommodate her needs as far as Cf goes because it is not educational. Her immune system is poor and they won’t address the strict infection control that she needs. I keep sending her to school and in two weeks we are in the hospital. Her lung function goes away and never comes back.

As used in 34 C.F.R.… Read more »

09/03/2013 11:31 am

My son has a current IEP. However, he has a medical condition. Does his IEP cover the medical condition and it’s accommodations? The second question I have is, he is being further tested for Highly Functioning Autism and I need to change his IEP and how soon can I do that so he doesn’t shut down in school?

05/03/2013 5:54 pm

My son does have ADHD and Disorder of Written expression on his IEP, however the School would not put his PDD-NOS diagnosis on the IEP. It is however stated that he has been diagnosed with this on his IEP, but not coded specifiacally on the IEP (only because I would not let up the fact that they did not have this on the IEP). They told me that it would not change any of the help he is already getting, as they have included all his needs on the IEP – which is true.

04/12/2013 12:21 pm

My 9 year old daughter had an iep in place till her reevaluation in a new school in a new county. She has an orthopedic imparement. A spinal cord, t4 injury which has disabled her waist down. Though I do not think she was at the level of independence, the new school dismissed her old iep and said that based on her grades she being above grade level she is not eligible for an iep and hence put her on a504 plan. Even though we were told it would not effect her pt in schoool or her goals, everything was… Read more »

01/25/2013 10:02 am

My son is 15 and has an IEP. We recently had a meeting and after 3/4 of meeting I asked the attendees/teachers if they understand that my son has Cerebral Palsey. There jaws dropped or they answered…no. I even asked if they know what CP is and some were unsure. After years of having IEPs and discussing my sons physical disabilities it was not clear in his IEP that he has CP. Shouldn’t this be a part of the IEP? I have been meeting resistance and feeling misunderstood.

10/12/2012 11:42 am

My child has a 504 plan in place, can i get that changed to I.E.P ? I was told that I.E.P are only for children with disablities. He has ADD, is that a disablitie and can they have I.E.P in place.

10/09/2012 10:04 pm

The District gave us a very hard time about including more then one disability on our son’s IEP. We went through due process and settled in conference with the judge. The District finally agreed to handwrite the second disability in the IEP. We have yet to see the final draft.

10/09/2012 2:34 pm

My child has autism (Aspergers). She is also gifted. Her IEP encompasses her GIEP SDIs and goals as well as the ones she has because she’s autistic. She was identified by her school as gifted in 4th grade and as having Aspergers in 8th.

10/09/2012 11:39 am

Actually, we do not list the ETR disability category on the IEP except in cases of medical diagnosis (autism, ADHD, diabetes). The goals need to be addressed regardless of disability category.

10/09/2012 9:37 am

3. Listing disability labels in the IEP: There are primary and secondary disabilities. The primary disability would be considered the qualifying factor. The IEP may not list every disability, but should address the negative impact they may have on student learning/progress and list the accommodations/modifications needed to create FAPE.

10/09/2012 9:30 am

There have been several comments and questions I would like to respond to:
1. There have been several mentions of medical diagnosis regarding IEPs. If the medical issue does not impact their ability to learn or progress academically, then they may not qualify for an IEP (see Dr. Pamela’s response). A 504 plan may be the better option. (Schools generally avoid 504 plans because there is no funding attached to them to pay for services, but they are required to provide them by law.) Students on 504 plans may receive services from special education.

02/08/2012 8:31 pm

My son was DX with Tourette’s in kindergarten. He also has ODD, IED, ADHD. The school refused to put anything besides emotionally disturbed on his IEP. I fought them for 5 yrs on this and finally he worked his way into a mainstream class. While in 4th grade he was diagnosed with Asperger’s, the SCHOOL phsycologist told me ‘it does not matter what his doctor says, he does not meet the criteria for asperger’s/autism.’ What does that mean? A psychologist that works at a school can over ride a psychiatrist that has been watching and… Read more »

07/20/2011 10:04 pm

I recently attended the Atlanta seminar. Mr. Wright made a comment about why school districts do not like to list SLD as a primary. Does an I.E.P. with OHI limit my child’s opportunities to attend college?

06/23/2011 9:00 pm

Can the school determine the Disability or change the disability based on re-evaluations

02/08/2011 3:53 pm

What is the TERM for an individual with more than one disability??

01/13/2011 9:58 pm

My childs school will not list his diabetes as a disability on or within his IEP. I have asked them to several times. I need help. Can you afford me any info, please. We are in Arizona.

Sharon L.
11/19/2010 11:05 am

Stacy – Yes in a nutshell. School’s are not supposed to determine services by one method of testing only. My son got a 1.9 discrepancy score which technically meant he could not be in special ed. We got outside testing at the school’s expense and the tester recommended he stay in special ed based on all issues not just the discrepency score. We had to threaten due process and the school continued to provide services. If you have a professional who believes your child needs speech services the school has to consider what your professional… Read more »

11/16/2010 6:50 am

I am a HS Ex Ed teacher and the mother of 3 ADHD boys. My nine year old was testing in the spring of 2010, but didn’t qualify because no discrepancy was found. His dr. sent us for further testing and using new testing he will qualify for written expression. He also shows weaknessess in auditory processing. Can I request speech services as well? To qualify for actual speech services, school psychometrist says he must have a 70 in that area. Unfortunately, he does not.

09/16/2010 2:36 pm

On my daughter’s IEP is says Multiple for the disability that are documented on her IEP! Can they do that or it easier to that way since she has a lot of disabilities! I have learned a lot from coming to one of you conferences in Kentucky. I was so happy to go since now I am helping families with their child’s IEPs! Keep up the great work you guys do to help families out that we don’t know what is right and what is wrong when we come up against the schools!

07/13/2010 9:39 am

I’ve been repeatedly told, & repeatedly stated by district rep – only one category can be used. Never sat well with me since many of my child’s needs were repeatedly ignored. Often taking each new teacher 3/4 of the year to gain a clear view of (note NOT necessarily an “understanding of”) less visible needs.
My child losing out, remaining without FAPE, parents educated in advocacy, fighting a losing battle. Impact on family life/harmony is severe. All too consuming time and energy spent, (plus added frustration) of trying to have needs recognized, appropriately assessed, and appropriately supported.… Read more »

04/28/2010 2:18 pm

When dealing with the Department of Education you need to know your child disabilities. they may not have an complete understand of what that disability is and not a willingness to learn.

It may take you two years to get what you need in the IEP as it did me. I had help with the dept of civil rights. They can follow up on recommendations and let the school know you are well to fight if that what it takes.

03/25/2010 9:28 pm

We have 7 diagnossis listed in our son’s IEP. Not that it does any good.

03/08/2010 11:06 am

My daughter had listed on her IEP specific learning disablitiy and other health impairment throughout her elementary and middle school years . We have moved and her IEP now reads only Emotionally Disabled, and I stated that she has a specific learning disability which then was told she is under an umbrella and doesn’t need to have specific learning disability listed on her IEP. She failed the first nine weeks….how do you get a school system to listen to you? They had her previous IEP from the beginning and it didn’t matter to them. How… Read more »

02/13/2010 6:12 pm

I am an advocate with our State’s Protection and Advocacy Agency. At the very least place all your child’s disabilities, diagnosis, and deficits inside his present level in his IEP. Your child’s school must address and make goals pertaining to any areas that interfere with his learning. Make sure you have plenty of data supporting his diagnosis through outside evaluations. Also gather any work examples, report card remarks from teachers and any other data supporting his disability. If need be request a comprehensive evaluation from the school, and if you do not agree with their evaluation,… Read more »

02/12/2010 12:06 am

I have a 6 year old and the guidance counselor told me that my son did not need an IEP on him because he takes meds for his ADHD everyday. To me that is not making any sense and i need some answers who would i go and speak to?

01/30/2010 2:05 pm

Yes, a child can have more than one disability listed in his/her IEP. My nephew is listed as a learning disability and speech impairment, ADHD and autism.

Too many. Too confusing. Far beyond my understanding.

His doctors said he was a child with ADHD and autism.

School psy. and speech lang. pathologist disagreed. They said the child was listed as a learning disability and speech impairement (pracmatics). However, they said they would discuss the ideas of the child demonstrating Primary Disability, Second Disability, and Teriary Disability as his eligibility in the next IEP meeting.

Hello, any suggestions?

01/28/2010 7:55 pm

Tricia: When one of my older disabled children was out of school sick, we learned the hard way after being dragged to court how necessary documentation/doctors notes are. This time we got a form off the Dept of Education site, I think it’s a Dr/3r or something about 14 consecutive days or non consecutive days of absences. Our Doctors first filled it for a month, now for the rest of the year, attached to my son’s school records listing his days absent so where covered. According to DOE the school is required to provide tutoring… we’ll see.. MaryJ

01/28/2010 7:30 pm

At first our school had my son listed under a general disability, like an emotional disability due to his anxiety, I fought with them about his processing problems. We had him tested years ago and were told he has a( CAPD Central Auditory Processing development ). I think it was under additional info on the IEP. One Problem is they keep dropping things from his IEP, but in the 3 year eval and other tests the school said these problems were still present. We got a new administrator who looked at the facts and had no problem… Read more »

01/26/2010 5:23 pm

I have 14 year old twin sons who both have dyslexia and dysgraphia in addition to physical disabilities, which have kept them out of school since. Dec. 11th 2009. I took me over a month to get the tutoring started. But I will tell you the most irriating part of all this process has been having to give them everything the require – dr. notes with specific dates, excuse notes for each day of absence from their m.d yet they have not even followed what services my children are suppose to be receiving from their IEP. Being… Read more »

01/26/2010 4:29 pm

Hello everyone,

ADHD and Sleep Disorders are not recognized disabilities under the IDEA. There are only 14 disabilities listed in the IDEA. They are:
Intellectual Disability,
Speech or Language Impairments,
Hearing Impairment,
Visual Impairments (including blindness),
Emotional Disturbance,
Orthopedic Impairments,
Traumatic Brain Injury,
Other Health Impairments,
Specific Learning Disabilities;
Multiple Disabilities, and
Developmental Delay

Don’t be alarmed. ADHD and sleep disorders might be appropriate under “Other Health Impairment” if they have an impact on the student’s educational performance and, the student requires specialized instruction. Therefore, the primary disability is Other Health Impairment. The PLOP would discuss ADHD… Read more »

01/26/2010 12:29 pm

Could it be possible that you are confusing listing disabilities in an IEP, with the category that the child is found eligible under? For example, one may classify your child under the category of OHI (due to AD/HD) but of course, should also put somewhere in the IEP that your child has diabetes, and how that is being addressed or may impact upon their AD/HD and educational progress. NJ code does not require us to make a child eligible as Multiply Disabled (with more than one disability) unless that child requires two different programs to address both disabilities. … Read more »

mary pat
01/26/2010 12:06 pm

I was told at my daughter’s last IEP meeting because she wasn’t medicated for ADD, that the OHI label would be removed. This district is the one that labeled her way back in 1st grade with the OHI label because of the ADD. She also had a SLD label from another district, and this current district removed that also. The supervisor only likes the child to have one label, which is ridiculous.

01/26/2010 11:39 am

Your next questions should be: SHOULD your child have more than one disability in their IEP?

01/26/2010 10:32 am

I need help getting the school to adhere to the school till 21 rule. She will graduate this year and cannot read or do math. She cant identify letters or numbers. Any suggestions?

01/26/2010 10:08 am

The regulations state your childs unique needs have to be met.
Every diagnosis your child has is part of his/hers unique needs which should be written into their IEP. One can not just address
part of the problem, the whole child has to be looked in order to see growth.