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Mike: My child has adhd and SLD in reading, writing and math. Why does the school allow only one classification? I live in NJ. Is the school correct that I must choose adhd or SLD as the classification?

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Jill G

In my experience, this classification is rare and usually used when the child is medically involved or is deaf-blind (and the state doesn’t have a separate category for that).

Some states encourage IEP Teams to also list any secondary disability categories on the IEP, but this is not required nor universal.

The IEP MUST include information about how the student’s disability is expected to impact their education. A good IEP Team will include the student’s specific diagnoses here, if that info would be relevant to the child’s teachers/providers.

The Team is supposed to base the contents of the IEP on this info, and not on the disability category. This could be an even longer discussion, but hopefully your questions were answered!

Jill G

The district will report this and other info about your child (and all IDEA-eligible children) to the state, who in turn reports it to the federal Dept of Education. The state and federal DOE (and often districts and other entities) will use this info to help decide how funds are allocated, monitor trends, and other purposes.

The district can only report one category, probably to keep things simple. Many students have more than one disability, so could potentially be classified under more than one disability category. The Team is supposed to choose the “primary” category that has the greatest impact on the student’s learning. When such a determination is impossible, states may allow a child to be classified under “multiple disabilities.”

Jill G

Mike –

Questions about classification come up here a lot. I think it’s helpful to first think about the difference between diagnosis and disability category. A diagnosis is a determination by a clinician that the individual meets the diagnostic criteria for a specific medical condition. A disability category is a determination by the IEP Team that the student meets the regulatory definition for that category.

So a child’s diagnosis may be anxiety, but their disability category would likely be emotionally disturbed. Or their diagnosis may be dyslexia, but their disability category would likely be SLD. Make sense so far?

What’s the function of that disability category? It’s intended to be used for reporting purposes.