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

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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.


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

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Are there any special considerations in the design of an IEP for a student with multiple disabilities compared to an IEP for a student with one disability in math and English language arts that are supported by research-based instructional strategies? How do you keep a student’s interest in curriculum while meeting their academic level needs ? Explain

My 14 year old son has Autism AND neurofibromatosis ( a neurological disease that can cause learning disabilties) I freely admit that I am a pain in the a** parent because I really believe that no one else will fight for him as hard as I do. I was told he didnt qualify for a parapro, so I insist on having some type of meeting with the school every 6 to 9 weeks. I have an official IEP meeting at least twice a school year and other times I just meet with one or two teachers at a time. I am willing to support the school anyway I can, but I try to make it clear that my role is as an advocate for MY child. I also make random visits to both the school and district education office to ask questions.

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?

Idiots and funding.. Did you see HI as primary in a written doc.or info.given verbally? Priority is that your son needs consistent competent instruction to learn ASL so he can effectively communicate for himself and with others who are fluent in ASL including a daily video log of his progress for you to monitor ensuring he receives kind, fair treatment and is responding positively. How frustrating it must be for both of you! God Will make a way and it will be way better!! Many Prayers:)!! Primary, secondary, I call it discrimination and it’s not fair or right for any person or school to deny a student access to specific, competent quality education they need to live their lives! You will find the best for your Son:)!!

My school district changed the classification to meet the needs of the appropriate residential placement.

seems like that should be a Multiple Disability as based on the definition in IDEA

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!

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.

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.

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? He has good grades but they fight me since he had the label of ADHD. Very frustrated even after getting a new lawyer. It seems lawyers while getting paid still don’t want to protect the child like they should. What to do?????

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. Part 300 Sec. 300.7 “ ‘ A child with a disability’ means a child evaluated in accordance with Sec. 300.530-300.536 as having…multiple disabilities…and who because of those impairments need special education and related services.

Needs special education AND related services

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?

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.

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 removed. My question is based on the level of how smart my daughter is can she be removed from an iep even though her injury is still an orthopedic imparement and she does still need supervision because of her autonomia dysflexia?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 testing him. He is now home school and gets no social therapy because our new district refuses to even test him for an IEP.

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?

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

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

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.

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 has to say.

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.

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!

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.
Greatest difficulty is the “scripted” development of IEP from within the district and what they have available when. IEP does not accurately reflect my child, needs, needed supports.

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.

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

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 can parents explain to school systems that they don’t want their children under the umbrella clause? My daughter has suffered greatly. I need to know what to do to help my daughter.

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, request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at the school’s expense, but bottom line have evidence supporting all disabilities and place them into his present level of academic and funtional performance.

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?

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?

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

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 including this information. Despite this, the school overwhelmed my child, put him in higher level classes but without the right accommodations. They were setting him up to fail. He stopped going to school, was always sleeping and needed meds. Finally back to school now and trying to not get overwhelmed! yikes!

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 so busy I have not had an opportunity to look at the law and the consequesnces to the school for not following the modifications etc…

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 and the sleep disorder.

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. For eg, a child with AD/HD and SLD will often be classified under only OHI or SLD. However, that does not mean the impact of the other disability would not also be stated within the IEP, even if that was not used to qualify the child for services.

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.

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