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?

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

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

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:)!!

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.

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