Special Education Eligibility

Under Iowa Code, the Sioux City Community School District has the authority to evaluate children whose parent(s)/guardian(s request an evaluation to be admitted into the special education instructional program.

The Sioux City Community School District is obligated to provide the special education instructional program in conjunction with Northwest AEA. 

When providing a special education instructional program for children with disabilities, the Sioux City Community School District and Northwest AEA must have in effect policies, procedures, and programs that are consistent with the state of Iowa’s policies and procedures.  

The ten Iowa Department of Education standards are the Department’s exercise of its authority and describe the essential elements of the process by which students are identified and evaluated for special education instructional programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and state law. They are to be used in three specific situations:

  1. Initial eligibility determinations 
  2. Re-evaluations 
  3. Consideration of exit from special education 

The ten standards are as follows: 

  1. Qualified professionals must be part of all decisions about a child’s special education eligibility. 
  2. All special education decisions are based on sound data. 
  3. When a public agency suspects that a child might have a disability that might require special education, the agency seeks parental consent for an initial evaluation. 
  4. Children and parents receive procedural protections whenever special education eligibility is questioned, reviewed, or established. 
  5. Evaluations are fair, thorough, and comply with the requirements of special education law. 
  6. To be eligible for special education, a child must have a “disability.” 
  7. If a child’s low performance is due to a lack of opportunity to learn or due to cultural or language differences, the child does not have a “disability.” 
  8. A child’s disability must cause a need for special education before the child is eligible for special education. 
  9. A child’s evaluation determines and describes the eligible individual’s special education needs. 
  10. If a child is eligible for special education services, the child’s IEP team uses evaluation data to draft an IEP that addresses the needs identified in the evaluation. 

These standards describe the role that general educators assume, and general education resources used before, during, and after the special education eligibility process. Special education is a collaborative process between general educators and special educators. 

Who Qualifies? 

Before a student can receive special education services, they must be evaluated for eligibility. Under IDEA, there are currently 13 categories under which a child can receive these services: 

1. Specific learning disability (SLD) 

The umbrella term “SLD” covers a specific group of learning challenges. These conditions affect a child’s ability to read, write, listen, speak, reason, or do math. Here’s what could fall in this category: 

  • Dyslexia 
  • Dysgraphia 
  • Dyscalculia
  • Auditory processing disorder 
  • Nonverbal learning disability 

SLD is the most common category under IDEA. In 2018, 34 percent of students who qualified did so under this category. 

2. Other health impairment 

The umbrella term “other health impairment” covers conditions that limit a child’s strength, energy, or alertness. One example is ADHD, which impacts attention and executive function. 

3. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 

ASD is a developmental disability. It covers a wide range of symptoms, but it mainly affects a child’s social and communication skills. It can also impact behavior. 

4. Emotional disturbance 

Various mental health issues can fall under the “emotional disturbance” category. They may include anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. (Some of these may also be covered under “other health impairment.”) 

5. Speech or language impairment 

This category covers difficulties with speech or language. A common example is stuttering. Other examples are trouble pronouncing words or making sounds with the voice. It also covers language problems that make it hard for kids to understand words or express themselves. 

6. Visual impairment, including blindness 

A child who has eyesight problems is considered to have a visual impairment. This category includes both partial sight and blindness. If eyewear can correct a vision problem, then it doesn’t qualify. 

7. Deafness 

Kids with a diagnosis of deafness fall under this category. These are kids who can’t hear most or all sounds, even with a hearing aid. 

8. Hearing impairment 

The term “hearing impairment” refers to a hearing loss not covered by the definition of deafness. This type of loss can change over time. Being hard of hearing is not the same thing as having trouble with auditory or language processing. 

9. Deaf-blindness 

Kids with a diagnosis of deaf-blindness have both severe hearing and vision loss. Their communication and other needs are so unique that programs for just the deaf or blind can’t meet them. 

10. Orthopedic impairment 

An orthopedic impairment is when kids lack function or ability in their bodies. An example is cerebral palsy. 

11. Intellectual disability 

Kids with this type of disability have below-average intellectual ability. They may also have poor communication, self-care, and social skills. Down syndrome is one example of an intellectual disability. 

12. Traumatic brain injury 

This is a brain injury caused by an accident or some kind of physical force. 

13. Multiple disabilities 

A child with multiple disabilities has more than one condition covered by IDEA. Having multiple issues creates educational needs that can’t be met in a program designed for any one disability.

How Can I Have My Child/Student Evaluated for Eligibility? 

As a parent, it is very simple. If you think that your child may qualify for special education services, you may request an evaluation. You can do this by contacting your child’s school. A group of qualified personnel will decide whether to evaluate or not and create a plan for the evaluation. Any and all decisions regarding evaluation requires the Sioux City Community School District to inform and invite the parent/guardian to be a participant in the evaluation discussion.