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Disability Definitions

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

From: National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years. It is hard for these children to control their behavior and/or pay attention. It is estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children have ADHD, or approximately 2 million children in the United States. This means that in a classroom of 25 to 30 children, it is likely that at least one will have ADHD.

ADHD was first described by Dr. Heinrich Hoffman in 1845. A physician who wrote books on medicine and psychiatry, Dr. Hoffman was also a poet who became interested in writing for children when he couldn't find suitable materials to read to his 3-year-old son. The result was a book of poems, complete with illustrations, about children and their characteristics. "The Story of Fidgety Philip" was an accurate description of a little boy who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Yet it was not until 1902 that Sir George F. Still published a series of lectures to the Royal College of Physicians in England in which he described a group of impulsive children with significant behavioral problems, caused by a genetic dysfunction and not by poor child rearing—children who today would be easily recognized as having ADHD.1 Since then, several thousand scientific papers on the disorder have been published, providing information on its nature, course, causes, impairments, and treatments.

A child with ADHD faces a difficult but not insurmountable task ahead. In order to achieve his or her full potential, he or she should receive help, guidance, and understanding from parents, guidance counselors, and the public education system. This document offers information on ADHD and its management, including research on medications and behavioral interventions, as well as helpful resources on educational options.

Angelman Syndrome

Angelman Syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by developmental delay; absence or near absence of speech; unprovoked, prolonged episodes (paroxysms) of inappropriate laughter; characteristic facial abnormalities; and episodes of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain (seizures). Abnormalities of the head and facial (craniofacial) area may include a small head (microcephaly); deeply set eyes; a large, wide mouth (macrostomia) and a protruding tongue; an underdeveloped upper jaw (maxillary hypoplasia) and protruding lower jaw (mandibular prognathism); and widely spaced teeth. During infancy, feeding difficulties and abnormal sleep patterns are typically present. In addition, by early childhood, individuals with Angelman Syndrome have severe developmental delays; impaired control of voluntary movements (ataxia), resulting in a stiff manner of walking (ataxic gait) with jerky arm movements; and characteristic positioning of the arms with flexion of the elbows and wrists. Although affected individuals may be unable to speak, many gradually learn to communicate through other means, such as sign language. In addition, some may have enough receptive language development to understand simple commands.

In most affected individuals, Angelman Syndrome appears to occur spontaneously (sporadically) for unknown reasons. However, some familial cases have been reported. The disorder is caused by deletion or disruption of a certain gene or genes located on the long arm (q) of chromosome 15 (15q11-q13).

Apraxia

From: National Organization for Rare Disorders (http://www.rarediseases.org/)

Apraxia is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to perform learned (familiar) movements on command, even though the command is understood and there is a willingness to perform the movement. Both the desire and the capacity to move are present but the person simply cannot execute the act.
Patients with apraxia cannot use tools or perform such acts as tying shoelaces or button shirts etc. The requirements of daily living are difficult to meet. Patients whose ability to speak is interrupted (aphasia) but who are unaffected by apraxia are able to live a relatively normal life; those with significant apraxia are almost invariably dependent.

Apraxia comes in several different forms:
Limb-kinetic apraxia is the inability to make precise or exact movements with a finger, an arm or a leg. An example is the inability to use a screwdriver notwithstanding that the person affected understands what is to be done and has done it in the past.

Ideomotor apraxia is the inability to carry out a command from the brain to mimic limb or head movements performed or suggested by others.

Conceptual apraxia is much like ideomotor ataxia but infers a more profound malfunctioning in which the function of tools is no longer understood.

Ideational apraxia is the inability to create a plan for a specific movement.

Buccofacial apraxia, (sometimes called facial-oral apraxia) is the inability to coordinate and carry out facial and lip movements such as whistling, winking, coughing etc on command. This form includes verbal or speech developmental apraxia, perhaps the most common form of the disorder.

Constructional apraxia affects the person’s ability to draw or copy simple diagrams or to construct simple figures.

Oculomotor apraxia is a condition in which patients find it difficult to move their eyes.

Apraxia is believed to be caused by a lesion in the neural pathways of the brain that contain the learned patterns of movement. It is often a symptom of neurological, metabolic, or other disorders that can involve the brain.

Asperger Syndrome

From: National Institute for Neurological Disorders (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/)

Asperger syndrome (AS), one of the autistic spectrum disorders, is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by an inability to understand how to interact socially. AS is commonly recognized after the age of 3. People with high-functioning autism are generally distinguished from those with AS because autism is associated with marked early language delay. Other characteristics of AS include clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements, limited interests or unusual preoccupations, repetitive routines or rituals, speech and language peculiarities, and non-verbal communication problems. Generally, children with AS have few facial expressions. Many have excellent rote memory, and become intensely interested in one or two subjects (sometimes to the exclusion of other topics). They may talk at length about a favorite subject or repeat a word or phrase many times. Children with AS tend to be self-absorbed, have difficulty making friends, and are preoccupied with their own interests.

Autism

From: Autism Society of America (http://www.autism-society.org/)

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.

Autism is one of five disorders coming under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a category of neurological disorders characterized by "severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development," including social interaction and communications skills (DSM-IV-TR). The five disorders under PDD are Autistic Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), Rett's Disorder, and PDD-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). Each of these disorders has specific diagnostic criteria as outlined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR).

From: IDEA '97

(1)(i) Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section.

(ii) A child who manifests the characteristics of "autism" after age 3 could be diagnosed as having "autism" if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.

Bipolar Disorder

From: National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But there is good news: bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

More than 2 million American adults,1 or about 1 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year,2 have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop them late in life. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated. Like diabetes or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed throughout a person's life.

Borderline Personality Disorder

From: National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual's sense of self-identity. Originally thought to be at the "borderline" of psychosis, people with BPD suffer from a disorder of emotion regulation. While less well known than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), BPD is more common, affecting 2 percent of adults, mostly young women.1 There is a high rate of self-injury without suicide intent, as well as a significant rate of suicide attempts and completed suicide in severe cases.2,3 Patients often need extensive mental health services, and account for 20 percent of psychiatric hospitalizations.4 Yet, with help, many improve over time and are eventually able to lead productive lives.

Cerebral Palsy

From: United Cerebral Palsy (http://www.ucp.org/)

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a term used to describe a chronic condition affecting body and/or limb movement and the control of muscle tone and coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain during periods of brain development; there is usually no damage to the sensory or motor nerves controlling the muscles. The brain damage is not progressive; however, the characteristics of disabilities resulting from brain damage often change over time.

Child with a Disability

From: IDEA '97

(1) As used in this part, the term child with a disability means a child evaluated in accordance with §§300.530-300.536 as having mental retardation, a hearing impairment including deafness, a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment including blindness, serious emotional disturbance (hereafter referred to as emotional disturbance), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

Deaf-Blindness

From: IDEA '97

(2) Deaf-blindness means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

Deafness

From: IDEA '97

(3) Deafness means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Depression/Depressive Disorder

From: National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.


Types of Depression

Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as is the case with other illnesses such as heart disease. This pamphlet briefly describes three of the most common types of depressive disorders. However, within these types there are variations in the number of symptoms, their severity, and persistence.

Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms (see symptom list) that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime.

Dyslexia

From: The International Dyslexia Association (http://www.interdys.org)

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia may experience difficulties in other language skills such as spelling, writing, and speaking. Dyslexia is a life-long status, however, its impact can change at different stages in a person's life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment.

Dysthymia

A less severe type of depression, dysthymia, involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.

Emotional Disturbance

From: IDEA '97

(4) Emotional disturbance is defined as follows:

(i) The term means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child's educational performance:

(A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.

(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

(ii) The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.

Epilepsy

From: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that makes people susceptible to seizures. A seizure is a change in sensation, awareness, or behavior brought about by a brief electrical disturbance in the brain.

Seizures vary from a momentary disruption of the senses, to short periods of unconsciousness or staring spells, to convulsions. Some people have just one type of seizure. Others have more than one type.

Although they look different, all seizures are caused by the same thing: a sudden change in how the cells of the brain send electrical signals to each other.

Fragile X Syndrome

From: National Organization for Rare Disorders (http://www.rarediseases.org)

Fragile X Syndrome is a defect of the X chromosome which causes mild mental retardation. The disorder occurs more frequently and severely among males than females. This condition is the leading known familial cause of mental retardation in the United States. Language delays, behavioral problems, autism or autistic-like behavior (including poor eye contact and hand-flapping), enlarged external genitalia (macroorchidism), large or prominent ears, hyperactivity, delayed motor development and/or poor sensory skills are among the wide range of symptoms associated with this disorder.

Hearing Impairment

From: IDEA '97

(5) Hearing impairment means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness in this section.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA)

From: National Organization for Rare Disorders (http://www.rarediseases.org)

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a rheumatic disease characterized by chronic inflammation (arthritis) of one or more joints in a child age 16 years or younger. Associated symptoms typically include swelling, abnormal warmth, tenderness or pain, and/or stiffness of affected joints that tends to be worse in the mornings. In severe cases, destructive changes may eventually result in limited mobility and possible deformity of affected joints.

Some children with JRA may also have generalized symptoms and findings, such as fever, lack of appetite (anorexia), enlargement of the liver and spleen (hepatosplenomegaly), and/or other abnormalities. In addition, some forms of JRA are associated with an increased risk for inflammation of certain regions of the eyes (iridocyclitis). The range and severity of associated symptoms and findings may vary, depending upon the specific form of the disease present. The exact cause of JRA is not known.

Mental Retardation

From: IDEA '97

(6) Mental retardation means significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Multiple Disabilities

From: IDEA '97

(7) Multiple disabilities means concomitant impairments (such as mental retardation-blindness, mental retardation-orthopedic impairment, etc.), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness.

Multiple Sclerosis

From: National Multiple Sclerosis Society (http://www.nmss.org/)

MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers of the CNS is a fatty tissue called myelin, which helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses.

In MS, myelin is lost in multiple areas, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis. These damaged areas are also known as plaques or lesions. Sometimes the nerve fiber itself is damaged or broken.

Myelin not only protects nerve fibers, but makes their job possible. When myelin or the nerve fiber is destroyed or damaged, the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain is disrupted, and this produces the various symptoms of MS.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

From: National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, involves anxious thoughts or rituals you feel you can't control. If you have OCD, you may be plagued by persistent, unwelcome thoughts or images, or by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals.

You may be obsessed with germs or dirt, so you wash your hands over and over. You may be filled with doubt and feel the need to check things repeatedly. You may have frequent thoughts of violence, and fear that you will harm people close to you. You may spend long periods touching things or counting; you may be pre-occupied by order or symmetry; you may have persistent thoughts of performing sexual acts that are repugnant to you; or you may be troubled by thoughts that are against your religious beliefs.

The disturbing thoughts or images are called obsessions, and the rituals that are performed to try to prevent or get rid of them are called compulsions. There is no pleasure in carrying out the rituals you are drawn to, only temporary relief from the anxiety that grows when you don't perform them.

A lot of healthy people can identify with some of the symptoms of OCD, such as checking the stove several times before leaving the house. But for people with OCD, such activities consume at least an hour a day, are very distressing, and interfere with daily life.

Most adults with this condition recognize that what they're doing is senseless, but they can't stop it. Some people, though, particularly children with OCD, may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.

OCD afflicts about 2.2 million adult Americans.1 It strikes men and women in approximately equal numbers and usually first appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.2 One-third of adults with OCD report having experienced their first symptoms as children. The course of the disease is variable—symptoms may come and go, they may ease over time, or they can grow progressively worse. Research evidence suggests that OCD might run in families.3

Depression or other anxiety disorders may accompany OCD,2,4 and some people with OCD also have eating disorders.6 In addition, people with OCD may avoid situations in which they might have to confront their obsessions, or they may try unsuccessfully to use alcohol or drugs to calm themselves.4,5 If OCD grows severe enough, it can keep someone from holding down a job or from carrying out normal responsibilities at home.

OCD generally responds well to treatment with medications or carefully targeted  psychotherapy.

Other Health Impairment

From: IDEA '97

(9) Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that-

(i) Is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia; and

(ii) Adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Orthopedic Impairment

From: IDEA '97

(8) Orthopedic impairment means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomaly (e.g., clubfoot, absence of some member, etc.), impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).

Schizophrenia

From: National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disease. Approximately 1 percent of the population develops schizophrenia during their lifetime—more than 2 million Americans suffer from the illness in a given year. Although schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency, the disorder often appears earlier in men, usually in the late teens or early twenties, than in women, who are generally affected in the twenties to early thirties. People with schizophrenia often suffer terrifying symptoms such as hearing internal voices not heard by others, or believing that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. These symptoms may leave them fearful and withdrawn. Their speech and behavior can be so disorganized that they may be incomprehensible or frightening to others. Available treatments can relieve many symptoms, but most people with schizohphrenia continue to suffer some symptoms throughout their lives; it has been estimated that no more than one in five individuals recovers completely.

Specific Learning Disability

From: IDEA '97

(10) Specific learning disability is defined as follows:

(i) General. The term means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

(ii) Disorders not included. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Speech or Language Impairment

From: IDEA '97

(11) Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Spina Bifida

From: Spina Bifida Association of America (http://www.sbaa.org/)

An estimated 70,000 people in the United States are currently living with spina bifida, the most common permanently disabling birth defect.  Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that happens in the first month of pregnancy when the spinal column doesn’t close completely. There are 60 million women at risk of having a baby born with spina bifida and each year, about 3,000 pregnancies are affected by this birth defect.

The effects of spina bifida are different for every person.  Up to 90 percent of children with the worst form of spina bifida havehydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and must have surgery to insert a “shunt” that helps drain the fluid—the shunt stays in place for the lifetime of the person.  Other conditions include full or partial paralysis,bladder and bowel control difficulties,learning disabilities,depression,latex allergy andsocial and sexual issues.

Tourette Syndrome

From: National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

TOURETTE SYNDROME is a brain disorder characterized by repeated involuntary movements and uncontrollable vocal sounds called tics. Tics may include repetitive eye blinking, head jerking, neck stretching, foot stamping, or body twisting and bending. In a few cases, such tics can include inappropriate words and phrases. It is not uncommon for a person with Tourette Syndrome to continuously clear his or her throat, cough, sniff, grunt, yelp, or shout. A few people with Tourette's engage in self-harming behaviors such as lip and cheek biting and head banging.

Traumatic Brain Injury

From: IDEA '97

(12) Traumatic brain injury means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

Visual Impairment Including Blindness

From: IDEA '97

(13) Visual impairment including blindness means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1401(3)(A) and (B); 1401(26))



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