Ask the Experts

What’s In a Classification?

My son has ADHD and a reading disability, and we are starting the process of getting him an IEP. In terms of the protections granted to him under IDEA, does it matter whether he is classified as “other health impaired” (OHI) or as having a “specific learning disability” (SLD)?

Usually not. IDEA classifications encompass 13 categories of disability, and OHI and SLD are two of the most frequently encountered.

Think of these categories as keys that open the door to services. Once a student is classified under any of the categories, he is entitled to a “free, appropriate, public education” designed to address all of his areas of disability, even those falling under a different category. So, for example, a student who is classified as OHI because of his ADHD may receive services to address his reading disability or speech and language impairment.

The only time certain classifications might make a difference is when you apply to a special education school that is approved by your state for students with some classifications but not others. If this situation were to arise, you could ask for an IEP meeting to have your child’s classification changed. Many parents have done this, and their children have performed well.

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