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How to Read an IEP Eligibility Page

If you want to know how to read an IEP eligibility page, then this blog post is for you. Whether you are a new teacher or a veteran teacher, reading an IEP can be overwhelming. IDEA covers 13 categories of disability. In order to qualify for special education services, students must be adversely affected in one of these categories. An IEP is written when students are determined to be eligible for special education services. If you’ve ever wondered how to read an IEP, this post is a good place to start. The eligibility page of an IEP will give you important information on the student’s qualification.

The 13 Categories of Qualification

There are 13 categories of disability for an IEP. It’s important to remember that not all students who struggle will qualify for an IEP or special education services. IDEA states that a student’s school performance must be ‘adversely affected’ in one of the 13 categories in order to qualify for special education services.

The 13 disability categories are:

  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Visual Impairment, Including Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Multiple Disability

Ways to Qualify

I’ve always found it interesting, how things vary amongst states and districts considering IDEA is a federal law. However, they do vary. States can make laws that provide more protections that IDEA but they can’t provide less protections or contradict IDEA. So, I’ll be sharing 3 ways students in my district can qualify for an IEP. I want to make it clear, that this not the only 3 ways and they may vary by district/state.

  1. Strengths and Weaknesses: An academic assessment is completed. The scores are then compared to determine if the child is performing higher in one academic area than another. For instance, a high score in decoding but a lower score in math calculation may indicate a math learning disability.
  2. Discrepancy Model: A child’s academic and psychological scores are compared. If a child has an IQ score that is significantly higher than their academic scores, it may indicate a student requires special education services.
  3. Cognitive Scores: A student with a low IQ may qualify for services a student with an intellectual disability. Another type of assessment is called an adaptive assessment. An adaptive assessment will give insight into how a student is performing in every day life.
  4. Medical Diagnosis: A student with a medical diagnosis, for instance ADHD, may qualify for special education services. This requires documentation from the child’s pediatrician.

What else is included on the eligibility page?

The eligibility page will include a summary of assessments provided and information related to the student’s education. Attendance, previous assessment scores, and classroom performance are typically included. The eligibility page also typically gives information like whether this is an initial IEP or a reevaluation. Knowing how to read an IEP eligibility page is a critical part of understanding the IEP.

Questions to Ask

Whether you are the parent, general education teacher, special education teacher, or some other member of the IEP team, it’s always a good idea to come prepared with a list of questions. Here’s some questions you might want to ask at the meeting:

  • Which of the 13 categories will the student qualify for an IEP in?
  • What testing was completed to determine eligibility? Were areas like physical therapy and occupational therapy addressed? Or, was it just psychological and academic testing?)
  • How did the child perform on testing? Ask questions about scores as well as general performance. Ask if the child was hungry, tired, cooperative, sad, distracted, etc. during testing.
  • If the child did not qualify, what are the next steps for the student? Are there other supports available for the student? Consider things like a 504, tutoring, reading intervention, etc.
  • The child is eligible for special education services, so when will the IEP be written? IDEA states that an IEP must be written within 30 days of determining eligibility. But, as mentioned above, a state or district can have stricter requirements. So, it may not take all 30 days.


Hopefully, you now know how to read an IEP eligibility page. With the help of the post, you’ve learned some questions that you might want to ask at an IEP meeting, learned the different models that can be used to qualify a student, and have learned the names of the 13 disability categories that IDEA recognizes.

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