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Multiple Disabilities - What Are Multiple Disabilities?


Updated April 22, 2014

Student with Visual Impairment

Student with Visual Impairment

Student with Visual Impairment - Getty
Definition: Multiple disabilities is a disability category under IDEA. As you might expect, children with multiple disabilities have two or more disabling conditions that affect learning or other important life functions. To qualify for special education services under this category, both of the student's disorders must be so significant that her educational needs could not be met in programs that are designed to address one of the disabilities alone.

A child with mental retardation* and a sensory impairment such as a visual impairment or blindness could be served under the category multiple disability. However, the IDEA regulations include one exception. Deaf-blindness is excluded under the category multiple disability.

*Please see my comments on the term mental retardation and the importance of person-first language.

People with multiple disabilities will need educational services targeting each area of disability.

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