The Bemidji Area Schools Special Education staff recognizes that receiving a “label” or diagnosis is helpful in providing proper services for the student.  However, it often has emotional implications for the student and family.  To assist with this, the following information is provided to increase understanding of the definition of the labels or disability areas as they are used on IEPs.

If you have questions regarding any disability, please click on the “Special Education Contacts” on the left. This link will provide you with a list of Related Services Staff to assist you. 


Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life.  The result of a neurological disorder that affects functioning of the brain, autism and its associated behaviors occur in approximately 15 of every 10,000 individuals.  Autism interferes with the normal development of the brain the areas of reasoning, social interaction and communication skills.

Children and adults with autism typically have deficiencies in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.  The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world.  They may exhibit repeated body movements, unusual responses to people or attachments to objects and resist any changes in routines.  In some cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present.

Deaf / Blindness (D/B)

Deaf/blindness means medically verified visual impairment coupled with medically verified hearing impairment that, together, interfere with acquiring information or interacting with the environment.

Developmental Adaptive Physical Education (DAPE)

Developmental adapted physical education means specially designed physical education instruction and services for pupils with disabilities who have a substantial delay or disorder in physical development. 

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

Early childhood special education is available for children age birth through age 6.  Children receive services if there is a substantial delay or disorder in development or have an identifiable sensory, physical, mental, or social emotional condition or impairment known to hinder normal development.

Emotional / Behavioral Disorders (EBD)

Emotional or behavioral disorder means an established pattern characterized by one or more of the following behavior clusters: an inability to learn which cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors; an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances; a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears in association with personal or school problems.

Deaf Hard Of Hearing (D/HH)

Hearing impairment is the term used to describe the wide range of hearing loss in persons, whether temporary or permanent, slight or profound.  It is important to remember that while profound deafness is the most dramatic form of hearing impairment, the vast majority of people with hearing impairments have some usable hearing.

Other Health Disability (OHD)

Other health impaired means a broad range of medically diagnosed chronic or acute health conditions that may adversely affect academic functioning and extra-curricular participation, resulting in the need for special education instruction and related services.

Physically Impaired (PI)

Physically impaired means a medically diagnosed, chronic, physical impairment.  The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomaly (birth defect), impairments caused by disease, and impairments from other causes.

Severely Multiply Impaired (SMI)

Severely multiply impaired refers to children with more than one serious disability (e.g. hearing impaired, physically impaired, moderate – severe mentally impaired, visually impaired, emotional or behavior disorders, autism), the combination of which causes such severe educational problems that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments.

Specific Learning Disability (LD)

Specific learning disabilities are a chronic condition of presumed neurological origin, which selectively interferes with the development, integration, and/or demonstration of verbal and/or non-verbal abilities.  Specific learning disabilities exist as a distinct disabling condition in the presence of average to superior intelligence, adequate sensory and motor systems, and adequate learning opportunities.  The condition varies in its manifestations and in degree of severity.  Most children with learning disabilities are average to above average in intelligence but there is severe discrepancy in achievement and intellectual ability in one or more of the academic areas.  Children with learning disabilities may have problems learning to read, write, spell, compute or listen.  They may also have difficulty expressing their thoughts verbally or in writing.

Speech or Language (S/L)

Speech impairments are defined as a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment, or a voice impairment, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance.  Communication disorders can be characterized by problems in any one or a combination of the following: articulation or phonological problems are problems related to the sounds in a language.  Errors might be omissions, substitutions, or distortions of sounds; voice disorders are usually identified as significant deviations in pitch, loudness, or tonal quality; language disorders include a wide range of problems relating to a child’s understanding of what others say (receptive disorders) or to his or her ability to express ideas in words and sentences (expressive disorders); stuttering is a disorder which may cause a child to repeat initial sounds or whole words, to prolong certain sounds, or have a complete block with no speech at all.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

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 may adversely affect a child’s educational performance.

Visually Impaired (VI)

Visually impaired means a medically verified visual impairment accompanied by limitations in sight that interfere with acquiring information or interaction with the environment to the extent that special education instruction and related services may be needed.  Visual disorders fall into 3 basic categories: visual malfunctions which can be corrected with lenses; visual impairments which adversely affect sight even with corrective lenses; and severe vision impairments which affect sight to such an extent that alternative methods must be used to read and travel.