The determination of severe cognitive disability is an ARD committee responsibility and is not linked to a specific disability. The student must have a documented cognitive disability that affects intellectual potential. Traditionally, this includes students with severe to profound cognitive impairments or mental retardation. They may also have additional significant disabilities, including physical impairments, sensory losses, behavior problems, and a variety of medical problems. Students with severe cognitive disabilities may exhibit a wide range of characteristics, depending on the combination and severity of disabilities and the students age, that may include, but are not limited to, the following.
- Limited speech or communication;
- Difficulty in basic physical mobility;
- Tendency to forget skills through disuse;
- Trouble generalizing skills from one situation to another; and/or
- A need for support in major life activities (e.g., domestic, leisure, community use, vocational).
Students with severe cognitive disabilities and multiple disabilities typically require an intensive individual education program of special education services that includes specially designed instruction, related services, assistive technology, school health services, and/or other services required for the provision of a free appropriate public education. Although services are frequently provided in a self-contained instructional setting, they may also include activities in other academic and non-academic inclusive settings. A multi-disciplinary team consisting of the student's parents, educational specialists, and medical specialists in the areas in which the student demonstrates problems should work together to plan and coordinate necessary services.