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A picture of traumatic brain injury identification policy in U.S. schools by state




Mathias, Kelsey, author
Sample, Pat L., advisor
Greene, David, committee member
Daunhauer, Lisa, committee member

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA, P.L. 108-446) gives definitions for each disability category and general eligibility criteria that apply to all of the disability categories. Each state is allowed by IDEA to have their own definitions for each category, and it is up to the individual states whether they require more specific guidelines for eligibility criteria or if they want to use what is written in the legislation. This study examines the definition and eligibility criteria each of the 50 states in the United States use specifically for the traumatic brain injury (TBI) disability category. In this nation-wide descriptive study, members of the Department of Education for each state were contacted either to verify definitions and eligibility criteria uncovered from existing documentation found through the National Association of State Head Injury Administrators and state Department of Education websites; update the data that were found; or provide data that were missing from the initial search. Results indicated that 45 states fit in the “federal definition category,” and 6 states fit in the “own definition category” for the TBI definitions. For eligibility criteria, 27 states fit in “medical identification,” 11 states fit in “discretion of IEP team,” and 12 states fit in the “no TBI specific criteria” category. Currently, all states identify less than 1% of students receiving special education services as having a TBI, with the exception of Massachusetts (5.11%). The findings of this study demonstrate the discontinuity within the states in the policies and procedures used to determine special education eligibility.


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special education
traumatic brain injury


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