Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA)
In 1974, the California State Board of Education (SBE) adopted a Master Plan for Special Education based on the principle that “education is for all children, regardless of differences in abilities.” The Master Plan was designed to correct identified weaknesses in California’s special education system. The previous system of support did not adequately address the diversity of incidence, the total number of individuals with exceptional needs, problems associated with being a small local educational agency (LEA), the need for program flexibility to meet local needs, and issues related to funding requirements. Additionally, it did not include a logical data collection and reporting system. As a result of the identified shortfalls, the Master Plan addressed (among other things), the need for:
- A cleaner delineation of responsibility for the provision of special education at the state, county, and local level.
- Coordinated improvements related to special class programs offered by LEAs, county superintendents of schools, state, and private schools.
- A system to collect information and properly evaluate special education programs.
- An equitable system of financial support for special education which promotes improved programs and fiscal accountability.
In short, there was an overall need to clearly delineate the responsibilities of LEAs for providing special education and ensuring full accountability. The Master Plan also established levels of responsibilities to eliminate duplication of duties and specified the responsibilities of the SBE and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) regarding local plans. It initiated the idea and creation of local accountability agencies. Today, there are over 135 SELPAs in the state. The SELPA governance structures vary in form, including models for Multi-District SELPAs, Multi-District/County Office SELPAs, Single District SELPAs, Multi-District/Multi-County SELPAs, County SELPAs with Joint Powers Agreements, and Charter only SELPAs. Each SELPA's comprehensive Local Plan describes how it provides special education services pursuant to the Education Code.
Areas of Disability
A child shall qualify as an individual with exceptional needs, pursuant to Education Code section 56026, if the results of the assessment, as required by Education Code section 56320, demonstrate the degree of the child's impairment. It requires special education in one or more of the program options authorized by Education Code section 56361. The decision as to whether or not the assessment results demonstrate the degree of the child's impairment requires that special education shall be made by the IEP team, including personnel in accordance with Education Code section 56341(b). The IEP team shall take into account all the relevant material which is available on the child. No single score or product of scores shall be used as the sole criterion for the decision of the IEP team as to the child's eligibility for special education. The disability terms used in defining an individual with exceptional needs are as follows:
Intellectual Disability (ID) Intellectual Disability means significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior, and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Hard of hearing (HH) Hard of Hearing means hearing, impairment, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance, but that is not included under the definition of deaf in this section. Deafness (DEAF)/Hearing impairment (HI) Deafness means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through learning, with or without amplification, which adversely affects educational performance. Hearing Impairment is a federal category of disability, which includes both hard of hearing and deaf individuals as defined above. Speech or language impairment (SLI) Speech or Language Impairment means a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Visual impairment (VI) Visually Impaired, including blindness, means impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partially seeing and blind children. Emotional disturbance (ED) Emotional Disturbance means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics, over a long period of time and to a marked degree, that adversely affects educational performance: (A) An inability to learn which cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; (B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; (C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feeling under normal circumstances; (D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or (E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. The term (ED) includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance. Orthopedic impairment (OI) Orthopedic Impairment means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomalies (e.g., clubfoot, absence of some member, etc.), impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns which cause contractures). Other health impairment (OHI) Other Health Impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, or diabetes, which adversely affects a child's educational performance. 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, which adversely affects educational performance. The term applies to both open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. The term does not include brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, nor brain injuries induced by birth trauma. Specific learning disability (SLD) Specific Learning Disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. Deaf-blindness (DB) Deaf-Blindness means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness. Multiple disabilities (MD) Multiple Disabilities means concomitant impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment, etc.,) the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blind children. Autism (AUT) Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, which adversely affects educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism include, engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not does not apply if a child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance. A child who manifests characteristics of autism after age three, that child could be diagnosed as having autism if the criteria in the above paragraph are satisfied.