Developmental Delay Eligibility

  • Guiding Principles

    As with any eligibility decision, the question of eligibility for special education under the category of Developmental Delay is an important one. Special education can provide much needed supports and insight for students with disabilities. At the same time, the identification for special education can impact the ways a student experiences school, and the mindset of the learner and those around them.

    Developmental Delay (DD) means: an acquisition deficit that cannot be described by another category of Special Education eligibility. If a child meets the eligibility criteria for any other eligibility, they would not also be identified for DD eligibility.

    DD eligibility requires a student to be 1.5 standard deviations or more below the mean in 2 or more developmental areas or domains and also experience an adverse impact on developmental progress (for Early Childhood Special Education) or educational performance (for School Age Special Education). The developmental areas are:

    • Communication - includes expressive and/or receptive language skills
    • Adaptive - includes general self-help and independence skills
    • Physical - includes gross and/or fine motor skills 
    • Social/Emotional - includes social skills acquisition and broad emotional functioning
    • Cognitive - includes problem solving and skills of acquiring, retrieving, processing and using information

    *Please note that Sensory Processing is not a consideration for Developmental Delay.


    As with any important educational decision, determination of a disability in the category of Developmental Delay cannot be based on any single piece of data (test, assessment, observation, etc.). An evaluation must include a variety of assessment tools and strategies, including input from the student’s parents and an observation of the student’s academic performance and behavior in the general education classroom.

    When determining eligibility for culturally and linguistically diverse students, it is important for teams to consider impacts of culture and language on the student’s cognitive, linguistic, social-emotional, and academic performance. Evaluation tools should be selected carefully and teams should be very cautious about identifying an Emerging Bilingual student with a Developmental Delay, particularly in the areas of communication, cognitive, and social/emotional.   

    When considering a Developmental Delay, the team should consider the developmental level of the child and the range of previous instruction and experiences. A student may struggle for many reasons other than a disability or developmental delay.


    Procedural Guidance


    When considering Developmental Delay (DD), the Child Study team should have explored additional supports through 2 rounds of specific targeted interventions and progress monitoring using apples-to-apples data, relevant to the presenting concern at the time of initial evaluation. (See Child Study Guidance).


    Evaluation/Eligibility Considerations:

    DD eligibility is available to students aged 3 through 9 years old. Services lapse at the end of the day before the student’s 10th birthday. Teams should be aware of the limitations of considering DD as an initial eligibility category for a student who has already turned age 8, since DD eligibility and IEP services expire the day before a student’s 10th birthday.

    For a student whose initial evaluation is conducted following enrollment in kindergarten, to be found eligible with a Developmental Delay, any relevant categorical eligibilities must be ruled out before DD can be considered (for example, Communication Disorder, Emotional Disturbance, Other Health Impairment). They need to demonstrate delays in 2 areas of developmental skills: 

    • Cognitive
    • Communication (receptive and/or expressive)
    • Motor (fine motor and/or gross motor)
    • Social or Emotional
    • Adaptive 

    There may be rare situations where a student would be found eligible for DD instead of another category of eligibility. Specifically, a student is initially considered for an articulation delay and the team determines that they also have significant delays in fine motor skills. Instead of finding the student eligible under Communication Disorder, the team may determine that the combination of articulation and fine motor delays are more accurately described by the Developmental Delay eligibility.

    After a team has collected evaluation data for an initial categorical evaluation that leads them to suspect a Developmental Delay, they will contact the family prior to the eligibility determination meeting to discuss the possibility of DD, and if needed, will gain consent for any additional evaluation tools/procedures.


    When a child with eligibility for Developmental Delay has a 3 year re-evaluation due

    • The team should first consider another eligibility category rather than automatically renewing the DD eligibility. The team will follow the re-evaluation planning process using the WLWV Re-Evaluation Planning Form. 
    • When a student is in Kindergarten through age 8, a team may determine that they do not suspect another eligibility category; however, at the child’s 9th birthday, the team needs to consider further evaluation for another eligibility category since the DD eligibility and IEP services expire automatically once the student turns 10 years old.
    • Children can be exited from the DD eligibility prior to aging out when the team has determined that another disability category more appropriately describes the child’s needs or that the child no longer requires special education services. The team should follow the re-evaluation planning process. 


    When teams are unsure about consideration of eligibility for a Developmental Delay, they are encouraged to contact the Early Childhood Evaluation Team for consultation. 


    Evaluation Procedures:  

    File Review -  A review of relevant existing information as determined by the team, including but not limited to:

    • Information from parent(s)
    • Student’s cumulative records
    • Previous testing
    • Previous IEPs or IFSPs
    • State assessment/District assessment information
    • Medical data

    Developmental History - gathering information regarding the following:

    • Prenatal and birth history, including prenatal exposure to alcohol, prescription and nonprescription medications and other drugs
    • Meeting of developmental milestones
    • Socialization and behavioral patterns
    • Health and physical/medical history - including vision and hearing screening information
    • Family and environmental factors
    • Trauma or significant stress

    Norm Referenced Tests in at least two areas of suspected delay:

    • Standardized assessments in the areas of concern related to suspected categorical eligibility (i.e.: communication, cognitive (adaptive), autism, emotional disturbance, motor)
    • Other standardized assessments specific to Developmental Delay considerations: Battelle Developmental Inventory, 2nd Edition - NU (ages birth - 7 years) - these can also be used as an additional procedure for standardized assessments in the previous bullet

    At least one additional procedure to confirm the child’s level of functioning in each area of suspected developmental delay.  Additional procedures vary for individual students and the areas of suspected developmental delay, and could include:

    • Battelle Developmental Inventory, 2nd Edition - NU
    • Teacher/Parent report
    • Observation
    • Work samples
    • Criterion-Referenced assessments
    • Pre-referral intervention with progress monitoring data
    • Outside evaluation information, that was administered within 6 months of the evaluation in process.


    • A  minimum of one 20-minute observation of the student

    Any other evaluative data used by the team, i.e.: outside evaluation data, tools used but not listed in other sections of the eligibility document.


    Criteria for eligibility:

    If a team determines that a child is not eligible for another eligibility category, that eligibility documentation needs to be completed, and then consider DD eligibility.

    • Children between the ages of three years through nine years old who demonstrate  delays of at least 1.5 standard deviations below the mean in two or more developmental skills areas:
      • Physical development: Fine Motor and/or Gross Motor
      • Communication: Receptive Communication and/or Expressive Communication, and possibly articulation
      • Cognitive: Use Global Cognitive Score, or Non-Verbal Index (KABC-II, Leiter-3), not individual index scores to determine cognitive delay
      • Social/Emotional: Use Index scores on the BASC (Externalizing Problems, Internalizing Problems, Behavioral Symptoms Index, Adaptive Skills), Use SSIS Index Scores (Social Skills and Problem Behaviors)
      • Adaptive: comprehensive score
    • Exclusionary Factors -- a child may not be determined to have a disability if student's struggles are due to one  or more of the following:
      • Lack of appropriate instruction in reading, including the essential components of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency (including oral reading skills), and comprehension strategies)
      • Lack of  instruction in math
      • Limited English Proficiency
      • Another disability


    Individual Education Program (IEP) Services:

    There must be Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) with a goal for each identified area of developmental delay.

    SDI for any specific motor component would be under the supervision of the Learning Specialist as the “role responsible for monitoring.” The identified motor discipline (OT or PT) would be listed as the related service provider and/or consultant.



    Crosswalk document
    DD in School Age - February 2019
    ODE Eligibility document with guidance




    Under Construction