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Wellness Integration for Students of Hillsborough (WISH)

Wellness Integration for Students of Hillsborough (WISH)

Exceptional Student Education

Hillsborough County Public Schools Exceptional Student Education Department is comprised of administration, teachers and other district level school staff who are assigned to provide support and services to students with disabilities in need of special education services and to students identified as gifted.

Hillsborough County Public Schools serves over 29,000 students with disabilities from birth to 21 in over 250 schools. The continuum of services for most of these students can be provided in their neighborhood school. The District is broken down into eight areas and has an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Team in each one that can assist parents with questions about services. For more information regarding Exceptional Student Education, follow this link:

Florida State Board of Education Rules define the following disability categories:

Autism Spectrum Disorder – ASD
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is defined to be a range of pervasive developmental disorders that adversely affects a student’s functioning and results in the need for specially designed instruction and related services. ASD is characterized by an uneven developmental profile and pattern of qualitative impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of restricted repetitive, and/or stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. These characteristics may manifest in a variety of combinations and range from mild to severe. ASD may include autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, Asperger’s disorder, or other related pervasive developmental disorders.

Deaf/Hard of Hearing – DHH
A student who is deaf or hard-of-hearing has a hearing loss, aided or unaided, that impacts the processing of linguistic information and which adversely affects performance in the educational environment. The degree of loss may range from mild to profound.

Developmental Delay
A child identified as developmentally delayed is three (3) through (5) years of age and is delayed in one (1) or more of the following areas: adaptive or self-help development; cognitive development; communication development; social or emotional development; physical development including fine, or gross, or perceptual motor.

Duel-Sensory Impaired
A student identified as dual-sensory impairment affecting both vision and hearing, the combination of which causes a serious impairment in the abilities to acquire information, communicate, or function within the environment, or who has a degenerative condition which will lead to such impairment.

Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities – EBD
A student with an emotional/behavioral disability (E/BD) has persistent (is not sufficiently responsive to implemented evidence-based interventions) and consistent emotional or behavioral responses that adversely affect performance in the educational environment that cannot be attributed to age, culture, gender, or ethnicity.

A student who is gifted is one who has superior intellectual development and is capable of high performance.

A homebound or hospitalized student is a student who has a medically diagnosed physical or psychiatric condition that is acute or catastrophic in nature, or a chronic illness or a repeated intermittent illness due to a persisting medical problem, which confines the student to home or hospital and restricts activities for an extended period of time. The medical diagnosis shall be made by a licensed physician. For more information, please follow this link:

Intellectual Disabilities – InD
An intellectual disability is defined as significantly below average general intellectual functioning and adaptive functioning manifested during the developmental period, with significant delays in academic skills. Developmental period refers to birth to 18 years of age.

Language Impairment - LI
Language impairments are disorders of language that interfere with communication, adversely affect performance and/or functioning in the student’s typical learning environment, and result in the need for exceptional student education.

Orthopedic Impairment - OI
Orthopedic impairment means a severe skeletal, muscular, or neuromuscular impairment. The term includes impairments resulting from congenital anomalies (e.g., including, but not limited to, skeletal deformity or spina bifida) and impairments resulting from other causes (e.g., including, but not limited to, cerebral palsy or amputations).

Other Health Impairment - OHI
Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that is due to chronic or acute health problems. This includes, but is not limited to, asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and acquired brain injury.

Specific Learning disabilities – SLD
A specific learning disability is defined as a disorder in one or more of the basic learning processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest in significant difficulties affecting the ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematics. Associated conditions may include, but are not limited to, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, or developmental aphasia. A specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of a visual, hearing, motor, intellectual, or emotional/behavioral disability, limited English proficiency, or environmental, cultural, or economic factors.

Speech/Language Impaired – SLI
Speech impairments are disorders of speech sounds, fluency, or voice that interfere with communication, adversely affect performance and/or functioning in the educational environment, and result in the need for exceptional student education.

Traumatic Brain Injured – TBI
A traumatic brain injury means an injury to the brain caused by a fall or strike resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that negatively affects educational performance. The term applies to mild, moderate, or severe, open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one (1) 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, or speech. The term does not include brain injuries that are congenital (birth defect), degenerative (gradual), or induced by birth trauma.

Visually Impaired – VI
Students who are visually impaired include the following: a student who is blind, has no vision, or has little potential for using vision; and a student who has low vision. The term visual impairment does not include students who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual perceptual and/or motor difficulties.


If your child is receiving Exceptional Student Education, then you may have heard these initials but not the words they stand for. The descriptions below are meant only as a very brief explanation of exceptionalities.

ADA Americans with Disabilities Act
ADD Attention Deficit Disorder
AIS Academic Intervention Specialist
CEC Council for Exceptional Children
EBD Emotional Behavioral Disorder
EELP Early Exceptional Learning Program
ELP Extended Learning Program
ESE Exceptional Student Education
FDLRS Florida Diagnostic Learning and Resource System
SLD Specific Learning Disability
VE Varying Exceptionalities
VI Visually Impaired

For complete listing of Acronyms, please click here.

Project Parent Liaison
At times, the letters and initials, paperwork, meetings and student accommodation meanings can be confusing. If you would like some help navigating the system, contact a Parent Liaison. The Area Parent Liaisons (one for each of the eight geographic areas of the district) are all parents of students who are, or have been, enrolled in exceptional education programs in Hillsborough County. Their role is to guide and empower parents to become collaborative, effective supporters for their children with disabilities by providing technical support and information such as:

  • Facilitating communication and information between parents and schools
  • Providing guidance on navigating the exceptional education process
  • Participating in district and community agency committees
  • Providing assistance to schools in implementing parent involvement strategies
  • Offering information and support to parents transitioning from Early Steps or other early intervention programs
  • Attending Individual Education Plan (IEP) or other educational planning meetings upon request

If you would like more information, please access this link: or you may call Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System, Parent Services at 813-837-7732

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