Non Categorical Developmental Delay


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) is the federal law with the regulations that outline the disability categories for students to receive special education services and related services. There are thirteen categories listed in IDEIA that the states must use as guides in determining if students are eligible for services.

"Developmental Delay" is the term that that IDEIA uses for children aged three through nine years who have delays in physical, cognitive, communicative, social emotional, and/or adaptive development, and who, because of these delays, require special education. Each state is expected to specify a subset of the group outlined in IDEIA. Texas has named this category "Non-Categorical Early Childhood" and has specified that children who are eligible for special education service under this eligibility are those who are between the ages of three and five years and who have been evaluated as having Mental Retardation, Emotional Disturbance, Specific Learning Disability, or Autism.

Prior to receiving special education services, each child must be evaluated according to state and federal guidelines. The evaluation must be conducted by professionals who are qualified and by the parents of the child. The professionals and the parents are also members of the Admission, Review, and/or Dismissal (Individual Education Program) committee. This committee has the responsibility of reviewing the information derived from tests, parent input, teacher input, and other sources, then deciding whether or not a child is eligible for special education and related services. If the committee determines the child needs special education.


There is no data available that reflects an accurate count of children served as "Non-Categorical Early Childhood."


The children served in this category are from three to five years old. Their characteristics vary with the disability category determined by the Admission, Review and Dismissal committee.

Impact on Learning

The intent of providing special education and related services to a young child who has been evaluated as having mental retardation, emotional disturbance, specific learning disability or autism is to lessen the effects that the disability or delay may have on the child. Assessment can be challenging for a young child because of short attention spans and varied experiences. The support given early in the child’s life helps to create a foundation for future learning. Services are designed by the evaluation to meet a child's needs in physical development, cognitive development, communication, social or emotional development, and adaptive development.

Teaching Strategies

The children identified in this category are young. Their educational needs will vary with the characteristics of the associated disability categories and with the skills, the culture, the preferences, the interests, and the experiences the children have. The children who are evaluated as having developmental delays and who require special education should have programs that are appropriate to their development and that will build on their skills. These programs should be connected to general education in a way that prepares the children to learn and move through general education. In order for this to happen, the programs must have flexibility, comprehensiveness, and activities that evaluate and measure progress of each child and the programs that serve them. Children learn through activities in which they participate actively. The activities should be adapted and individualized, by changing the content, by providing supports that promote learning, and by making the materials and toys usable, based on the information gathered about the children’s progress throughout the year.

Assistive Technology

The educational needs of this group of children may involve how they think and remember, how they feel and interpret motions and actions, how they move, and how they communicate. As each child is evaluated, the assistive technology that will be necessary for the child to learn will vary. These items may range from a daily calendar made of photographs showing routine activities, to a rocking chair, a set of headphones for blocking noises, or other tools that enable the express needs or interests.


Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children

DEC is an international organization of members who work with or for young children with disabilities and other special needs. The primary goal of this organization is to identify practices that result in better achievements for young children with disabilities, their families, and the personnel who serve them. The practices are from research on effective practices for young children with disabilities, their families, and the personnel who work with them as well as the knowledge and experience of the people who work with young children and their families.

Division for Early Childhood
27 Fort Missoula Road, Suite 2
Missoula, MT 59804

Phone: (406) 543-0872
Fax: (406) 543-0887
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (MST)

National Association for the Education of Young Children

The NAEYC is an organization focused on the development and education of children, including children with disabilities and developmental delays. There are position papers available on the website that promote and explain these ideals as well as ideas for teachers to use in their classrooms. (To locate state affiliates, )

Texas AEYC
Kris Curtis, President
P.O. Box 4997
Austin, TX 37212-0096


Texas Project FIRST (Families, Information, Resources, Support, Training)

This site was "(c)reated by parents, for parents" and is a project of the Texas Education Agency. The purpose is to provide accurate and consistent information to parents and families of students with disabilities. There are listings for laws and regulations, an introduction to special education, parent training, a glossary of terms, acronyms, and links and contact information for conferences and public input.

The TEA Parent Information Line: 1-800-252-9668
The Statewide Parent Training and Information Center: 1-800-866-4726


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