Special Education

Federal Guidance on Students with Disabilities with High Cognition

June 2015


From: James P. DeLorenzo
Subject: Federal Guidance on Students with Disabilities with High Cognition

The purpose of this memorandum is to remind school districts of their obligation to evaluate all students suspected of having a disability regardless of their cognitive skills. In a December 20, 2013 letter to Dr. Jim Delisle (Letter to Delisle), the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs provided guidance and clarification regarding determining eligibility for special education programs and services for students with disabilities with high cognition. The Letter to Delisle specifically addresses students with high cognition who may be eligible for special education programs and services as a student with a learning disability but also cites the broader requirements that:

  • an individual evaluation must include a variety of assessment tools and strategies to
    gather relevant functional, developmental and academic information about the student that may assist in determining whether the student is a student with a disability [See 8 NYCRR section 200.4(b)]; and
  • no single measure or assessment is used as the sole criterion for determining whether a student is a student with a disability or for determining an appropriate educational program for a student [See 8 NYCRR section 200.4(b)(6)(v)].

School districts should review the attached federal guidance to ensure their district's procedures relating to individual evaluations are consistent with federal and State standards.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Please share this memorandum and the Letter to Delisle with appropriate staff, including Directors of Special Education, Committee on Special Education Chairpersons, Directors of Pupil Personnel Service, as well as Parent Teacher Associations. Questions on this memorandum should be directed to the Special Education Policy Unit at (518) 473-2878 or to the Special Education Quality Assurance Office in your region:

Central Regional Office (315) 428-4556
Eastern Regional Office (518) 486-6366
Hudson Valley Regional Office (518) 473-1185
Long Island Regional Office (631) 952-3352
New York City Regional Office (718) 722-4544
Western Regional Office (585) 344-2002
Nondistrict Unit (518) 473-1185

NOTE: The full text for this memo is available from the PDF version: 

Last Updated: June 4, 2015