Specific Disability Information

RIDE’s Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports (OSCAS) is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 22.

What is Autism?

Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences." IDEA 2004


Social and emotional learning is important for all students, but some students may have more intense challenges and need more support than that which is provided to all students through general education interventions.

Some students with social, emotional and behavioral challenges may be eligible for special education and related services due to an emotional disturbance.

The Definition of Emotional Disturbance, according to RI Regulations, is as follows:

i. 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 a child’s educational performance:

A. An inability to learn that 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 feelings under normal circumstances.

D.A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

E. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

ii. Emotional disturbance includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance under (c) (4) (i) of this section.

Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities, (300.8(c)(4)(i))

The regulation specifies three criteria that must be present in order to meet the definition of “Emotional Disturbance”.  All three of these criteria must be present for at least one of the Characteristics listed.

Module on Eligibility for Emotional Disturbance


"Over a long period of time” is typically refers to behavior occurring for approximately 6 months with substantial risk that the pattern of inappropriate behavior will continue.  However, there may also be a pattern of behavior that is so severe, intense and/or unsafe of shorter duration that the team may need to consider.

“To a marked degree” means the student exhibits inappropriate behavior with significant frequency, intensity and duration which is very different when compared to others of a similar age and background.   Teams should ensure they have a basic understanding of the student’s ethnicity, cultural norms and values.  Typically, the behavior is observed in multiple settings (school, home, community) by more than one knowledgeable observer.  The student is unresponsive to direct interventions offered or available in the general education setting.  The behavior is not the result of a developmental phase or a particular situation, such as a death in the family, divorce, moving to a new school or injury.

“Adversely affects a child’s educational performance” means that there is a negative effect on their educational performance. “Education is about more than just academics, and includes physical, emotional, and social needs as well, since special education is designed to prepare students for further education, employment, and independent living” according to Ronald Lospennato, Esq. (Legal Director of the Disability Rights Center) in an analysis of a Maine First Circuit Court Decision.  Care should be taken to ensure a child’s cultural background and previously taught behaviors are not the cause of the problem(s).   A student may perform in a way that appears to be an emotional disturbance, but may really be the result of direct differences in values and experiences.

The Rhode Island Vision Education and Services Program (RIVESP) at the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College, supported by the Rhode Island Department of Education, provides specialized teaching and consultation services to children who are legally blind or visually impaired, their families, and educational staff. (Visual impairment including blindness means impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.)  Direct and consultative services are provided by state certified Teachers of Children with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility Specialists using an itinerant model. The array of services available encompasses educational, social, recreational, and vocational skills needed for successful integration.

Get in Touch!

Amy Grattan, Program Coordinator

Rhode Island Vision Education and Services Program

Sherlock Center on Disabilities

600 Mt. Pleasant Avenue

Providence, RI 02908

Telephone (401) 456-8976

Email: agrattan@ric.edu 


Mary Ann Mello

RI Department of Education

Office for Student, Community & Academic Supports

Telephone (401) 222-8404

Email: maryann.mello@ride.ri.gov

Be Informed!

Every child who is deaf or has hearing loss deserves fully accessible and appropriate environments that meet his or her unique educational, social, linguistic and communication needs and ensure that s/he becomes an independent, contributing citizen. This requires us all to harness the talents of informed families, competent professionals and the linguistically and culturally diverse Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing communities.

Learn more about educational programs for children who are deaf or have hearing loss

Connect with Resources

Overview: The Rhode Island Auditory Oral Program offers a statewide educational option for eligible children who are deaf or hard of hearing to learn to listen and talk as their primary way of communicating and learning.  Developed to meet the unique needs of this subgroup of children with hearing loss, the RI Auditory Oral Program opened in April 2005 through a collaboration amongst the Rhode Island Department of Education, the Rhode Island School for the Deaf, the Cranston School Department and other participating school districts, and the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The only one of its kind in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Auditory Oral Program is currently located at Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School in Foster.


Mission:  The mission of the Rhode Island Auditory Oral Program is to provide specialized auditory oral programming for children with hearing loss who benefit from hearing technology and who demonstrate a strong potential for learning to listen and speak.  Our commitment is to prepare children for an education in their community schools by providing them with the tools they will need for successful inclusion and achievement.  In addition, we strive to empower their families with the knowledge and confidence necessary to support their children in their life long journeys. 


Specialized Instruction:  Individual student needs are targeted through implementation of specialized instruction and use of best practices in auditory oral instruction. Highly qualified teachers of the deaf apply the Rhode Island Early Learning Standards and the Common Core Standards adopted by Rhode Island. The program is currently housed at Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School in Foster. Other program components include:

  • Acoustically engineered listening environments for consistently effective access to instruction.  This includes synchronized sound field and personal HAT (Hearing Assitive Technology), structural facility accommodations as necessary, and ongoing consultation with local educational audiologists.
  • Highly qualified Teachers of the Deaf specially trained in auditory-oral intervention for children who are deaf and learning to listen and talk using cochlear implant and hearing technology.
  • For school-aged children, specially designed inclusion opportunities supported in regular education classrooms by a Teacher of the Deaf and Oral Language Facilitator.
  • Daily individual and small group auditory training with an Auditory Oral Speech/Language Pathologist.
  • Ongoing consultation with regional hearing centers as part of the management of hearing technology

Parent Involvement: Parent participation in individual intervention sessions, either in person or virtually, ensures that children have the full opportunity to integrate and solidify emerging listening skills and spoken communication through planned practice woven into their daily life at school and at home.

Multidisciplinary Team:  The Rhode Island Auditory Oral Program is supported by a multi-disciplinary team of professionals with knowledge and training in working with children who are deaf or hard of hearing and who are utilizing hearing technology.  This multi-disciplinary team includes a staff Occupational Therapist, as well as a physical therapist, school psychologist, general education teachers, and other related service providers, as appropriate for a child's needs.

Early Intervention:  The Auditory Oral Program works in partnership with the Rhode Island Early Intervention system and the Rhode Island Department of Human Services to provide early auditory oral intervention for families who have chosen listening and spoken language as a communication modality for their child with hearing loss, as well as families who are exploring their options.  Early intervention focuses on family-centered strategies for promoting oral communication and auditory development at home.

Outreach:  In support of its mission to prepare children for and support children in successfully accessing education within their community schools, services are available to districts around the state.  Specific services include, but are not limited to:

  • Educational in-service training to school staff regarding hearing loss, personal hearing technology and HAT (Hearing Assistive Technology) systems, classroom/school acoustics, and effective teaching strategies.
  • Hearing technology support for cochlear implants, hearing aids, and HAT systems, as well as district technology management.
  • Environmental assessment of classroom/school acoustics and recommendations for modifications.
  • Consultation to school staff about implementation of instructional strategies and best practice for students with hearing loss.
  • Oral Teacher of the Deaf providing direct specialized instruction to ensure educational progress in light of the impact of auditory and linguistic impact of hearing loss.

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Rosendale, M.E.D., CED


Rhode Island Auditory Oral Program



State Criteria for Specific Learning Disabilities

On December 19, 2007 the Board of Regents voted to promulgate special education regulations. As part of these regulations, the Rhode Island Department of Education must establish state criteria for Specific Learning Disabilities. The Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Approved the State Criteria for Specific Learning Disabilities June 4, 2009.

The State Criteria for Specific Learning Disabilities requires the use of RTI, now part of a Multi-Tiered System of Support, as part of the eligibility determination process by September 2011. Response to Intervention is a process of determining appropriate support and interventions to supplement the core curriculum to meet the needs of all learners. This framework for instruction bases decisions on benchmark and progress monitoring data to improve achievement.

Training Materials for the RI Criteria and Guidance for Specific Learning Disabilities

The following materials are provided to support implementation of the Criteria for Specific Learning Disabilities.  

New Resources:

Create a free online account at BRIDGE-RI to access asynchronous online modules supporting implementation of MTSS across the tiers, including MLLs.  Robust MTSS frameworks help school teams make strong data-based decisions to include in an SLD ID process and to improve outcomes for children. 

The RI Department of Education is committed to expanding public knowledge regarding Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and increasing coordination and integration within existing service delivery systems, thereby enhancing the infrastructure needed to support students with TBI and their families.

Be Informed!

What is Assistive Technology?

As defined by the Regulations of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Governing the Special Education of Students with Disabilities, December, 2000:

Any item, piece of equipment, or system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. 

What is Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC)?

AAC is considered assistive technology.  It is defined as “An act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person’s needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states” (ASHA,1992).

Who makes decisions regarding Assistive Technology?

Any classroom teacher can make suggestions, but those who have completed the Project AT class can begin the triage process that is part of the SETT Framework and act as a “first responder” when deciding which tools are best suited for each student. AT devices can be as low tech as a pencil grip. Other times, AT solutions can be more complex.

Once appropriate AT tools have been identified, the IEP should be modified to include the new accommodations and reviewed annually as part of the IEP process. An IEP team meeting can always be arranged at any time throughout the year in order to include any assistive technology that was not previously identified. Teams should also identify if any training is needed for the staff/family who will support the use of the technology and write that into the IEP as well.  

Who Pays for AT?

When the costs or the system becomes more complex than items or classroom strategies that are immediately at hand, then the students’ IEP/504 team is called to discuss the options. 

Federal funds through IDEA as well as local funds and/or Medicaid can be used to purchase AT devices. If a device is paid by Medicaid, it belongs to the student; if purchased by the family the AT belongs to the student; if funds are provided by IDEA the AT belongs to the LEA; if purchased by the LEA the AT belongs to the school.

Resources/Decision-Making Tools:

  • SETT (Student, Environment, Task, Tool): Download your own SETT decision making tool bookmark
  • Accessible Educational Materials
  • CAST and UDL Information
  • Rhode Island Materials Access Center
  • The Rhode Island Materials Access Center (RIMAC) is the support center for the RI AEM (Accessible Educational Materials) Initiative, a statewide system designed to provide appropriate accessible instructional materials to students who cannot access standard print materials. RIMAC serves RI to implement the requirements in Part B of IDEA.
  • RIMAC works with districts to help them address students’ needs for educational materials in accessible formats, determine how student needs will be identified, document needs in students’ IEPs, and certify the eligibility of students for NIMAC** materials. RIMAC works with RIDE to develop and manage data that tracks progress toward NIMAS* implementation and provision of educational materials in accessible formats.
  • RIMAC and the RI AEM Initiative, in cooperation with RIDE, work together to support RI students who need accessible educational materials (AEM), who may or may not meet federal requirements for NIMAC or RIMAC services. All students who need different forms of information in order to learn should have appropriate access to learning materials.

Events/Professional Development

Click on each item to learn more:

  • Assistive Technology Conference of New England - November 19-20, 2020
  • TechACCESS Workshops - Variety of on-going workshops held at TechACCESS of RI, Warwick, RI
  • Project AT - 30-hour Class with instruction on performing initial feature matching survey, appropriate use of AT to allow students to access general education curriculum (CCSS) and statewide testing.  Identify student accommodation needs and appropriate documentation.
    • Open to: Special education teacher/leaders who are responsible for classroom instruction & online assessments for students (18 openings - 1 per district)
    • Schedule: Four hands-on lab-based sessions; two taking place after school 4 - 6 PM 
    • Register online: