NCSER sponsors a comprehensive program of special education research designed to expand the knowledge and understanding of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. NCSER was created with the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004. NCSER began operations in 2005, and made its first grant awards in 2006.
IDEA includes 18 statutory requirements that guide NCSER’s work as well as 13 disability categories specifically named in the legislation. For the purpose of NCSER’s programs, a student with a disability is defined as a child “(i) with mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this title as ‘emotional disturbance’), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; and (ii) who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services” (Part A, Sec. 602). An infant or toddler with a disability is defined in IDEA as, “an individual under 3 years of age who needs early intervention services because the individual (i) is experiencing developmental delays, as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures in 1 or more of the areas of cognitive development, physical development, communication development, social or emotional development, and adaptive development; or (ii) has a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay” (Part C, Sec. 632).