Online Degrees Blog Low-Incidence Versus High-Incidence Dis/abilities

Low-Incidence Versus High-Incidence Dis/abilities

08 June
Student in a wheelchair sits at a desk in a classroom.

To better deliver special education to classrooms, some states classify special education dis/abilities in terms of incidence, or how frequently particular dis/abilities are generally encountered in the classroom.1

There are two key incidence levels in modern special education: low-incidence dis/abilities and high-incidence dis/abilities.

While low-incidence dis/abilities refer to students with “significant intellectual dis/ability and students with multiple dis/abilities, including students on the autism spectrum with concurrent cognitive, sensory, and physical impairments,” the term high-incidence dis/abilities refers to students who experience “learning dis/abilities, emotional and/or behavioral disorders, mild-cognitive dis/abilities or autism spectrum disorder.”2

Read on to learn about low-incidence versus high-incidence dis/abilities, what approaches can help teach students, and how you can gain the knowledge and experience to help students in your classrooms.

Low-Incidence Dis/abilities: An Overview

According to the 1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—which ensures children with dis/abilities receive the same free and appropriate education as children that do not have dis/abilities—“low-incidence dis/ability” emcompasses:3

  • A visual or hearing impairment or both simultaneously
  • A significant cognitive impairment
  • Any impairment for which a small number of personnel with highly specialized skills and knowledge are needed for children with that impairment to receive early intervention services or a free appropriate public education.4

Low-incidence dis/abilities, as the name suggests, occur less frequently among student populations and are estimated to make up 20% of all students with disa/bilities. These dis/abilities may present themselves as:

  • Blindness
  • Low vision
  • Deafness
  • Hard-of-hearing
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Significant developmental delay
  • Complex health issues
  • A serious physical impairment
  • A certain spectrum of autism5

Meeting the Needs of Students with Low-Incidence Dis/abilities

Providing an impactful education for students with low-incidence versus high incidence dis/abilities is both rewarding and challenging and demands specialized classroom approaches that can be gained in an advanced special education master’s program.

Capable educators who work well with students with significant intellectual dis/abilities and/or with multiple dis/abilities often use the following strategies:

  • Addressing the unique learning and support needs on an individual level
  • Providing access to and engagement with the general curriculum
  • Imparting life skills and community instruction to each student6

Low-Incidence Job Opportunities

There are a number of lucrative career pathways and job opportunities for educators who have the skills and experience to work with students with low-incidence dis/abilities. Here is a current sampling of the diverse roles open to educators who are adept at teaching students with low-incidence versus high incidence dis/abilities:7

Low Incidence Coordinator

This role provides leadership and coordination of low incidence dis/abilities so that each student may benefit from learning experiences based on their individual needs, talents, and interests.

Listed requirements include:

  • A master’s degree with state certification
  • Three years of experience with low-incidence dis/abilities work including deafness/hard of hearing, autism, intellectual dis/ability, visual impairments

Instructional Coach (District Student Services)

This role works with and supports general and special education teachers and administration to raise student engagement, student achievement, manage difficult student behavior and build teacher capacity to work with students with low-incidence dis/abilities. Listed requirements include:

  • Master’s Degree Level Specialist (preferred)
  • State licensure as a Learning Behavior Specialist I or Related Service Provider
  • Five years of experience and experience with low-incidence dis/abilities

Learning Behavior Specialist Teacher

This role works as a transdisciplinary team member supporting students with low-incidence dis/abilities who have significant learning, communication and adaptive functioning considerations.

Listed role requirements include:

  • Valid state educator licensure with endorsement
  • Expertise supporting student populations with low-incidence dis/abilities

High School Special Education Case Manager

This role consults with the principal and district representatives, supports and trains school staff, keeps parents/caregivers/families informed, and enters all student data properly to ensure all IDEA and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act timelines and requirements are met.8

Listed role requirements include:

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree in special education or a master’s degree in educational administration
  • Case manager experience with a history of ensuring IEP and 504 compliance
  • Valid Professional Educator License (PEL) in Special Education (PK-Age 21) endorsement or School Support Personnel endorsement with a supervisory endorsement

High-Incidence Disabilities: An Overview

High-incidence dis/abilities occur more frequently among those with dis/abilities and make up 80% of total dis/abilities.5 Please note, there are several terms that are related to high-incidence dis/abilities, including:

  • Adaptive
  • Cross-categorical
  • Multi-categorical

High-incidence dis/abilities may include:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Communication disorders
  • Intellectual dis/abilities
  • Specific learning dis/abilities
  • Emotional or behavioral disorders
  • Physical and sensory needs (that affect educational opportunities)9

When highly-structured interventions are put into place, students with high-incidence dis/abilities can often meet the same standards as students without dis/abilities. Additionally, it can often be hard to distinguish students with dis/abilities and without dis/abilities apart, especially in non-school settings, though students with high-incidence dis/abilities may display a combination of academic, behavioral and social problems.

Meeting the Needs of Students with High-Incidence Dis/abilities

In general, to become an educator working with students with high-incidence dis/abilities, you will need a state license and expertise gained from an accredited special education program that specializes in high-incidence to practice.1

An accredited, leading online master’s program that specializes in working with students with high-incidence dis/abilities will help you boost your special education knowledge base when it comes to collaboration, communication and conflict resolution with parents/caregivers/families and professionals including teachers in the field.

You will also learn how to assess students academically and behaviorally, so you can identify and implement evidence-based practices to create effective pedagogical approaches and increase academic success among students with high-incidence dis/abilities.

High-Incidence Job Opportunities

The following sampling of jobs are currently available to those who want to pursue a rewarding career in high-incidence dis/abilities special education:

Special Education Coordinator

This school district role requires you to leverage your knowledge of best practices in the field of special education to provide professional development to teachers and staff in order to support students receiving special education services.

Listed requirements include:

  • A master’s degree
  • General administrative certification
  • Prior experience facilitating IEP meetings

Director of Student Services

In this administrative role for a public school district, you will serve as the instructional leader for special education from PreK to grade 8. Additional important duties include developing and providing professional development and training for all special education staff, providing curriculum development and instructional strategies that support improved student achievement, and managing the district’s special education budget.

Listed role requirements include:

  • A valid state professional educator license
  • General administrative endorsement
  • Special education endorsement
  • Five years of experience including leadership experience

Special Education Instructional Coach (English/Literacy)

This teaching role for a school district facilitates the effective alignment and guide implementation of core curriculum content in English for diverse learners in both instructional and co-taught classroom settings and also creates pedagogy for the curriculum that reflects the needs of diverse learners. Listed requirements include:

  • A valid state professional educator license with endorsement
  • A master’s degree in special education preferred
  • Advanced experience coaching and training teachers

Gain The Applicable Skills to Make an Impact in Special Education

Are you ready to gain the top teaching methods to work with today’s diverse learners? With a No. 1 ranked online special education master’s degree from the University of Kansas, you’ll learn how to make a true difference in the lives of your students and help your career blossom.10

KU offers online master’s degrees, graduate certificates, and licensure endorsement programs in a variety of special educational areas so you can accelerate your skills and follow the career path you are most passionate about. Our admissions advisors are here to answer your questions. Get in touch with us today and start building the special education career that you deserve.

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