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Services for Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Definition of Intellectual Disabilities (ID)

Intellectual disability means significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects the child's educational performance.

Note: A reference in the regulations to cognitive disability shall be considered to be a reference to an intellectual disability and a reference in the regulations to the cognitively disabled or individuals who are cognitively disabled shall be considered a reference to individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The statewide child count data as of October 2015, indicated there were approximately 8,283 students with ID.


The current eligibility criteria for intellectual disabilities under state law is found at PI.11.36 (1), Wis. Admin. Code. Requirements related to the need for special education are at PI.11.35, Wis. Admin. Code.

A resource has been developed for IEP teams when the team feels a valid and reliable cognitive score for a specific student cannot be obtained. In this situation, the IEP team should document steps taken to determine the best alternative to a formal intelligence test. A worksheet was developed to assist in guiding the process for an IEP team to document their decision making. DPI encourages the use of multiple measures to obtain or corroborate a cognitive score that demonstrates a clear picture of the students strengths and needs.

Guidance and Worksheet for Obtaining a Valid Cognitive Abilities Assessment

Programming and Services

Students with an Intellectual Disability are educated using a variety of educational program options according to the individual needs of each student and their least restrictive environments. It is up to the IEP team to decide what the least restrictive environment is for each individual student. 

Students with ID may be taught using the Wisconsin Model Academic standards with adaptations and modifications or might be taught using the Wisconsin Essential Elements.

It is an IEP team decision about which standards are most appropriate for the student. There is guidance for determining participation in the general education standards and curriculum.


All students take district-wide and statewide assessments. The type of assessment the student will participate in is based on the set of standards they are being taught. The IEP teams use Form I-7A: Participation Guidelines for Alternate Assessment to determine which set of standards the student should participate in. For more information on statewide assessments please see the Office of Educational Accountability.


Intellectual Disability Program Support Teacher announcement list: The list will provide monthly updates and information related to programming, professional development, recourses, and assessment updates. If you are a program support teacher or supervising administrator and would like to be added to the ID announcement list, please send your request by email to