Intellectual disabilities

Students with intellectual disabilities represent a diverse group of learners. Like many students, they bring unique challenges, skills, preferences and experiences. 

The American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities defines an intellectual disability as a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem-solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18.


The resources listed here represent current research in education, instructional strategies and skill development for promoting meaningful instruction and post-school outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities.

  • The Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) is designed to evaluate the performance of students with significant cognitive disabilities. A student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team must determine that a student is eligible and document eligibility using the VAAP Participation Criteria form. The VAAP is based on academic content standards derived from the Standards of Learning (SOL) in reading, mathematics, and science that have been reduced in depth, breadth, and complexity. These content standards are referred to as the Virginia Essentialized Standards of Learning (VESOL) and are evaluated using an online or paperpencil multiple choice based assessment. For elementary and middle school history/social science and grade 8 writing, student work is compiled into collections of evidence based on the Aligned Standards of Learning (ASOL) and scored using a VAAP scoring rubric. Additional information and resources can be found on TTAC Online.

  • The Applied Studies Diploma is an option available to students identified as having a disability who complete the requirements of their individualized education programs (IEPs) and meet certain requirements prescribed by the Board of Education pursuant to regulations, but do not meet the requirements for any named diploma. The Applied Studies Curriculum Map (PDF) consists of a guide and six domains that outline skills and competencies that IEP teams can use to identify the need for additional instruction to assist students in meeting their postsecondary goals.

  • Assistive Technology Network of Virginia addresses priorities of the Virginia Department of Education with coordination, implementation and dissemination of information about the laws which define AT devices and services, the process of AT Consideration by Individualized Education Program teams, AT assessment, Augmentative and Augmentative Communication and AT resources.

  • Center for Family Involvement at the Partnership for People with Disabilities at VCU partners with the Virginia departments of Education and Health, the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and others in supporting a variety of activities to strengthen family involvement.

  • TTAC Online is a web-based community linking people and resources to help children and youth with disabilities (birth to 22). It is available 24/7 to teachers, other professionals and families. TTAC Online is a place to search a wide range of resources by age level, category, disability area or topic. It is categorized into Virginia projects, Virginia assessments, disability info, resources, events and online training. On the teaching process page, teachers who work with students who are being assessed using the Virginia Alternative Assessment Program can find additional information.

  • VCU Center on Transition provides information, resources, demonstration and research on pathways to employment that support youth with disabilities to gain access to integrated competitive employment to the fullest extent possible. Through participation in evidence-based employment and work experience models, higher education or postsecondary education training, youth can become integral members of their communities.

  • VDOE's T/TAC at VCU’s Library houses a wide variety of assessment instruments, resources, book studies, assistive technology and informational texts addressing the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities available for Virginia's superintendent's regions 1 and 8.

  • Virginia Board for People with Disabilities advises the governor, the secretary of health and human resources, federal and state legislators, and other constituent groups on issues related to people with disabilities in Virginia. They work for the benefit of individuals with DD and their families to identify needs and help develop policies, programs and services that will meet these needs in a manner that respects dignity and independence.

  • Virginia Family Special Education Connection is funded through the Virginia Department of Education and is designed to provide families with critical and practical information regarding special education services in Virginia. The website aims to provide a one-stop shop for community, educational, family life and legislative resources to support families and caregivers, as their children progress through school with special education services and then transition into adulthood.

Instructional resources