(a) Basic considerations. We consider all evidence in your case record (see § 416.913). The evidence in your case record may include information from medical sources (such as your pediatrician or other physician; psychologist; qualified speech-language pathologist; and physical, occupational, and rehabilitation therapists) and nonmedical sources (such as your parents, teachers, and other people who know you).
(1) Medical evidence—(i) General. Medical evidence of your impairment(s) must describe symptoms, signs, and laboratory findings. The medical evidence may include, but is not limited to, formal testing that provides information about your development or functioning in terms of standard deviations, percentiles, percentages of delay, or age or grade equivalents. It may also include opinions from medical sources about the nature and severity of your impairments. (See § 416.920c.)
(ii) Test scores. We consider all of the relevant information in your case record and will not consider any single piece of evidence in isolation. Therefore, we will not rely on test scores alone when we decide whether you are disabled. (See § 416.926a(e) for more information about how we consider test scores.)
(iii) Medical sources. Medical sources will report their findings and observations on clinical examination and the results of any formal testing. A medical source's report should note and resolve any material inconsistencies between formal test results, other medical findings, and your usual functioning. Whenever possible and appropriate, the interpretation of findings by the medical source should reflect consideration of information from your parents or other people who know you, including your teachers and therapists. When a medical source has accepted and relied on such information to reach a diagnosis, we may consider this information to be a sign, as defined in § 416.902(l).
(2) Statements from nonmedical sources. Every child is unique, so the effects of your impairment(s) on your functioning may be very different from the effects the same impairment(s) might have on another child. Therefore, whenever possible and appropriate, we will try to get information from people who can tell us about the effects of your impairment(s) on your activities and how you function on a day-to-day basis. These other people may include, but are not limited to:
(i) Your parents and other caregivers. Your parents and other caregivers can be important sources of information because they usually see you every day. In addition to your parents, other caregivers may include a childcare provider who takes care of you while your parent(s) works or an adult who looks after you in a before-or after-school program.
(ii) Early intervention and preschool programs. If you have been identified for early intervention services (in your home or elsewhere) because of your impairment(s), or if you attend a preschool program (e.g., Headstart or a public school kindergarten for children with special needs), these programs are also important sources of information about your functioning. We will ask for reports from the agency and individuals who provide you with services or from your teachers about how you typically function compared to other children your age who do not have impairments.
(iii) School. If you go to school, we will ask for information from your teachers and other school personnel about how you are functioning there on a day-to-day basis compared to other children your age who do not have impairments. We will ask for any reports that the school may have that show the results of formal testing or that describe any special education instruction or services, including home-based instruction, or any accommodations provided in a regular classroom.
(b) Factors we consider when we evaluate the effects of your impairment(s) on your functioning—(1) General. We must consider your functioning when we decide whether your impairment(s) is “severe” and when we decide whether your impairment(s) functionally equals the listings. We will also consider your functioning when we decide whether your impairment(s) meets or medically equals a listing if the listing we are considering includes functioning among its criteria.
(2) Factors we consider when we evaluate your functioning. Your limitations in functioning must result from your medically determinable impairment(s). The information we get from your medical and nonmedical sources can help us understand how your impairment(s) affects your functioning. We will also consider any factors that are relevant to how you function when we evaluate your impairment or combination of impairments. For example, your symptoms (such as pain, fatigue, decreased energy, or anxiety) may limit your functioning. (See § 416.929.) We explain some other factors we may consider when we evaluate your functioning in paragraphs (b)(3)-(b)(9) of this section.
(3) How your functioning compares to the functioning of children your age who do not have impairments—(i) General. When we evaluate your functioning, we will look at whether you do the things that other children your age typically do or whether you have limitations and restrictions because of your medically determinable impairment(s). We will also look at how well you do the activities and how much help you need from your family, teachers, or others. Information about what you can and cannot do, and how you function on a day-to-day basis at home, school, and in the community, allows us to compare your activities to the activities of children your age who do not have impairments.
(ii) How we will consider reports of your functioning. When we consider the evidence in your case record about the quality of your activities, we will consider the standards used by the person who gave us the information. We will also consider the characteristics of the group to whom you are being compared. For example, if the way you do your classwork is compared to other children in a special education class, we will consider that you are being compared to children who do have impairments.
(4) Combined effects of multiple impairments. If you have more than one impairment, we will sometimes be able to decide that you have a “severe” impairment or an impairment that meets, medically equals, or functionally equals the listings by looking at each of your impairments separately. When we cannot, we will look comprehensively at the combined effects of your impairments on your day-to-day functioning instead of considering the limitations resulting from each impairment separately. (See §§ 416.923 and 416.926a(c) for more information about how we will consider the interactive and cumulative effects of your impairments on your functioning.)
(5) How well you can initiate, sustain, and complete your activities, including the amount of help or adaptations you need, and the effects of structured or supportive settings—(i) Initiating, sustaining, and completing activities. We will consider how effectively you function by examining how independently you are able to initiate, sustain, and complete your activities despite your impairment(s), compared to other children your age who do not have impairments. We will consider:
(A) The range of activities you do;
(B) Your ability to do them independently, including any prompting you may need to begin, carry through, and complete your activities;
(C) The pace at which you do your activities;
(D) How much effort you need to make to do your activities; and
(E) How long you are able to sustain your activities.
(ii) Extra help. We will consider how independently you are able to function compared to other children your age who do not have impairments. We will consider whether you need help from other people, or whether you need special equipment, devices, or medications to perform your day-to-day activities. For example, we may consider how much supervision you need to keep from hurting yourself, how much help you need every day to get dressed or, if you are an infant, how long it takes for your parents or other caregivers to feed you. We recognize that children are often able to do things and complete tasks when given help, but may not be able to do these same things by themselves. Therefore, we will consider how much extra help you need, what special equipment or devices you use, and the medications you take that enable you to participate in activities like other children your age who do not have impairments.
(iii) Adaptations. We will consider the nature and extent of any adaptations that you use to enable you to function. Such adaptations may include assistive devices or appliances. Some adaptations may enable you to function normally or almost normally (e.g., eyeglasses). Others may increase your functioning, even though you may still have functional limitations (e.g., ankle-foot orthoses, hand or foot splints, and specially adapted or custom-made tools, utensils, or devices for self-care activities such as bathing, feeding, toileting, and dressing). When we evaluate your functioning with an adaptation, we will consider the degree to which the adaptation enables you to function compared to other children your age who do not have impairments, your ability to use the adaptation effectively on a sustained basis, and any functional limitations that nevertheless persist.
(iv) Structured or supportive settings. (A) If you have a serious impairment(s), you may spend some or all of your time in a structured or supportive setting, beyond what a child who does not have an impairment typically needs.
(B) A structured or supportive setting may be your own home in which family members or other people (e.g., visiting nurses or home health workers) make adjustments to accommodate your impairment(s). A structured or supportive setting may also be your classroom at school, whether it is a regular classroom in which you are accommodated or a special classroom. It may also be a residential facility or school where you live for a period of time.
(C) A structured or supportive setting may minimize signs and symptoms of your impairment(s) and help to improve your functioning while you are in it, but your signs, symptoms, and functional limitations may worsen outside this type of setting. Therefore, we will consider your need for a structured setting and the degree of limitation in functioning you have or would have outside the structured setting. Even if you are able to function adequately in the structured or supportive setting, we must consider how you function in other settings and whether you would continue to function at an adequate level without the structured or supportive setting.
(D) If you have a chronic impairment(s), you may have your activities structured in such a way as to minimize stress and reduce the symptoms or signs of your impairment(s). You may continue to have persistent pain, fatigue, decreased energy, or other symptoms or signs, although at a lesser level of severity. We will consider whether you are more limited in your functioning than your symptoms and signs would indicate.
(E) Therefore, if your symptoms or signs are controlled or reduced in a structured setting, we will consider how well you are functioning in the setting and the nature of the setting in which you are functioning (e.g., home or a special class); the amount of help you need from your parents, teachers, or others to function as well as you do; adjustments you make to structure your environment; and how you would function without the structured or supportive setting.
(6) Unusual settings. Children may function differently in unfamiliar or one-to-one settings than they do in their usual settings at home, at school, in childcare or in the community. You may appear more or less impaired on a single examination (such as a consultative examination) than indicated by the information covering a longer period. Therefore, we will apply the guidance in paragraph (b)(5) of this section when we consider how you function in an unusual or one-to-one situation. We will look at your performance in a special situation and at your typical day-to-day functioning in routine situations. We will not draw inferences about your functioning in other situations based only on how you function in a one-to-one, new, or unusual situation.
(7) Early intervention and school programs—(i) General. If you are a very young child who has been identified for early intervention services, or if you attend school (including preschool), the records of people who know you or who have examined you are important sources of information about your impairment(s) and its effects on your functioning. Records from physicians, teachers and school psychologists, or physical, occupational, or speech-language therapists are examples of what we will consider. If you receive early intervention services or go to school or preschool, we will consider this information when it is relevant and available to us.
(ii) School evidence. If you go to school or preschool, we will ask your teacher(s) about your performance in your activities throughout your school day. We will consider all the evidence we receive from your school, including teacher questionnaires, teacher checklists, group achievement testing, and report cards.
(iii) Early intervention and special education programs. If you have received a comprehensive assessment for early intervention services or special education services, we will consider information used by the assessment team to make its recommendations. We will consider the information in your Individualized Family Service Plan, your Individualized Education Program, or your plan for transition services to help us understand your functioning. We will examine the goals and objectives of your plan or program as further indicators of your functioning, as well as statements regarding related services, supplementary aids, program modifications, and other accommodations recommended to help you function, together with the other relevant information in your case record.
(iv) Special education or accommodations. We will consider the fact that you attend school, that you may be placed in a special education setting, or that you receive accommodations because of your impairments along with the other information in your case record. The fact that you attend school does not mean that you are not disabled. The fact that you do or do not receive special education services does not, in itself, establish your actual limitations or abilities. Children are placed in special education settings, or are included in regular classrooms (with or without accommodation), for many reasons that may or may not be related to the level of their impairments. For example, you may receive one-to-one assistance from an aide throughout the day in a regular classroom, or be placed in a special classroom. We will consider the circumstances of your school attendance, such as your ability to function in a regular classroom or preschool setting with children your age who do not have impairments. Similarly, we will consider that good performance in a special education setting does not mean that you are functioning at the same level as other children your age who do not have impairments.
(v) Attendance and participation. We will also consider factors affecting your ability to participate in your education program. You may be unable to participate on a regular basis because of the chronic or episodic nature of your impairment(s) or your need for therapy or treatment. If you have more than one impairment, we will look at whether the effects of your impairments taken together make you unable to participate on a regular basis. We will consider how your temporary removal or absence from the program affects your ability to function compared to other children your age who do not have impairments.
(8) The impact of chronic illness and limitations that interfere with your activities over time. If you have a chronic impairment(s) that is characterized by episodes of exacerbation (worsening) and remission (improvement), we will consider the frequency and severity of your episodes of exacerbation as factors that may be limiting your functioning. Your level of functioning may vary considerably over time. Proper evaluation of your ability to function in any domain requires us to take into account any variations in your level of functioning to determine the impact of your chronic illness on your ability to function over time. If you require frequent treatment, we will consider it as explained in paragraph (b)(9)(ii) of this section.
(i) Effects of medications. We will consider the effects of medication on your symptoms, signs, laboratory findings, and functioning. Although medications may control the most obvious manifestations of your impairment(s), they may or may not affect the functional limitations imposed by your impairment(s). If your symptoms or signs are reduced by medications, we will consider:
(A) Any of your functional limitations that may nevertheless persist, even if there is improvement from the medications;
(B) Whether your medications create any side effects that cause or contribute to your functional limitations;
(C) The frequency of your need for medication;
(D) Changes in your medication or the way your medication is prescribed; and
(E) Any evidence over time of how medication helps or does not help you to function compared to other children your age who do not have impairments.
(ii) Other treatment. We will also consider the level and frequency of treatment other than medications that you get for your impairment(s). You may need frequent and ongoing therapy from one or more medical sources to maintain or improve your functional status. (Examples of therapy include occupational, physical, or speech and language therapy, nursing or home health services, psychotherapy, or psychosocial counseling.) Frequent therapy, although intended to improve your functioning in some ways, may also interfere with your functioning in other ways. Therefore, we will consider the frequency of any therapy you must have, and how long you have received or will need it. We will also consider whether the therapy interferes with your participation in activities typical of other children your age who do not have impairments, such as attending school or classes and socializing with your peers. If you must frequently interrupt your activities at school or at home for therapy, we will consider whether these interruptions interfere with your functioning. We will also consider the length and frequency of your hospitalizations.
(iii) Treatment and intervention, in general. With treatment or intervention, you may not only have your symptoms or signs reduced, but may also maintain, return to, or achieve a level of functioning that is not disabling. Treatment or intervention may prevent, eliminate, or reduce functional limitations.
[65 FR 54779, Sept. 11, 2000, as amended at 82 FR 5879, Jan. 18, 2017]