It depends on a student's mental abilities, or how well they can think, learn, and take care of their own needs.
All students have to do an evaluation to see if they qualify for special education services. During this process, the school may do an intelligence test or other tests to get a sense of the child's cognitive functioning, or how well their mind works.
The score is often called their I.Q., which means "intelligence quotient". An average I.Q. is between 90 and 110. A score of 70 or less is usually considered an intellectual disability.
The evaluations may also test for adaptive behavior. This means how well they can do everyday living skills like walking, talking, eating, bathing and basically taking care of themselves.
Your child's scores on these tests will help decide which pathway they are likely to be able to follow. If they score a certain amount below average in cognitive functioning or adaptive behavior, they will qualify for this alternate pathway.
The official criteria for Alternate Assessment Pathway:
A score of "2.3 or more standard deviations below the mean in cognitive functioning and/or adaptive behavior", OR
A score of "2 - 2.9 standard deviations below the mean in cognitive functioning and/or adaptive behavior" if you have other evidence.
This is what you will see on school documents. Ask your IEP Team about your child's scores and make sure you understand them!
Click on the links below to download a Fact Sheet (see page 3 for Alt. Assessment info.), and the official criteria form.
Sources: LDOE, Assessment Psychology Online