Navigating Special Education Terms: A Complete Glossary for Parents and Educators

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

If you're new to the world of special education, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the vast array of terms and jargon used in this field. From IEPs and 504 plans to inclusion and differentiated instruction, the specialized vocabulary of special education can be a challenge to navigate. That's why we've put together a comprehensive glossary of important terms in special education. Whether you're a parent, teacher, or anyone else involved in the special education process, this guide will help you understand and communicate effectively about the key concepts and terminology in this field.

504: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act - A federal law that prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, ensuring equal access and reasonable accommodations.

Accommodations: Changes in the way a student is taught or tested to accommodate for their disability

ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act - A federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and ensures equal opportunities in various aspects of life.

Adaptive Behavior: The ability to perform everyday tasks, such as dressing and grooming oneself

ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder - A neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in sustaining attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - A neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Affective Skills: A person's emotional and social skills

Alternative Assessment: A different way to measure a student's knowledge and skills

APE: Adapted Physical Education - A specialized program that modifies physical education to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): A type of therapy that focuses on behavior modification

ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder - A developmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication, and behavior, often characterized by repetitive behaviors and difficulty with social communication.

Assistive Device: Equipment or technology that helps a person with a disability to function more effectively

AT: Assistive Technology - Tools, devices, and software designed to assist individuals with disabilities in performing tasks and activities.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): A method of communication used by individuals who have difficulty speaking

Behavior Management: The process of modifying and shaping behavior

Behavior Modification: The process of changing behavior through rewards and punishments

BIP: Behavior Intervention Plan - A plan designed to address and manage challenging behaviors in individuals through targeted interventions.

CEC: Council for Exceptional Children - An international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities.

Cerebral Palsy Guide - A collection of resources and information focused on special education for individuals with cerebral palsy.

Child Find: The process of identifying children who may have disabilities and may require special education services

Co-Teaching: A teaching model where a general education teacher and a special education teacher work together in the same classroom

Cognitive Development: The development of thinking, problem-solving, and memory skills

Collaboration: Working together as a team to support a student's educational needs

Compensatory Education: Additional education provided to students who have experienced educational disadvantage or inequality

CSE: Committee on Special Education - A multidisciplinary team responsible for determining and implementing special education services for students with disabilities.

DB: Deaf-Blindness - A condition characterized by combined hearing and visual impairments, leading to significant communication and functional challenges.

DD: Developmental Disabilities - A group of diverse conditions that affect physical, cognitive, and social development.

Developmental Delay: A delay in one or more areas of a child's development

Differentiation: Tailoring instruction to meet the individual needs of each student

Disability: A physical, mental, or emotional condition that impairs a person's ability to function

DOE: Department of Education - A government agency responsible for formulating education policies and implementing programs at the federal level.

Due Process: Legal procedures used to protect the rights of students and their families in special education

Early Intervention: Services provided to young children with disabilities or developmental delays

ED: Emotional Disturbance - A condition characterized by significant emotional and behavioral challenges that interfere with learning and social interactions.

Emotional Development: The development of emotional regulation, empathy, and self-awareness

Equity: Ensuring that all students have access to high-quality education and support

ESY: Extended School Year - An educational program that provides additional instructional time or services to students with disabilities during school breaks.

Extended School Day: A longer school day for students who need additional academic support or services

FAPE: Free Appropriate Public Education - The right of individuals with disabilities to receive a free and suitable education tailored to their unique needs.

FERPA: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act - A federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records and grants parents certain rights regarding access to these records.

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): The process of identifying and analyzing the antecedents and consequences of problem behavior

Gifted and Talented: Students who demonstrate exceptional abilities or potential in academics, creativity, leadership, or other areas

HI: Hearing Impairment - A condition characterized by partial or complete hearing loss, which may require accommodations or specialized support in educational settings.

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - A federal law that ensures access to special education and related services for eligible children with disabilities.

IEE: Independent Educational Evaluation - An evaluation conducted by a qualified professional outside of the educational institution to assess a student's educational needs.

IEP: Individualized Education Program - A legally binding document that outlines the specialized educational services and goals for a student with disabilities.

IFSP: Individualized Family Service Plan - A written plan outlining early intervention services and supports for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities.

Inclusion: The practice of integrating students with disabilities into general education classrooms and activities

Intellectual Disability (ID): A disability characterized by significant limitations in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior

Interdisciplinary Team: A group of professionals who collaborate to address a student's needs

LD: Learning Disability - A neurodevelopmental disorder that affects an individual's ability to acquire and process information, leading to difficulties in specific areas of learning.

Least Dangerous Assumption: The practice of assuming that a student can learn and achieve, rather than assuming they cannot

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): The principle that students with disabilities should be educated in the least restrictive environment possible while still receiving an appropriate education.

LRE: Least Restrictive Environment - The educational setting that allows students with disabilities to be educated alongside their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.

Mainstreaming: The practice of placing students with disabilities in general education classrooms for part or all of the school day

Manifestation Determination Review (MDR): A process used to determine whether a student's behavior is related to their disability

MD: Multiple Disabilities - The presence of two or more disabilities that significantly impact a person's educational performance.

Modifications: Changes in the content or curriculum to meet a student's individual needs

NCLB: No Child Left Behind - A previous federal law that aimed to improve student achievement and accountability in U.S. schools.

Occupational Therapy (OT): Therapy that helps individuals develop skills necessary for daily living and working

OHI: Other Health Impairment - A disability category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that encompasses various health-related conditions affecting educational performance.

OSEP: Office of Special Education Programs - A federal agency responsible for overseeing and implementing special education programs and services.

OT: Occupational Therapy - A therapeutic discipline that helps individuals develop or regain skills necessary for daily living and work activities.

Paraprofessional: A trained assistant who supports teachers and students in the classroom

Parent Training and Information Center (PTI): A federally-funded center that provides information, training, and support to parents of children with disabilities

PBIS: Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports - A framework for promoting positive behaviors and improving social-emotional outcomes in schools.

Physical Therapy (PT): Therapy that helps individuals improve movement, strength, and range of motion

Positive Reinforcement: The practice of providing rewards or praise for positive behavior to encourage its repetition

Present Level of Performance (PLOP): A statement that describes a student's current academic and functional abilities

Prior Written Notice (PWN): A written notice provided to parents before any changes are made to their child's education or services

Procedural Safeguards: The rights and protections provided to students and their families under federal and state law

Progress Monitoring: The process of regularly assessing a student's progress towards their goals

PT: Physical Therapy - A rehabilitative discipline that focuses on improving physical mobility, strength, and function through therapeutic exercises and interventions.

Related Services: Services that support a student's educational needs, such as transportation, counseling, and therapy

Response to Intervention (RTI): A framework for providing early and targeted academic and behavioral support to struggling students

Section 504: Federal legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires schools to provide accommodations and modifications

Self-Advocacy: The ability of students to advocate for their own needs and rights

Self-Contained Classroom: A classroom specifically designed for students with disabilities, separate from the general education population

Sensory Integration: The process of processing and responding to sensory information from the environment

SLD: Specific Learning Disability - A neurodevelopmental disorder that affects specific academic skills, such as reading, writing, or math.

SLP: Speech-Language Pathology - A field of expertise that addresses communication and swallowing disorders, providing assessment and intervention services.

Special Education Advocate: A person who assists parents and students in navigating the special education process

Special Education: Specially-designed instruction and related services provided to students with disabilities

Standardized Testing: Tests used to measure a student's academic achievement and progress

State Educational Agency (SEA): The government agency responsible for overseeing education in each state

Supplementary Aids and Services: Supports provided to students with disabilities to help them access the curriculum and participate in school activities

Task Analysis: Breaking down a complex task into smaller, more manageable steps

TBI: Traumatic Brain Injury - A brain injury caused by external forces that result in temporary or permanent impairment of cognitive, physical, and psychosocial functioning.

Transition Planning: The process of planning for a student's post-secondary education, employment, and independent living

UDL: Universal Design for Learning - An educational framework that promotes flexible teaching methods and materials to meet the diverse needs of all learners.

VI: Visual Impairment - A condition characterized by partial or complete vision loss, which may require accommodations or specialized support in educational settings.

Visual Supports: Visual aids, such as pictures and charts,

Work-Based Learning: Opportunities for students to gain real-world work experience and develop job skills

Zero Reject: The principle that no student with a disability can be excluded from receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE)

We hope this glossary of important terms in special education has been a helpful resource for you. By understanding these key concepts and vocabulary, you'll be better equipped to navigate the complex world of special education and advocate for the needs of students with disabilities. Whether you're a parent, teacher, or advocate, it's essential to have a solid understanding of the terminology used in this field. With this glossary at your fingertips, you'll be able to communicate more effectively with others involved in the special education process and ensure that every student receives the support they need to succeed.

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