Glossary From "Negotiating the Special Education Maze"
A Guide for Parents and Teachers 4th Edition
Winfred Anderson, Stephen Chitwood, Deidre Hayden and Cherie Takemoto
This glossary includes special education terms mentioned in the text, as well as words parents may find used in the school setting. It also defines the disabilities that qualify a child for special education services, but does not contain any other terms related to specific disabilities.
A child's performance in academic areas (such as reading or language arts, math, science, and history).
Supports that are provided to a child throughout the school day that do not significantly alter what is being taught or how the child participates in school activities. Examples of accommodations are preferential seating, extended time on tests, daily communication logs to share information between school and home, use of spell check and/or computer, enlarged print, and books on tape. See also Reasonable Accommodation.
A test that measures a student's level of development in
academic areas such as math, reading, and spelling.
A day program where staff members assist adults with disabilities
with activities emphasizing community skill training (e.g., learning to use
public transportation) and vocational skill development.
The extent to which an individual is able to adjust to and to
apply skills to new environments, tasks, objects, and people.
Adaptive Physical Education:
A physical education program that has been modified to
meet the specific needs of a student with disabilities; e.g., inclusion of activities to develop upper body strength in a student with limited arm movement.
A review process whereby disagreements between parents and school systems may be resolved by a committee of school system
individuals not directly involved with the case. Also called a conciliatory conference.
Adult Day Programs:
Programs in which adults with
disabilities receive training in daily living skills, social skills,
recreational skills and "pre-vocational" skills.
Speaking or acting on behalf of another individual or group to bring about
A person who speaks or acts knowledgeably on behalf of another individual or
group to bring about change.
Refers to students with special needs who have reached the
maximum age limit mandated in their state for special education and related
with Disabilities Act (ADA):
An anti-discrimination law giving individuals
with disabilities civil rights protections similar to those rights given to all
people on the basis of race, sex, national origin, or religion.
Statement describing the anticipated growth of a student's skill and
knowledge written into a student's yearly Individualized Education Program.
A meeting held at least once a year to look at, talk about, and
study a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). The purpose of the
review is to make decisions about changes in the IEP, review the placement, and
develop a new IEP for the year ahead.
In free, appropriate public education provided by the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), "appropriate" refers to an
educational plan that meets the individual needs of a student with disabilities.
A test that measures an individual's potential in a specific skill
area, such as clerical speed, numerical ability, or abstract thinking.
Any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to
increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with
disabilities; e.g., augmentative communication boards, computer input devices,
Term used to describe children who are considered likely to have difficulties
because of home life circumstances, medical difficulties at birth, or other
factors, and who may need early intervention services to prevent future
A professional non-medical specialist who measures hearing
levels and evaluates hearing loss.
The ability to identify and distinguish among different
speech sounds; e.g., the difference between the sound of "a" in say and
A developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal
communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3.
Disorders characterized by disruptive behavior in school,
home, and other settings. They can include attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, difficulty learning, and inability to
establish satisfactory relationships with others. Such behavior is considered
inappropriate, excessive, chronic, and abnormal.
Intervention Plan (BIP):
A plan that is based on a functional behavioral
assessment (FBA) to promote positive behavior for a student whose behavior
impedes his or her ability to learn or is disruptive to others.
: A systematic way of observing, recording, and interpreting the
behavior of a student as he/she works on the job in order to gain a broad
picture of the student's interests and abilities. Part of a vocational
Complete loss of sight. Educationally, individuals who have severe visual impairment or have no vision and must learn to read by braille,
are considered blind. See also Legally Blind.
More commonly known name for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. The law gives parents and students (over age 18) the right to see, correct, and control access to school records.
A progression of activities intended to help students acquire
the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that make work a meaningful part of life.
Career education has four stages: 1) awareness/orientation, 2) exploration, 3)
preparation, including vocational education, and 4) job placement/follow-up.
Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act (1990):
law stipulating that students with disabilities be guaranteed the opportunity to
participate in federally funded vocational programs that are equal to those
afforded to the general student population.
See Service Coordinator.
A state and local program mandated by the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to identify individuals with disabilities
between the ages of birth and twenty-one and to direct them to appropriate early
intervention or educational programs.
Study Team or Screening Committee:
A local school-based committee, whose
members determine if a student should be evaluated for special education
A term that describes the process people use for remembering, reasoning,
understanding, and judgement.
A general term for any language and/or speech
Activities by a person with disabilities within the community
which contribute to the well-being and improvement of that community, such as
volunteering at the hospital, planting trees, serving on the board of a
Everyday jobs with wages at the going rate in the
open labor market. Jobs can be either on a part-time or full-time basis.
School records containing all reports of meetings, correspondence, and
other contacts between parents and school officials.
A file having restricted access and containing records of
a child's evaluation and other materials related to special education (medical
reports, independent evaluations, reports of eligibility meetings, etc.).
The limiting of access to a child or family's records to personnel having direct involvement with the child.
A term referring to a condition present or existing at birth.
Parental permission, usually given by signing a letter or form, agreeing to let
the schools take an action which affects a child's education. Consent is
required before a child can be evaluated or receive special education services
services provided to students with disabilities by private service
providers (private schools, institutions, therapists, etc.) when the school
system is unable to provide the needed service.
A file containing report cards, standardized achievement test scores,
teacher reports, and other records of a student's school progress.
A hearing impairment so severe that an individual cannot process
sounds even with amplification such as hearing aids.
The combination of visual and hearing impairments causing
such severe communication and other developmental and educational problems that
a child cannot adequately be served in a special education program solely for
deaf or blind children.
Having to do with the steps or stages in growth and
development before the age of 18.
Term used to describe slower than normal development of
an infant or child in one or more areas.
Developmental Disability (DD):
Any severe disability, mental and/or
physical, which is present before an individual becomes eighteen years old,
which substantially limits his activities, is likely to continue indefinitely,
and requires life-long care, treatment, or other services. Examples of
developmental disabilities include Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy.
A problem or condition which makes it hard for a student to
learn or do things in the same ways as most other students. A disability may be
short term or permanent.
A system of procedures ensuring that an individual will be notified
of, and have opportunity to contest, decisions made about him. As it pertains to
early intervention (Part C) and special education (Part B) of IDEA, due process
refers to the legal right to appeal any decision regarding any portion of the
process (evaluation, eligibility, IEP or IFSP, placement, etc.).
A formal session conducted by an impartial hearing officer
to resolve special education disagreements between parents and school systems.
Early Intervening Services:
Services intended to give struggling students needed support as soon as a student's needs become apparent.
Providing services and programs to infants and toddlers (under age three) with disabilities in order to minimize or eliminate the disability as
of the Handicapped Act (EHA):
See Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA).
An individual who speaks or acts knowledgeably for the educational needs of another.
A professional who is certified to conduct
educational assessments and to design instructional programs for students.
The determination of whether or not a child qualifies to
receive early intervention or special education services based on meeting
Emotional Disorders (ED):
Disabilities characterized by their effect on an individual's emotional state. They may cause anxiety, such as separation anxiety, phobias, and post traumatic stress disorder. Other emotional disorders are affective or mood disorders, such as childhood depression, or bi-polar disorder.
Personal habits and traits such as cleanliness,
dependability, and punctuality that are necessary for successful employment;
sometimes called "work adjustment skills."
The process of collecting information about a student's learning
needs through a series of individual tests, observations, and talks with the
student, the family, and others. Also, the process of obtaining detailed
information about an infant or toddler's developmental levels and needs for
services. May also be called Assessment.
The ability to communicate through speech, writing, augmentative
communication or gestures.
Special education provided during summer months to students
found to require year-round services to receive an appropriate education.
Care provided by individuals who are licensed by the state to provide family-like settings for adults with disabilities.
Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA):
More commonly known name for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. The law gives parents and
students (over age 18) the right to see, correct, and control access to school
SeeFunctional Behavioral Assessment.
Body movements which use small muscles; for example: picking up a
small object, writing, or eating.
Appropriate Public Education (FAPE):
The words used in the federal law, the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to describe a student's
right to a special education program that will meet his or her individual
special learning needs, at no cost to the family.
A process to determine the underlying causes or funcitons of a child's behavior that is keeping the child from learning or causing him to disrupt his peers' learning. For example, is the child using the behavior to get attention? To escape from a situation that he finds overwhelming? Included in the assessment is identificaiton of when the behavior does and does not occu (what the antecedents are), what the chiold receives in return for the behavior (the consequences), ad possible ways of replacing those behaviors. An FBA is used to develop a behavioral intervention plan (BIP).
Goals that are designed to meet the needs of a child that result from the child's disability and enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general educaiton curriculum or meet the child's other educational needs resulting from his disability.
How the child's disability affects his involvement and progress in the general educaiton curriculum (i.e., the same curriculum used for chikldren without disabilities). Or, for the preschool children, how the disability affects the child's participation in appropriate activities. See Vocational Assessment.
See Vocational Assessment.
Education Diploma (GED):
A method for obtaining a diploma for adults who did not complete high school. GED tests, which measure achievement in writing skills, social studies, science, literature, and mathematics, enable individuals to demonstrate that they have acquired a level of learning comparable to that of traditional high school graduates.
See Annual Goal.
Gross Motor Skills:
Body movements which use large muscles; for example: sitting, walking, or climbing.
The process of helping an individual develop specific skills and abilities (e.g., dressing, eating, maneuvering a wheelchair) in order to become as independent and productive as possible.
Handicapped Children's Protection Act:
The law providing for the reimbursement of reasonable attorneys' fees to parents who win their cases in administrative proceedings under IDEA.
Impaired hearing which can be corrected sufficiently with a
hearing aid to enable an individual to hear and process sounds. Also used to
describe hearing loss occurring after an individual has developed some spoken
This term includes both individuals who are deaf and who are
hard-of-hearing. The difference between deafness and hard-of-hearing is defined
by amount of hearing loss.
Early intervention services provided to a child and family in their own home.
Educational instruction given in a student's home when he is
unable to attend school for medical or other reasons.
See Individualized Education Program.
See Individualized Family Service Plan.
See Intelligence Quotient.
Individual presiding over a due process hearing, appointed by the state education agency, and not connected in any way with either party in a dispute.
Ensuring that necessary supports and services are provided so that children with
disabilities can participate with children who do not have disabilities in
school, community, and recreation activities.
Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE):
An evaluation/assessment of a student conducted by one or more professionals not employed by the school system. The person(s) doing the evaluation must be fully trained and qualified to do the kind of testing required.
Independent Living Skills:
Basic skills needed by people with disabilities to function on their own, with as little help as possible. Skills include self-help (e.g., bathing, dressing), housekeeping, community living (e.g., shopping, using public transportation), etc.
Individualized Education Program (IEP):
A written plan for each student in special education describing the student's present levels of performance, annual goals including short-term objectives, specific special education and related services, dates for beginning and duration of services, and how the IEP will be evaluated.
Individualized Determination Plan:
A written plan for each student who receives services, modifications, and accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In some schools, it is referred to as a "504 Plan."
Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP):
A written statement for each infant or toddler receiving early intervention services that includes goals and outcomes for the child and family. It also includes a plan for making the transition to services for children over age 2.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):
The authorizing federal legislation which mandates a free, appropriate public education for all children with disabilities. Formerly known as the Education for All Handicapped Children
Act. Part B of the act refers to special education services for children
age three through twenty-one. Part C refers to the early intervention
program for infants and toddlers with disabilities from birth through age two
and their families.
A broad term describing delayed intellectual development resulting in delays in other areas, such as academic learning, adaptive behavior, communication, social skills, and physical coordination. This term is rapidly replacing the older term mental retardation as an eligibility category used in IDEA.
Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.):
A measurement of thinking (cognitive) ability that compares an individual with others in his age group.
Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC):
Federal, state, or local group consisting of parents, advocates and professionals who serve in an advisory capacity to plan and implement early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.
Intermediate care facility:
Licensed facilities operating under strict regulations and providing intensive support for people with disabilities in the areas of personal care, communication, behavior management, etc.
A teacher who provides services to students in a variety of locations.
A service agency professional who works with an individual with disabilities at
the job site, providing support by helping the employee to improve job skills,
interpersonal relations, or any other job-related needs.
State agency which has been designated by the governor to administer and implement a statewide comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency service delivery system for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.
A disorder in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, resulting in difficulty with listening, thinking, speaking, writing, spelling, or doing mathematical calculations. This term does not include children with learning problems related to other disabilities such as mental retardation (intellectual disability).
The unique way that an individual learns best, for example, by playing games, imitating, reading a book, listening to a lecture, or handling materials. Most children learn through a combination of processes.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE):
Placement of a student with disabilities in a
setting that allows maximum contact with students who do not have disabilities,
while appropriately meeting the student's special education needs.
An individual is considered to be legally blind if his vision, even with corrective lenses, is 20/200 or less, which means being able to see at 20 feet what a person with normal vision sees at 200 feet.
The concept that students with disabilities should be educated with nondisabled students to the maximum extent possible.
Major Life Activity
: Such activities as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks,
walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning and working.
A formal intervention between parents and personnel of early intervention or
school systems to achieve reconciliation, settlement, or compromise.
A federal/state program that provides medical services primarily to individuals
with low incomes.
An eligibility category used in IDEA though most self-advocates, parents, teachers, and other professionals prefer the term intellectual or cognitive disablity. See Intellectual Disability.
In order to receive a regular high school diploma, many states require students to pass a minimum competency test, demonstrating their academic skills to be at a state-defined level of achievement.
Changes made to instruction or the curriculum that fundamentally changes what the child is expected to learn. Examples of modifications include providing instruction to the child at a different academic level or testing him on different knowledge or skills than other students in the class.
The testing of a child by a group of professionals, including psychologists, teachers, social workers, speech therapists, nurses, etc.
An educational label given to students having a combination of impairments such as mental retardation and blindness or orthopedic impairments and deafness which cause such educational problems that they cannot be accommodated in programs for any one imï¿½pairment. This term does not include children with deaf-blindness.
A term used in early intervention to describe the settings that infants and toddlers and toddlers would be if they did not have a disability such as home, day care, and other community environments.
Places that are generally thought of as dwellings for people, such as apartments, houses, townhouses, trailers, etc.
Term relating to programs based on instructional needs rather than on categories of disabilities.
An evaluation in which the materials and procedures used are not racially or culturally biased. In addition, an individual's disability must be accommodated such as by allowing more time, using a computer, etc.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB):
A law that sets high standards for all students, including students with disabilities and bases funding on a schoolï¿½s adequate yearly progress.
An objective is a short-term step taken to reach an annual goal. IEP objectives
are the steps between a student's present level of performance and an annual
goal. IDEA previously required all IEPs to include objectives, but that requirement changed with the 2004 Amendments.
Occupational Therapy (OT):
Activities focusing on fine motor skills and perceptual abilities that assist in improving physical, social, psychological, and/or intellectual development; e.g., rolling a ball, finger painting, sorting objects.
Short-term training that enables a person to work on a job site while learning the job duties.
A physical disability severe enough to affect a child's educational performance. Orthopedic impairments can be congenital, or caused by
disease or injury.
Other Health Impairment (OHI):
Term used in IDEA to describe conditions that adversely affect a child's educational performance and are not covered by other disability definitions (e.g., Learning Disabilities, Autism, etc.). This term is frequently used for various medical conditions such as a heart condition, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, leukemia, etc. It also includes ADHD and Tourett syndrome.
P.L. 101-476, P.L. 94-142 and P.L. 99-457:
SeeIndividuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Part B or Part C:
See Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Physical Therapy (PT):
Activities or routines designed to increase gross motor skills.
The setting in which a child with disabilities is educated. Placement includes
the school, the classroom, related services, community-based services, and the
amount of time a student will spend with peers and others who do not have
Education programs for students who have completed high school, such as community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, trade and technical schools, and vocational programs.
A medical doctor with advanced training who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders.
The portion of a child's overall evaluation/assessment for special education that tests his or her general aptitudes and abilities, eye-hand coordination, social skills, emotional development, and thinking skills.
A professional, not a medical doctor, with advanced training in the study of mental processes and human behavior. A school psychologist conducts various evaluations, especially aptitude and ability tests, and may work with students, classroom teachers, parents, and school administrators on behavior assessments and behavior management programs.
Changes a school is required to make to permit students with disabilities to participate in educational programs or extracurricular activities (for example, locating a classroom on the first floor is a highr floor is inaccessible to a student in a wheelchair). The concept also applies to the modificaiton of job requirements and equipment for workers with disabilities. Generally, reasonable accommodations must be made if they do not impose an unde financial burden.
The process of receiving and understanding written, gestured, or spoken language.
A formal notification to the early intervention system or local school that a child is experiencing difficulties which may require a full evaluation for early intervention or special education. A referral may be made by a family, teacher, or other professional.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504):
A nondiscrimination statute. Section 504 of the Act stipulates that individuals with disabilities may not be excluded from participating in programs and services receiving federal funds. It also prohibits job discrimination against people with disabilities in any program receiving federal financial assistance.
Those services a student must receive to benefit from special education; for example, transportation, counseling, speech therapy, crisis intervention, etc.
The placement of a student in a setting that provides educational instruction and 24-hour care.
A setting in a school where a student receives instruction for a part of the school day from a special education teacher.
Response to Intervention:
A process schools may use to identify students with specific learning disabilities. It involves universal screening for learning difficulties, providing instruction and interventions matched to students' needs, frequent progress monitoring, and using data on students' responses to make educational decisions.
A brief examination of a child designed to pick up potential difficulties and to identify children who need further evaluation and diagnosis.
A local school-based committee, whose members determine if a student should be fully evaluated for special education eligibility.
See Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The abilities required to take primary responsibility for one's life and to make choices regarding one's actions free from undue interference. Also called self-determination.
A classroom in which a group of students with disabilities receive their entire instructional program with little or no interaction with non-disabled students.
Someone who acts as a coordinator of a child's and family's services and works in partnership with the family and other service providers.
A work setting in which employees with disabilities do contract work, usually on a piece-rate basis, such as preparing bulk mailings or refinishing furniture.
A professional who may provide services to the family including: arranging or attending parent-student conferences; providing family counseling, family education, information, and referral; writing a social-developmental history; and/or conducting a behavioral assessment. Social workers sometimes conduct parent education in the school and community.
The portion of a child's overall evaluation/assessment for special education that describes a child's background and behavior at home and at school. It is usually completed by a social worker.
Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Special Education File:
See Confidential File.
A term to describe a child who has disabilities, chronic illness, or is at risk for developing disabilities and who needs educational services or other special treatment in order to progress.
Specialized Nursing Homes:
Licensed facilities operating under strict regulations and providing intensive support for people with disabilities in the areas of personal care, communication, behavior management, etc.
Specific Learning Disability (SLD):
See Learning Disability.
A communication disorder involving poor or abnormal production of the sounds of language.
A professional who evaluates and develops programs for individuals with speech or language problems.
Activities or routines designed to improve and increase communication skills.
In a vocational assessment, standardized tests are used to predict how a student is likely to perform in jobs calling for certain interests and skills.
Student Progress Monitoring:
A scientifically-based practice used to assess students' academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction.
(a major life activity): Refers to a disability that restricts the conditions, manner, or duration under which activities can be performed in comparison to most people, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Supervised Living Arrangements:
Homes or apartments for persons with disabilities that are managed by public or private agencies. Paid staff supervise the residents and assist them with budgeting, food preparation, transportation, etc.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI):
A federal program administered through the Social Security Administration that provides payments to individuals who are elderly and/or have disabilities. Children may be eligible for SSI if they have disabilities and are from families with low income. In addition, children who are hospitalized for 30 days or more and have a disability expected to last 12 months or more may receive SSI.
Paid employment for workers with disabilities in settings with people who are nondisabled. A job coach provides support by helping the employee to improve job skills, interpersonal relations, or any other job-related needs.
Trade and Technical Schools:
Schools which prepare students for employment in recognized occupations such as secretary, air conditioning technician, beautician, electrician, welder, carpenter, etc.
The process of moving from one situation to another. Frequently used to mean moving from preschool programs into elementary school or from school to work and the community.
School personnel chosen to manage transition services for students with disabilities.
Careful preparation by the student, parents, educators, and other service providers, for the time when the student leaves high school. The plan is
written in the Individualized Transition Plan.
Transition Planning Team:
The people who are involved in transition planning for a student, including the student, parents, school personnel (teachers, guidance counselor, vocational coordinator, school administrator), adult service agency representatives (vocational rehabilitation counselor, independence living center staff).
A coordinated set of activities for a student that promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational training, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.
Traumatic Brain Injury:
An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force causing a disability which affects a child's educational performance; e.g., cognition, memory, language, motor abilities.
Every three years, a student in special education must be given a completely new evaluation/assessment to determine the student's progress and to make a new determination of eligibility for continued special education services unless the parent agrees that no new evaluation is necessary. The school must also re-evaluate the child at parent request, as long as it has been at least one year since the last evaluation.
Having a mild to severe vision disorder, which adversely affects a child's educational performance.
The extent to which an individual can coordinate vision with body movement or parts of the body; e.g., being able to copy words from the blackboard.
Vocational Assessment (Evaluation):
A systematic process of evaluating an individual's skills, aptitudes, and interests as they relate to job preparation and choice. Assessments include work sampling, standardized tests, and behavioral observation.
Formal training designed to prepare individuals to work in a certain job or occupational area, such as construction, cosmetology, food service, or electronics. Also called vocational training and vocational program.
A comprehensive system that assists individuals with temporary or permanent disabilities in the areas of assessment, counseling, training, physical rehabilitaï¿½tion, and job placement.
Education programs in which the student receives employment training and earns credit toward graduation through employment.