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Terms Used in Special Education











Accommodations do not change what the student learns. Accommodations allow the student to work around limitations related to his/her disability in order to access the general education curriculum. An accommodation is a change in the course, standard, test preparation, location, timing, scheduling, expectations, student response, and/or other attribute which provides access for a student with a disability to participate in a course, standard or test, which does not fundamentally alter or lower the standard or expectation of the course, standard or test.

Accommodations include supports and techniques that provide equal access to instruction and assessment for students with disabilities. Designed to "level the playing field" for students with disabilities, accommodations are generally grouped into the following categories:

Presentation (e.g., repeat directions, read aloud, use of larger bubbles on answer sheets, etc.)

Response (e.g., mark answers in book, use reference aids, point, use of computer, etc.)

Timing/Scheduling (e.g., extended time, frequent breaks, etc.)

Setting (e.g., study carrel, special lighting, separate room, etc.)



Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)



Federal law that protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in the operations of public businesses and governments.



Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) Behavior Support Plan (BSP)



A plan to address problem behavior that includes, as appropriate, positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports; program modifications; and supplementary aids and services that may be required to address the problem behavior.



Child with a Disability



A child who has a disability as defined in one of the 13 disability categories in IDEA and who needs special education and related services because of the disability; or a child aged 3 through 9 who is experiencing developmental delay.



Child Find



Ongoing activities undertaken by states and local school districts to locate, identify, and evaluate all children residing in the state who are suspected of having disabilities so that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) can be made available to all eligible children, including all children in public and private schools, including religious schools.



Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM)



Tools for measuring student competency and progress in the basic skill areas of reading fluency, spelling, mathematics and written language.



Developmental Delay



A disability category states may use for certain students aged three through nine as a way to provide early services for students suspected of having a disability. If used, the definition of developmental delay is determined by the state and may include a child whose development, as measured by appropriate diagnostic tests and procedures, lags behind peers in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development, and who, because of such delays, needs special education and related services.



Disability Categories



The 13 IDEA disability categories include Autism, Deaf-blindness, Deafness, Emotional Disturbance, Hard of Hearing, Intellectual Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Visual Impairment



Due Process Complaint



A written complaint filed by a parent or a school district involving any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, educational placement or provision of a free appropriate public education to a student with a disability. Due process complaints must be filed within two years of the matter in dispute.



Due Process Hearing



A formal legal procedure before an administrative law judge who is not an employee of the state educational agency or school district. Both the parents and the school district present arguments and evidence.



Early Intervention Services



Services to infants and toddlers provided under Part C of IDEA. Part C established the Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, a federal grant program that assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, aged birth through age 2 years, and their families. Early intervention services include multidisciplinary evaluation of needs of children and family-directed identification of the needs of each family as set out in an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).



Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)



Special education and related services that are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge to the parent, and that meet the standards of the state education department. Special education and related services must be provided in conformity with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) as required by IDEA.



Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA)



A problem-solving process for addressing student problem behavior. FBA relies on a variety of techniques and strategies to identify the reasons for a specific behavior and to help IEP teams select interventions that directly address the problem behavior.



Functional Skills



Skills needed for independent living, such as cooking, comparison shopping, working with or managing money, using public transportation, and knowing how to be safe in the community.



Informed Consent



Procedure to ensure that the parent:

-Has been fully informed of all information related to the proposed activity (in his native language, or other mode of communication)
-Understands and agrees in writing to carrying out the activity for which parental consent is sought
-Understands that giving consent is voluntary and may be revoked at any time
-Understands that revoking consent will not apply to an activity that has already occurred
-Informed consent is required for an evaluation, a reevaluation and for the initial delivery of special education services.



Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)



To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are to be educated with children who are not disabled. Special classes, separate schooling, or other ways of removing children with disabilities from the regular educational environment should only occur when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily with the use of supplementary aids and services.






A confidential, voluntary process that allows parties to resolve disputes without a formal due process hearing. An impartial mediator helps the parties to express their views and positions and to understand the other's views and positions. The mediator's role is to facilitate discussion and help parties reach an agreement -- not to recommend solutions or take positions or sides.






Modifications are changes to what a student is expected to learn. A modification is a change in the course, standard, test preparation, location, timing, scheduling, expectations, student response, and or other attribute which provides access for a student with a disability to participate in a course, standard or test, and which does fundamentally alter or lower the standard or expectation of the course, standard or test.

Modifications are made to general education curriculum expectations and/or standards when the academic expectations/standards are beyond the student's level of ability.


Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) A comprehensive, multi-step process that closely monitors how the student is responding to different types of interventions, services and instruction.


Pre-Referral Interventions



Interventions delivered in the student's general education classroom that attempt to improve learning prior to a referral for formal special education evaluation.



Prior Written Notice



A written notice that the school must provide to the parents of a student with a disability within a reasonable time if they wish to

-Evaluate the student
-Determine whether the student is eligible for special education services
-Change the student's evaluation or educational placement or educational plan (IEP)
-Refuse the parents' request to evaluate their child or change their child's educational plan (IEP) or placement.



Progress Monitoring



A scientifically based practice used to assess students' academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring can be implemented with individual students or an entire class.



Resolution Session



A mandatory meeting that the school district must convene within 15 days of receiving the parents' due process complaint. The resolution session includes parents, members of the IEP team relevant to the complaint, and a representative of the school district who has decision-making authority.



Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act



A federal law that requires a school district to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each child with a disability in the district's jurisdiction.



School District



The term "school district" and "school" are used to refer to the entity that has legal authority, control and responsibility for public education in a city, county, town (or combination of these), or other subdivision of a state.



Scientific, Research-Based Instruction



Curriculum and educational interventions that are research-based and have been proven to be effective for most students.



Special Education



Specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and instruction in physical education.



Specially Designed Instruction



Ways that special education professionals adapt the content, methodology (approaches to teaching certain grade level content), or the delivery of instruction to address the unique needs that result from the child's disability. Specially designed instruction should also ensure that the eligible child has access to the general curriculum so that he or she can meet the educational standards of the school district that apply to all children.



Specific Learning Disability



A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.



Supplemental Aids and Services



Aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate. Examples of supplemental aids and services might be assistive technologies such as a computer or adapted physical education.



Universal Design for Learning (UDL)



Universal Design for Learning is an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, that guides the development of flexible learning environments and learning spaces that can accommodate individual learning differences.



Universal Screening



A step taken by school personnel early in the school year to determine which students are "at risk" for not meeting grade level standards. Universal screening can be accomplished by reviewing a student's recent performance on state or district tests or by administering an academic screening to all students in a given grade. Students whose scores on the screening fall below a certain cut-off point are identified as needing continued progress monitoring and possibly more intensive interventions.