Acronyms & Terminology
Partnering With You to Assure Your Student's Educational Success
Special Education is full of acronyms and terminology that most people do not normally use. Only some of the terms below will appear in any individual IEP document. It’s important for to learn these terms early in the IEP process for you to be your student’s best advocate. Review this list of terms before each IEP meeting to refresh your memory and ask the IEP team to explain any terms you don’t understand that are used during a meeting or in an IEP . Here are key terms you’ll see and hear as you work with the IEP team in your student’s school.
Accommodations: These are changes to or in a student’s learning environment. Accommodations do not change the content or expectation; instead they are an adjustment to instructional methods. Accommodations should be specified in a student's IEP or 504 Plan. Examples include using books on tape or content enhancements, providing extended time for test taking, presenting tests in different formats and altering classroom configuration.
Adapted Physical Education (APE): APEprovidesadiversifiedprogramof developmental activities, games, sports and rhythms suited to the interests, capabilities and needs of students with disabilities who may not successfully engage in a regular physical education program.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Enacted into law in July 1990, the ADA is federal legislation that grants civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities.
Administrative Review (AR): This is one way of resolving special education issues. Supervisory personnel within the local school district or state review what has been done by the IEP Team (or in some states, MDT).
Adverse Educational Impact (AEI): To qualify for special education services, a student must have a disability that interferes with (has an adverse impact on) some aspect of learning.
Annual Goals: The IEP document lists the academic and functional (everyday) skills the IEP team thinks the student can achieve by the end of the year. These goals are geared toward helping the student take part in the general education classroom. IEP goals need to be realistic and measurable.
Assistive Technology (AT): Any device, equipment or software that helps your student work around her issues can be consider assistive technology. AT can help your student learn, communicate and function better in school. AT ranges from simple tools (like highlighters) to high-tech software (like apps that read text aloud) or laptop computers.
Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP): A BIP is designed to teach and reward positive behavior. Typically, the plan uses strategies to prevent and stop problem behaviors. It may also have supports and aids for the student. A BIP is often included as part of an IEP. To get a BIP, a student must have a FBA (Functional Behavior Assessment).
Cumulative File: The cumulative file includes all the records maintained by the local school district for any student enrolled in school. The file may contain evaluations and information about a student’s disability and placement. It also contains grades and the results of standardized assessments. Parents and guardians have the right to inspect these files at any time.
Child Find: It is the legal responsibility of the school district to locate, identify, and evaluate students with disabilities in their jurisdiction.
Disability: A disability is a documented condition that results in restricted capability to perform a function of daily life. A disability is not a handicapping condition unless the individual with a disability must function in a particular activity that is impeded by his or her limitation. To qualify for an IEP, a student must have a disability that is one of the 13 categories listed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Due Process: This is formal legal process for resolving disputes with a school about program or placement recommendation, which is presided over by an impartial public official. Notice of intent to seek due process must be given in writing within 30 days. IDEA provides two methods for resolving disputes: mediation or fair hearing.
Eligibility: The process of qualifying for a service under one of the federally defined disability categories is called eligibility.
Extended School Day (ESD): ESD allows a special education student to receive instruction for a period longer than the standard school day.
Extended School Year (ESY): An extended school year is a component of special education services for students with unique needs who require instruction in excess of the regular academic year. Extended year often refers to summer school or summer tutoring, or, less commonly, during extended time off like winter break.
FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education): FAPE refers to the guaranteed right of a student with disabilities to receive an education that meets his/her unique (individual) needs at no cost to parents, as provided under IDEA.
FBA (Functional Behavior Assessment): A functional behavior assessment is an evaluation process which is used to analyze a student’s challenging behavior. A functional assessment helps the IEP Team to understand why a student acts a certain way (purpose and motivation). This includes looking at non-academic factors that might be contributing to the student’s frustration with learning. A FBA is a necessary step in developing a positive and appropriate Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), and designing instructional supports and services.
General Education Curriculum: The knowledge and skills that all students throughout a state are expected to master is called the general education curriculum. The curriculum varies by state.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): This federal law was first enacted in 1975 as the Education for all Handicapped Children Act. Periodically reauthorized and most recently updated in 2004, it is a comprehensive federally funded law that governs the education of students with disabilities and guarantees them access to a free and appropriate public education and the right to be educated with their non-disabled peers.
Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE): A school district is required by law to conduct assessments for students who may be eligible for special education. If the parent disagrees with the results of a school district's evaluation conducted on their student, they have the right to request an independent educational evaluation. Federal law defines an IEE as "an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency responsible for the education of the student in question." It is provided either at parent expense or at public expense as a result of a parent or guardian's request or a due process hearing decision. The district must provide parents with information about how to obtain an IEE.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP): The IEP is the legal written document designed by a team of professional educators, specialists, and the student's parent(s)/guardian(s) for special education students that states the disabled student’s goals, objectives and services. It must be reviewed at least annually by the IEP Team.
IEP Team: The IEP team are the professional educators and parents/guardians who develop and monitor a student’s Individualized Educational Plan. The team is required by state law to include members who have the role of a special education teacher, general education teacher, evaluator, Local Education Agency (LEA) representative, and parent/guardian. Other specialists and the student should be included as appropriate. In some communities, the IEP Team is called a MDT (see below).
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Students with documented disabilities must be taught in the least restrictive environment. This means they should be educated to the maximum extent possible with students who are not disabled while meeting all their learning needs and physical requirements. The type of setting is stipulated in a student's IEP. LRE is an individual determination, as what is right for one student is not necessarily appropriate for another. The school must offer services and supports to help a student with an IEP succeed in a general education classroom.
Local Education Agency (LEA): A school district, board of education, or other public authority under the supervision of a state educational agency having administrative control and direction of public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or political subdivision in a state is considered at local education agency.
Manifestation Determination: If school personnel wish to impose a change of placement or suspension amounting to more than 10 days for a student with a disability because of violation of school code, the IEP team must investigate whether there is a correlation between the student’s conduct in question and his/her disability or whether the conduct was a direct result of the school district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP. If the conduct was related to the student’s disability or as a result of implementation failure, the disciplinary action, as well as the student’s IEP, should be adjusted accordingly. If no relationship is found, the student may be disciplined in the same manner as non-disabled students. If the parent(s)/guardian(s) disagree, an expedited due process hearing must be arranged.
Modification: A modification is a change in what a student is expected to learn and demonstrate. For example, a teacher might ask the class to write an essay that analyzes three major battles during a war. A student with a modification may only be asked to write about the basic facts of those battles. Modifications are different from accommodations.
Parent Consent: Parent consent is a term used by IDEA that states the parent(s) or guardian(s) has/have been fully informed by the school district, in their native language or other mode of communication, about the action for which they are giving consent and that they understand and agree in writing to that action. It includes an understanding that the consent is voluntarily given by the parent or guardian and may be withdrawn at any time.
Parent Concerns/Report: This is a letter you write prior to the creation or review of an IEP . It’s a good way for you to document your student’s strengths, struggles and success at school, at home and in the community along with your concerns. By sharing the report with your student’s IEP team, you give them a more complete view of your student.
Progress Reporting: This is how a school reports to the parent or guardian on the student’s progress toward annual goals. This is specified in the IEP.
Multidisciplinary Team (MDT): A group including parent(s)/guardian(s) and professionals with different areas of expertise who come together for the purpose of looking at an individual student's educational program.
Present Level of Performance (PLOP, PLP, PLAFF, PLAAFP): The IEP includes a statement of the student's current baseline of strengths and needs) as measured by formal and informal evaluations. PLOP describes your student’s academic skills (such as reading level) and functional skills (such as making conversation or writing with a pencil). The school prepares this report for the IEP meeting. This is the starting point for setting annual IEP goals.
Prior Written Notice (PWN): A school district must provide written notice to parents or guardians when it proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the identifications, evaluation, or educational placement of the student. The documentation should provide sufficient information to ensure that the parent(s)/guardian(s) understand the rationale behind the decision made regarding a particular proposed or refused action. Notification should be given by the district within a reasonable time period, prior to an action.
Referral: A written request for evaluation or eligibility for special education and related services is called a referral.
Related Services: Any support services a student needs to benefit from special education may be considered related services. Examples include (but are not limited to) transportation, therapies (physical, occupational and/or speech), nursing services and counseling.
Response To Intervention (RTI): RTI is a process of assessment and instruction that allows schools to identify struggling students early and provide for increasing and/or changing supports and interventions to address students' needs. Under IDEA, it is one of the preferred methods for identifying specific learning disabilities.
Section 504 Plan (504): A 504 plan is a written plan for individuals with disabilities qualifying under the US Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which documents necessary accommodations or services that will be made to give the student equal educational access. In general, 504 plans are most appropriate when the student has a physical disability that does not directly interfere with his or her ability to learn. Students who require a wheelchair or auditory enhancements but who otherwise can access the educational curriculum often find that a 504 plan protects their rights well. Students with a 504 plan do not require curriculum modifications and “specially designed instruction.” When a student has a learning disability, developmental delay, ADHD or another condition that directly impacts learning and behavior, it is very likely he/she is eligible for an IEP and his/her parents or guardians should not accept a 504 in its place. The 504 plan does not necessarily involve the IEP team.
Special Education (SPED): Specialized instruction specifically designed to meet the unique needs of a student with an eligible disability is called special education. It should be designed to give a student access to the general education curriculum, be it in school, in the home, in the hospital/institution or in another setting. The instruction is provided at no cost to parents.
Stay Put: A student is allowed to remain in his/her current educational setting while a due process complaint is being resolved, although there are important exceptions to this legal distinction. Stay Put is also in place when a family disagrees with a PWN of a proposal to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the identifications, evaluation, or educational placement of the student.
Student Support Team (SST): The SST is a group formed within the school to examine a struggling student’s academic, behavioral and social-emotional progress. The SST can propose interventions for the student. The team usually consists of a teacher, administrator and support personnel from the school. Sometimes a special education teacher will also participate to give his or her perspective. The student and parent or guardian are also a part of the team. The team may make a recommendation for a special education evaluation, if it is deemed appropriate.
Supplementary Aids and Services: These are supports that are provided by the school to help your student learn in the general education classroom or in extracurricular or nonacademic settings. They can include equipment or assistive technology, like audiobooks or highlighted classroom notes. They may also include training for staff to help them work with your student.
Transition Plan: This part of the IEP lays out what your teen must learn and do in high school in order to succeed as a young adult. The student and the IEP team develop the plan together in grade 9 or age 16 (whichever comes first). The transition plan includes goals and activities that facilitate the student’s move to postsecondary options and may include postsecondary education, career exploration, vocational assessment, practical life skills and job training.