Helpful jargon.


1 - D

100 DAY KIT FOR SCHOOL AGE Students - a resource for parents of children newly diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Click here for the resource

504 – 504s and IEPs are different! However, they are both legal and are put in place to help children with disabilities. A 504 plan is developed to ensure that a child with a disability has access to the same learning as their nondisabled peers. It usually includes accommodations decided upon by the parent, teacher and the school’s 504 coordinator. A 504 plan most often does not include special education services, but may include services through other resources in the school. This is different than an IEP in that the IEP is much more extensive, has different qualifying criteria, and includes special education services which usually include additional instruction from the school’s special education team. A 504 is so named from the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which is a civil rights law. Many districts have similar processes and will write these plans out, but don’t need to by law. If your child did not qualify for an IEP, a 504 is a good place to look for additional help. However, remember, this is a different process, so not qualifying for an IEP doesn’t guarantee a 504 nor is it a “next step”. You will need to ask to talk to the school’s 504 coordinator about this and go from there.

ABC chart - Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence- a chart used to study a specific behavior in order to figure out why it is happening. They are used to record what happened just before a behavior occurred (Antecedent), a description of the behavior itself and the actions taken after (consequence) of the behavior. This is often used as a part of an FBA (Functional Behavioral Assessment). Using these can be eye-opening experiences, seriously! You can also do these at home, it does not need to be conducted by a professional in the field to gain a different perspective on your child’s behavior.

Access - as in, “Children with disabilities should have equal access to the same curriculum as their peers.” Basically, it just means that all children will have equal opportunities to take full advantage of their education; All kids get to learn the same stuff as well as go to the same places.

Accommodation – A change that compensates for a persons’ limitation without altering the purpose – the curriculum in the case of schools. Accommodations are important! Please see my video blog for a more in-depth description of accommodations. Some examples of common accommodations are extended time for assignments and tests, and frequent breaks.

Adaptations - Changes in educational environments that allow students with disabilities to participate in inclusive environments by compensating for learners’ weaknesses. Basically, a type of accommodation.

Adaptive Behavior - A collection of skills that are performed in everyday life. The three skills are conceptual skills (This includes reading, numbers, money, time, and communication skills.) social skills (These skills help us to get along well with others. These skills include understanding and following social rules and customs; obeying laws; and detecting the motivations of others in order to avoid victimization and deception.) and practical life skills (These are the skills needed to perform the activities of daily living. This includes feeding, bathing, dressing, occupational skills, and navigational skills.)

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) - The measure by which schools, districts, and states are held accountable for student performance under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Every state has the freedom to define AYP. All students, including those in special education programs, must demonstrate adequate yearly progress.

American Sign Language (ASL) – A language using the shape, placement, and movement of hands as well as facial expressions and body movements. ASL is not universal, like all languages different countries have different visual languages. In addition, regions have different dialects, unique syntax, and grammar.

Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) - This is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Annual Review (AR) - This is the yearly IEP meeting you have if your child has already been on an IEP. It’s basically a meeting of the IEP team (or called ARD committee in some states) all in one place at one time. During the meeting, the team is updated on a student’s needs and performance, (although all members should be communicating on a regular basis, including parents). During the AR meeting, the team will review progress toward goals and look at new data, such as work samples and recent testing, to update all areas of the IEP. This is a full IEP meeting, and will usually take an hour or more. See my blog on how to prepare for IEP meetings for more information.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) – A strategy for teaching basic skills (I’ve used it for toilet training and to increase sitting behavior). Its theory focuses on how learning takes place. One principle is based on the idea that people are more likely to repeat the desired behavior when getting rewarded for it, and less likely to repeat the behavior when not rewarded. One significant part of ABA is discrete trial training (DTT), in which a skill is broken down into its most basic components so that these components may be taught one at a time. This usually works in creating behavior changes, however, many parents are concerned that this is not teaching the deeper reason for the accepted behavior. This does not have to be an either or, you can do both – ie, still, teach your children your values, and model them while rewarding desired behavior.

Assessment - As in, Educational or Special Educational Assessment or Evaluation. These are a big deal for the child, the school and the parent. These can be done at the school, (a parent request does not guarantee that it will be done) or an outside agency. These assessments are very thorough and take a lot of time. These are used to identify a student’s strengths, weaknesses and sometimes progress. They are designed to provide an overview of a child’s academic performance, basic cognitive functioning and/or his or her current strengths or weaknesses; they can also test hearing and vision. Assessments can consist of anything from the observations to standardized and criterion-referenced tests to complex, multi-stage procedures such as a group of teachers assembling a large portfolio of student work.

Assessment Plan - This is the plan of how the student will be assessed. The assessments that are described in the plan are often used to determine a student's eligibility for special education services and the types of services that would help that student succeed. Be an active part of this process. Ask questions about what areas will be tested. If you are comfortable, bring any information you might have. Be prepared to fill out lengthy questionnaires about your child’s behavior and medical history.

Assistive Technology (AT) - technology used by individuals with disabilities in order to assist or perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. Assistive technology can include mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware and software that assist people with disabilities in accessing computers or other electronic technologies.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - is a common disorder that impacts focus, self-control and other skills important in daily life. It also increases the ability to focus on several stimuli at once. Children with ADHD are sometimes eligible for special education services under IDEA’s “other help impairments” disability category.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) - An out-of-date term that was previously used to describe children who have ADHD (see explanation above).

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device (AAC) - A device that enables all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. Other words, it’s a tool that helps someone communicate on any level. Some examples include a simple board with pictures or electronically synthesized voice.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) - refers to a spectrum (wide variety) of conditions which may include challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types. Some diagnosis may include Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, and Asperger syndrome. Terminology and diagnosis are everchanging with newly learned information.

Baseline - This is where the student is performing at the moment, usually before measuring progress. It’s the starting point. Information to determine this should be determined by data collected through assessments and universal screening tools. A student’s baseline is used in determining students' throughout the year.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) - A written plan that targets one to up to three of a student’s undesirable behaviors. The plan will include an intervention for each of the behaviors, focused on the functions (the reason he or she is doing it) of the behavior. Each intervention specifically addresses a measurable, clearly-stated targeted behavior. A BIP should include prevention strategies, which stop the behavior before it begins, as well as replacement behaviors, which achieve the same function as the disruptive behavior without causing disruption. A BIP has set criteria under the IDEA law. These plans can be used in schools, and also at home.

Behavior Management - Responding to, preventing and de-escalating disruptive behavior. This is what happens naturally in a good classroom; there is some sort of behavior management that applies to all students. (Although some student’s benefit from individualized behavior management strategies.) This also applies to home or any environment that parents may bring their children to. There are many different approaches and philosophies on behavior management. It is always good to reflect on what your personal philosophy is, so that your management reflects your true philosophy, as opposed to reacting. This way you feel better about how you are managing behavior, and your management will be more effective.

Behavior Support Plan (BSP) - A proactive action plan that addresses behavior(s) that are hindering the learning of a student, or of others in his or her classroom. This is a plan specific to a certain student or small group of students. It is meant to be in addition to or sometimes instead of the classrooms universal behavior management. Basically, it is usually the same as a BIP, but under this term isn’t regulated by the IDEA law.

Biopsyscosocial Model - this is a philosophy that accepts that disability labels and diagnosis are an important part of a person’s identity. People following this philosophy understand that the environment plays a role in someone’s ability to function. (Dunlap TedX talk 2015)

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) - This is a professional who has a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. They are often independent practitioners who provide behavior analytic services (they investigate the behavior). Having this professional’s view is often helpful when dealing with concerning behaviors.

Child Find Program - A program created to help early identification (so that early intervention can take place) of disabilities. This is a program mandated by IDEA, that continuously searches for and evaluates children who may have a disability. Child Find Programs can vary widely from school district to school district.

Cochlear Implant - A small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. An implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understand speech.

Cognitive Skills - any mental skills that are used in the process of acquiring knowledge; these skills include reasoning, perception, and judgment.

Curriculum -Based Assessment / Measurements (CBA / CBM))- is a method teachers use to find how students are progressing in basic academic areas such as math, reading, writing, and spelling. Usually, short regular evaluations used to determine how well a student is progressing. CBM can involve checklists or oral questions which the teacher uses to gauge student understanding and skill in a particular curriculum. These measurements are part of the monitoring component of the RTI process because they are a great way to look at the progress of an individual child. It also makes setting goals and giving praise easier. An example of a Curriculum-Based Measurement is the DIBELS test, it measures reading skills and can give specific information on what level the child is performing as well as progress made.

Cut Point, Cut Scores- Scores on screening tools, usually selected by a school district, that are used to determine whether or not a student needs additional testing or intervention.

Data-based Decisions - A component of the RTI process that involves using information collected through the screening process and ongoing progress monitoring to determine the intensity and duration of the needed intervention. Looking at data is imperative in the intervention process and can bring light to very specific areas of struggle. This data is then used to determine if the intervention is effective, or if changes need to be made.

Deaf-Blindness - Simultaneous hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

Deafness - A hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification. The official definition of deafness from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is “a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification.” The phrase “with or without amplification” is significant as it indicates that a hearing aid will not provide sufficient accommodation so that the student can succeed in the classroom.

Developmental and Social History (in special education information gathering) - A narrative assessment formulated by a child’s classroom teacher, parents, a pediatrician, and school specialists. This information focuses on issues such as the child’s health history, developmental milestones, genetic factors, friendships, family relationships, hobbies, behavioral issues, and academic performance. A developmental and social history is a common element of an assessment plan.

Developmental Delay (DD) - A broad term describing a delay in one or more of the following areas of childhood development: cognitive development, physical development (including vision and hearing), communication development, social and/or emotional development and adaptive development (including eating skills, dressing and toileting skills and other areas of personal responsibility).

Developmental Disorder - Refers to several disorders that affect “typical” development. May affect the single area of development (specific developmental disorders) or several (pervasive developmental disorders).

Developmental Milestones - Age-specific skills that most children can do at a certain age range. Remember, children all develop at different paces. Your pediatrician will usually have a developmental milestones questionnaire for you to fill out at your regular visits. If your child is not meeting developmental milestones, talk with your pediatrician. Don’t freak out, but do take this information seriously. Early intervention is important.

Direct Assessment - Measuring taught skills, including academic and behavior in a manner that can be visually represented by others. An example could be an end of the unit test or more complex, but still relevant, a replacement behavior. If used as a component of functional behavior assessment, it would include recording information about a student’s behavior. This could include a scatter plot showing the replacement behavior and disruptive behavior showing how often and when they occurred. It might also include using an antecedent-behavioral-consequences chart (ABC).

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) - is a technique incorporating principles of ABA, including positive reinforcement used to teach behaviors in a one-to-one setting. Concepts are broken down into small parts.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - This is a handbook used widely by health care professionals as the authorized guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. It includes descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.

Dysgraphia - I condition that makes written expression difficult. It can include symptoms such as difficulty with; visual-spatial relationships, fine motor skills, processing language, spelling, handwriting, grammar, usage, and written organization. Dysgraphia is not an area of qualification for special education services, however, severe cases may qualify under specific learning disabilities.

Dyslexia - This is a stinker of a term! The meaning has changed, been confused, and misused by many. Let’s clear this up a bit. Dyslexia is a broad term for having difficulty in reading. More specifically, it is a language-based learning disability, which includes a variety of symptoms which result in people having difficulty with specific language skills, specifically reading. People with dyslexia can also have difficulty with other language skills such as spelling, writing and even pronouncing words. Having a doctor tell you that your child has dyslexia, really doesn’t give you much information and does not automatically qualify your child for special education services. It is important to break the difficulty down into specific struggles.

E - H

Early Intervention (EI)- In general, this is an intervention (specifically teaching a certain skill with a research based method) given to children under 3 years of age.  Services for at-risk children from birth to their third birthdays, is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). EI is so important!  If you suspect your infant or toddler has a disability, move on it!  Early intervention can make a huge difference for your child for the rest of his or her life.  The newest trend is to use this term for intervention that is done as soon as possible for children of all ages. These terms in the world of special education are always evolving and changing…

Echolalia- repeating words or phrases heard previously, either immediately after hearing word or phrase or much later. Delayed echolalia can occur days or even weeks later.

Emotional Disturbance (ED)-A mental health issue including, but not limited to, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depression), conduct disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and psychotic disorders. This term is a bit dated and is not used in school districts as a qualifying area for special education. 

Emotional or Behavioral Disturbance (EBD)- A condition exhibiting one or more specific emotional and/or behavioral difficulties over a long period of time and to a marked degree, which adversely affects educational performance.  This term is a bit dated and is not used in school districts as a qualifying area for special education.

Exceptional Children's Education Act- The state definition in the Colorado Exceptional Children's Education Act CRS 22-20-202 (6)… "Gifted child" means a person from four to twenty-one years of age whose abilities, talents, and potential for accomplishments are so outstanding that he or she requires special provisions to meet his or her educational needs.

Expressive Language- Communication of intentions, desires or ideas to others.  This can take place through speech or printed words and includes gestures, signing, communication board and other forms of expression.

Extended School Year (ESY)- Services are provided during breaks from school for students who experience substantial regression in skills during school vacations, and do not regain their skills within a reasonable time frame. This substantial regression is measured, usually using progress monitoring data.  If a child has lost skills, and is unable to regain those skills in a reasonable amount of time, he or she may be eligible for ESY.  Normally ESY targets IEP goals and focuses only on those specific areas of regression. 

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)-   A federal law that protects the privacy of students’ education records.  This law applies to schools that receive money from the US Department of Education.  It also gives parents and students rights to their records.  Schools do, however, have the right to share records with certain parties without gaining permission from parents, for example, to legal authorities, other schools to which a student is transferring or state auditors. 

Fragile X syndrome:  an inherited condition characterized by an X chromosome that is abnormally susceptible to damage, especially by folic acid deficiency. This genetic condition may cause an intellectual disability, behavioral and learning challenges and various physical characteristics.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): The education to which every student is entitled under IDEA (it’s the law) and supports that all children receive an appropriate education for his or her unique needs and that is provided free of charge.  In some cases, this education is provided to children ages 3 to 21 at the public expense. 

Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA)- A process which studies a student’s undesirable behaviors, looks for the reasons behind the behaviors, and offers interventions that teach new behaviors to replace the undesired ones.

Geneticist-  A medical doctor who specializes in the study of genes.  Genes are the unit in the chromosome that contain the blueprint for the transmission of inherited characteristics.

Gifted and Talented (GT)- All children have gifts and are gifted in some way, I believe, however, this term is used describing Children who’s talents are measured in such a way that their ability appears to be significantly above the norm for their age.  Giftedness may manifest in one or more areas such as; intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, or in a specific academic field such as language arts, mathematics or science.  In general, giftedness is measured as the top 10 percent in relation to their peers, although standards vary greatly from region to region.  It is important to note that not all gifted children look or act alike. Giftedness exists in every demographic group and personality type.  Children can be both gifted and have a disability. 

Global Developmental Delay-  The term 'developmental delay' or 'global development delay' is used when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children their age. This might include learning to walk or talk, movement skills, learning new tasks or concepts and interacting with others socially and emotionally. Someone with another condition, like Down’s syndrome or Cerebral palsy, may also have Global developmental delay.

Group Intelligence Tests- Tests, often administered to students together in a general education classroom setting.  They measure aspects of academic ability as well as a child’s cognitive level. Many districts administer these assessments throughout one grade level.  It provides information to start exploring a variety of students special needs, ranging from giftedness to learning disabilities, and more.

Hearing Impaired-   Hearing impairment, as a disability category, is similar to the category of deafness, but it is not the same. The official definition of a hearing impairment by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is “an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance, but is not included under the definition of deafness.'” Thus, knowing the definition of deafness is necessary to understand what sort of disabilities are considered hearing impairments. A hearing loss above 90 decibels is generally considered deafness, which means that a hearing loss below 90 decibels is classified as a hearing impairment.

Highly Qualified Teacher- According to the U.S. Department of Education, a highly qualified teacher must: 1) have a bachelor's degree, 2) earn full state certification or licensure, and 3) prove that they know each subject they teach. In Colorado, requirement three is called Subject Matter Competency.

Hyperlexia- The ability to read at an early age. To be hyperlexic, a child does not need to understand what he or she is reading.

I - L

IEP Team- The team of qualified professionals that include the parent, general education teacher, and other professionals from the special education team such as the; special education teacher, interpreter of test data, district representative, Occupational Therapist, Speech Language Pathologist, and other experts on the student. This group makes decisions related to the instructional program of a child with special needs, including placement and services provided.  In some states, this team is called the admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) team.

Incidental Teaching - teaches a child new skills while “in the moment”.  The idea is to use the naturally occurring event to help make sense of what is learned.

Inclusion, Inclusive Classroom-  The term inclusion communicates an all-embracing societal ideology. It involves educating all children in general education classrooms, regardless of the degree or severity of a disability. Effective inclusion takes place with a planned system of training and supports; involves the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team including regular and special educators.

Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)– This is an educational evaluation done by a private entity, outside of the school. Parents have the right to have outside testing done, and the other members of the IEP or school team look and consider it’s findings.  However, parents can also request assessments through the school (I recommend going this route first).  A request for an assessment will be considered by the school, but they don’t necessarily have to do the testing.  In some cases, the public school will pay for outside testing that has been done, but this is rare.  Usually, this happens when the team agrees the resources do not exist at the school, but they need this information to consider qualifying or proper services. 

Indirect Assessment-  Any means of gaining information that involves interviewing teachers, parents and other adults who have contact with a student, asking questions about that student’s behavior. 

Individualized Education Program (IEP)- (sometimes referred to as an Individualized Education Plan)  Many people think the IEP is the stack of papers you get after a meeting, but really it is a program that is used every day.  It is a unique plan giving your child/student the best education he or she can have.  It is created by a team of professionals and a student’s parents (may include student) when a child qualifies for special education services.  An IEP will identify a student’s specific learning expectations, how the school will address them with appropriate services, and methods to review progress. An IEP is written and this is a legal document. Every child who attends public school and receives special education services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Each IEP must be created in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)- The U.S. law mandating a “Free and Public Education” of all persons with disabilities between ages 3 and 21. It guarantees educational rights to all students with disabilities and makes it illegal for school districts to refuse to educate a student based on his or her disability.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)- Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed by a multidisciplinary team including family as the primary participant. It is a written treatment plan that maps out the early intervention plan. It describes a young child’s level of development in all areas; family’s resources, priorities and concerns, services to be received and the frequency, intensity, and method of delivery and includes the natural environments in which services will occur.

Informed Consent- The signed consent of a parent that describes what the parent is consenting to.  Informed consent must be obtained by parents or guardians before; an initial or reevaluation, providing special education services and inviting non-school agencies to participate in IEP meetings.  

Intellectual Disability-  A child with an Intellectual Disability has a low general intellectual functioning (IQ) and deficits in adaptive behavior (practical, social and life skills).  These manifest during the development period, which prevents the child from receiving reasonable educational benefit from general education.  Intellectual Disability used to be referred to as Mental Retardation.  This term is not used anymore and is considered offensive. 

Intervention- (or instructional intervention)- A specific program or set of steps (research-based) to help a child improve in a specific area of need. Interventions can be utilized for many areas of struggle such as; phonics, math fluency, or standing in line.  Interventions should be monitored for progress so that effectiveness can be discussed on a regular basis.   (see my blog on determining progress)

Intelligence Quotient (IQ)-  An IQ tells you what your total score is on the several subtests of a particular individual intelligence test.  This score is then often compared to others in your age group.  The largest use of an IQ test is to correlate the results with other tests and observations, then use this information to understand how one learns best.  The test measures aspects of visual-spatial processing and auditory processing, as well as short-term memory, and processing speed.  Past thought was that an IQ could be used as learning potential and was permanent.  Modern thought is that IQ can change over one's life.  Average IQ is generally considered between 90-109.

Individual Intelligence Tests- Intelligence tests that are administered to a student one on one and will result in a number called Intelligence Quotient (IQ). These tests are often part of the special education assessment process.  Two common individual intelligence tests are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale.    

Joint Attention- An early-developing social-communicative skill where people use gestures and gaze to share the attention with interesting objects or events.  It is critical for social development, language acquisition, cognitive development. 

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is the requirement in federal law that students with disabilities receive their education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with nondisabled peers and that special education students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily. [20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Sec. 1412(a)(5)(A); 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Sec. 300.114.]

M - P

Mainstreaming- A school model where students with disabilities are included in the classroom either all day or parts of the day.  Students are expected to keep up with very little assistance.  

Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) - a computer-based assessment many school districts use to track progress in such areas as reading, language usage, and math.  The test is adaptive, which means that every student gets a unique set of questions based on his/her response to previous questions.   

Medical Model approach- Views the disability as something to be fixed or cured, and only the experts know what is needed.  

Modifications- Curricular adaptations that compensate for learners’ weaknesses by changing expectations or standards.  For example, a 3rd-grade child who is working significantly below level in math might be working on 2nd grade standards. 

Motor deficits- Physical skills that a person cannot perform or has difficulty performing. Motor function (or motor skills) is the ability to move and control movements.

Multiple Disabilities-  More than one impairment at a time (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment, etc.), which causes such educational needs that the student cannot be accommodated in a special education program solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness. In the state of Colorado, one of the impairments must be an intellectual disability.

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) -  A problem-solving approach to prevent academic and behavioral decline.  During the process, the team of professionals (including parents) determines the area of need, the intervention used, and the level (or tier) the student requires.  Through an ongoing process, the team determines if progress is being made, and adjusts programming as needed.  A student must go through this process (or a similar process such as SST, or RTI) before being referred for special education consideration. 

Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET or MDT)- The name used for the group of trained professionals that conduct eligibility and review assessments. These members are often the same as the IEP Team, but the law does not define a MET or MDT, simply calls them a group of qualified professionals.

Multiple Intelligences Theory- A theory which outlines students’ varied approaches for processing information (known as “intelligences”) and how teachers can access these pathways.  The intelligences include; nature smart, sound smart, logical, life smart, people smart, body smart, word smart, self-smart, and special. 

National Institutes of Health- Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency. 

Native Language- The first language of an individual, or the language that the individual is most comfortable with.  A school district is required to evaluate a student in his or her native language, or document proficiency in English, before they can identify that student as having a disability and provide special education services. In addition, parents must be offered evaluation plans and individualized education plans (IEPs) in their native language before they give informed consent.

Natural Environment- An educational setting that is comparable to the setting provided to children without disabilities.

Neurologist- Refers to a doctor specializing in medical issues associated with the nervous system, specifically the brain and spinal cord.

Nonverbal Behaviors- Things people do to convey information or express emotions without words, including eye gaze, facial expressions, body postures and gestures.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)- The reauthorization of President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  NCLB passed in 2001 and implemented in 2002, the purpose of which was to raise achievement and close achievement gaps by providing children with high-quality education.  There are four aspects to the bill; accountability, flexibility, research-based education, parent options. 

Obsessions- Persistent and intrusive repetitive thoughts. Preoccupations with specific kinds of objects or actions may be an early sign of obsessions.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea- That little snore may seem cute, but it could be more.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a breathing disorder interrupting breathing during sleep when air flow cannot flow through the nose or mouth, although efforts to breathe continue. The throat collapses during sleep causing snorting and gasping for breath. 

Observational Records- Information about a child’s academic performance provided by anyone who works with a child. Observational records are a common element of an assessment plan. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)-   An anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations (obsessions) and perform behaviors or mental acts in response to these thoughts or obsessions. Not performing these acts can cause anxiety.  This is a serious disorder which can affect persons social, work and family lives.  This term or the term obsession is thrown around a lot as a casual term.  OCD is a serious disorder and is unfortunately very common, be sensitive to using this term. 

Occupational Therapy (OT)-  A professional that focuses on fine motor skills and sensory issues that aid in daily living. They may focus on sensory regulation, coordination of movement, balance, self-help skills, visual perception, and hand-eye coordination also. 

Operant Conditioning- The method of learning (changing behavior) based on rewards and punishment.  

Office of Civil Rights (OCR)-    A government agency that enforces federal civil rights laws that protect the rights of people (and entities) from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, or sex in health and human services.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)-    ODD is a condition in which a person displays an ongoing pattern of anger, defiance, argumentative behavior or vindictiveness toward people in authority. The child's behavior often disrupts the child's normal daily activities, including activities within the family and at school.

Orientation and Mobility Specialist-  A professional that provides instruction that can help a person develop or re-learn the skills and concepts they need to travel safely and independently within the home and in the community.

Orthopedic Impairment (OI)-  Physical disabilities which could affect the academic process.

Other Health Impairment (OHI)- A disability category under IDEA of various health-related conditions that may qualify a child for special education.  Some examples include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, heart conditions, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome.

PEAK -Parent Education and Assistance for Kids –  A Parent Center founded in 1986 offering an array of free and low-cost services to families of children with disabilities.  See

Performance Deficit- When it is assumed a child understands a skill but is unable to perform it consistently. 

Performance-Based Tests- An assessment that measures students' ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned from a unit or units of study. Typically, the task challenges students to use their higher-order thinking skills to create a product or complete a process (Chun, 2010).

Perseveration- Repetitive movement, speech, idea or task, that has a compulsive quality to it.

Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD)- Delay in basic skills including the ability to socialize with others, communicate and use imagination. Disorders that may fall under this are; Autism Spectrum Disorder, Childhood Dis-integrative Disorder, Rett Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified.

Persuasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)- A disorder including people who have significant difficulty with communication, play, and some difficulty interacting with others. 

Physical Therapist (PT)- Professionals who help people in using specially designed exercises and equipment to improve their physical abilities. 

Pica-  A disorder of persistent eating or mouthing of substances that are not supposed to be ingested (that are non-nutritional) for at least a month after the age of about 24 months.  Examples may include items such as clay, dirt, sand, stones, hair, feces, wood, plastic and more.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)- an alternative communication system or augmentative alternative communication (AAC) originally developed for children with autism.  It is an alternative communication system using picture symbols taught in phases starting with the simple exchange of symbol for the desired item. Individuals learn to use picture symbols to construct complete sentences, initiate communication and answer questions.

Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)- A therapeutic teaching method using incidental teaching opportunities to target and change key behaviors related to communication, behavior and social skills.

Pragmatics-  The social language skills we use in our everyday interactions with others. They include what we say, how we say it, our body language and the appropriateness to the given situation. 

Positive Behavior Support (PBIS)-  A program of teaching and reinforcing wanted behavior in a consistent manner across many environments using research-based strategies and includes levels of support (universal, targeted group, individual). 

Present Levels- A component of an individualized education program (IEP) that defines a student’s current strengths and weaknesses, levels of academic achievement, and functional performance. Also known as present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP).

Progress Monitoring- Ongoing assessment and recording of a specific skill that is done on a regular basis (weekly).  It is used to determine if a student is making progress in response to instruction and intervention. The term is also used for a state’s evaluation of each district’s compliance with mandates of IDEA and state special education code.

Proprioception- The concept of knowing where your body parts are without looking at them (body awareness) and the ability to safely maneuver around your environment. 

Proprioceptive input- Using techniques such as pressure by; lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own body weight.

Prosody- The rhythm and melody of language.  This is expressed through rate, pitch, stress, inflection or intonation. An example of atypical prosody may be a child with ASD speaking in a monotonous or  “sing-songy” tone without emphasis on the important words.

Psychiatrist- A doctor specializing in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness who has received additional training and completed a supervised residency in a specialty.

Q - T

Receptive Language (also Receptive Labeling)-     The ability to comprehend words and sentences.  This begins as early as birth and increases with each stage of development.

Reinforcement or reinforcer-  Any object or event following a response, that increases or maintains the rate of that response.  These can be positive or negative.

Respite Care- Temporary, short-term care provided to individuals with disabilities, delivered in the home for a few short hours or in an alternate licensed setting for an extended period of time. Respite care allows caregivers to take a break in order to relieve and prevent stress and fatigue.

Rett Syndrome- A rare disorder in which patients have symptoms associated with PDD, with difficulties in physical development. They generally lose many motor or movement skills – such as walking and use of hands – and develop poor coordination. The condition has been linked to a defect on the X chromosome and as a result, almost always affects girls.

Response to Intervention (RTI)- A process used in schools to help students who are struggling.  A team (parent and school professionals) creates a plan which includes an intervention for the specific skill (academic or behavioral). If a child does not respond to the initial interventions, more focused interventions are used to help the child master the skill.  

School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP) – A government agency (CDE, school districts and others) program designed to provide employment-related help for students with disabilities who are experiencing mild to moderate barriers to employment.  They help with job seeking, retention and creating a career.

Serious Emotional Disability (SED)- As a qualifying factor for special education, a child would have indicators of social/emotional dysfunction which are persistent to an evident degree in more than one area, and is hindering academic or social progress.  There are other qualifying indicators, but it is important to know that if your child has a diagnosis, that does not necessarily qualify them, nor do they need a diagnosis to qualify. 

Sensory Defensiveness- An abnormal negative reaction to sensory input which is generally considered harmless or non-irritating to others. Also called hypersensitivity.

Sensory Input or sensory stimuli-  Sensory input is the stimuli that are perceived by our senses like smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing. Anything that you perceive using your senses can be called sensory input.  Some children may benefit from a schedule of sensory input proscribed by a professional such as an Occupational Therapist.

Sensory Integration- The way the brain processes sensory stimulation, or sensation from the body, and then translates that information into specific, planned, coordinated motor activity.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction- A neurological disorder causing difficulties processing information from the five senses, movement, or position.

Sensory Integration Therapy-   A therapy used to improve the ability in using incoming sensory information appropriately and/or teach the individual to tolerate various sensory inputs.

Significant Support Needs (SSN)-  Students who are highly diverse learners with extensive needs.  The areas of need may include cognitive, learning, communication, physical, social-emotional, behavioral, health, and/ or sensory abilities. 

Sleep Hygiene-  A set of practices, habits and environmental factors, critically important for sound sleep.  These may include such habits as minimizing noise, light, and temperature and avoiding naps and caffeine.

Social Model-   Views society as needing to change for the person with a disability.  This philosophy supports actions to change the interaction between the environment and the person to limit the impact of the disability. 

Social Security Disability Insurance/Income SSDI – Social Security Disability Insurance is financed through payroll taxes. SSDI recipients are considered "insured" because they have worked and made contributions to the Social Security trust fund. 

Social Communication Disorder (SCD)-  A diagnostic category which includes people who have deficits in the social use of language, but do not have the restricted interests or repetitive behavior you see in those with autism spectrum disorders.

Social Communication/Emotional Regulation/Transactional Support (SCERTS)-   A teaching model that focuses on increasing student-initiated communication in everyday living.  A different approach from the ABA model.  

Social Maladjustment – A condition to describe a person who has a consistent pattern of; aggression toward objects or persons, persistent oppositional defiant or noncompliant responses, and a persistent pattern of stealing, lying or cheating.  Students with Social Maladjustment no longer qualify for an IEP, as they did when qualifying for SIED.  Under the criteria of SED (Serious Emotional Disability), Social Maladjustment actually excludes them unless it is determined that there is also an SED. 

Social Reciprocity- The back-and-forth flow of social interaction: How behavior of one person influences and is influenced by the behavior of another and vice versa.

Social Stories- Simple stories, usually developed on an individual basis, describing expected behavior in a social situation.  They are used to teach appropriate social skills or what to expect in a specific situation.  Most often used with people who have a pervasive developmental disability, but I have found that they are useful with many students.  Carol Gray developed them. 

Social Worker- A trained specialist in the social, emotional and financial needs of families and patients.

 Special Education - A broad term used in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) describing specially designed instruction that would increase students’ chances for success. 

Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC)-  A state-level committee mandated and directed by federal and state law. Many districts have smaller local SEACs also.  The committee is made up of various individuals and focuses on the quality of education received by children/youth with disabilities.

Special Education Early Intervention – In general, this is an intervention (specifically teaching a certain skill with a research-based method) given to children with a disability under 3 years of age.  Services for at-risk children from birth to their third birthdays is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Early intervention is so important!  If you suspect your infant your toddler has a disability, move on it!  Early intervention can make a huge difference for your child for the rest of his or her life. 

Specific Learning Disability (SLD)-   A qualifying area for special education, it is a disorder that interrupts understanding or using language, therefore makes learning difficult.  The official definition is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.  A specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; intellectual disability; serious emotional disability; cultural factors; environmental or economic disadvantage; or limited English proficiency.

Speech or Language Impairment (SLI)-  A qualifying area for special education in which a child has difficulty communicating which is hindering his/her learning.  This difficulty in communicating can manifest in a wide variety of ways such as impairments in; articulation, fluency, voice, functional communication, delayed language development, receptive and expressive language, difficulties including syntax, semantics, pragmatics, auditory processing, and more.   

Speech-Language Therapist or Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)-  A professional that specializes in human communication.  They work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speechlanguage, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults.  Additionally, they may provide aural rehabilitation for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, provide augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems and work with people who don't have speech, language, or swallowing disorders, but want to learn how to communicate more effectively (e.g., work on accent modification or other forms of communication enhancement).  Receiving services at a public school with an SLP usually requires qualifying for special education services. 

Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale (derived from the Binet-Simon Test)- A norm-referenced individual intelligence test.  This test may be administered by the school psychologist or special education team when gaining information about a child’s learning and qualification for special education services.  The questions are designed to help educators differentiate between students performing below grade level because of cognitive disabilities and those who do so for other reasons.

State Performance Plan (SPP)-  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires each state to develop a state performance plan/annual performance report (SPP/APR) that evaluates the state's efforts to implement the requirements and purposes of the IDEA and describes how the state will improve its implementation.

“Stay Put” Law-  A law which states that a parent can request that a child remains in his or her current educational placement while an IEP or offer of FAPE is in dispute.

Student Study Team (SST)- This team has many different names in different districts and even schools, for example, MTSS (Mult-tiered system of supports team) or MET (Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team) or RTI (Response to Intervention). This is a team of people who have knowledge of a student who is struggling.  The team is often comprised of the classroom teacher, members of the special education team who have expertise in the area of struggle (school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, special education teacher, etc.) and the parents.  The team meets when a child continues to struggle after attempts have been made to remedy problems. This team will usually be the ones who refer to the special education team who will then determine if the student should be evaluated, or if he or she should continue with other interventions without special education services.

Statewide Assistive, Augmentative, Alternative Communication (SWAAAC)- A group of professionals (that may include speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, special educators, psychologists, and para-professionals) that assess and provide assistive technology services in school and classroom settings. These services are designed to enable students with disabilities to achieve full access and participation in all educational opportunities.

Stereotyped Behaviors-  Abnormal or excessive repetition of an action carried out in the same way over time. May include repetitive movements or posturing of the body or objects. Some examples include pacing, rocking, self-mutilation, excessive grooming. 

Stereotyped Patterns of Interest or restricted patterns of interest-   Refers to a pattern of preoccupation with a narrow range of interests and activities.

Stimming- (self-stimulating)-  Behaviors that are stereotyped, or repetitive movements or posturing of the body, that stimulate the senses.  Some “stims” may serve a regulatory function (calming, increasing concentration or shutting out an overwhelming sound).

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)-  Monthly benefits to people of all ages with limited income and resources who are disabled, or to people age 65 or older. 

Tactile Defensiveness-  A strong negative response to a sensation that would not ordinarily be upsetting, such as touching something sticky or gooey or the feeling of soft foods in the mouth. Specific to touch.

TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped children)-  A therapeutic approach for children with autism (although I find the techniques are wonderful for many students) that monopolizes on using visuals, details, and memory.

Transition Plan-  A transition plan, specific to an IEP (individualized education program), is required by IDEA (law) for students who will turn 16 before his/her IEP end date.  The IEP must have a transition goal and plan that outlines how he/she will transition to life beyond high school. There is current talk in the government of having these plans as a part of students of all ages. For example, your second grader would have a plan for moving into work or college.

Transition Meeting- A meeting of the individualized education program (IEP) team prior to a student moving into a new program or school.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force (violent blow to the head, even surgery), resulting in total or partial functional disability and/or psychosocial impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Triennial Review (Tri)- (Also called a Reevaluation), An IEP review meeting that takes place every three years. During this meeting, the IEP team meets to discuss a student’s continuing eligibility for special education services.  This means that your child may or may not continue to qualify for the current services she/she is receiving and is very similar to the initial IEP meeting.  It is often combined with the IEP annual review (AR). 

U - Z

Universal Design- An approach that makes a curriculum accessible to all students, regardless of their backgrounds, learning styles and abilities. 

Universal Screening Tool- A test that can correctly identify students who are struggling with grade-level concepts or skills. This is given to all children at the same grade level.  A universal screening tool is used as part of the RTI process.  

Visual Impairment (VI) - An impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness. 

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) –  An intelligence (IQ) test administered to children between ages 6 and 16 by school districts and psychologists. The objective of the test is to determine the student’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, as well as test for giftedness.  The test is extensive and includes tests in the areas of verbal, Visual Spatial, Fluid Reasoning, Matrix Reasoning, Fluid Reasoning, Figure Weights, Working Memory, Digit Span, processing Speed, Coding, Visual Spatial, Visual Puzzles, working Memory, Picture Span, Processing Speed, Symbol Search.  A child may be administered the entire test or some of these selected subtests. This is a norm-referenced test, meaning that it has statistical validity and reliability for what it states it measures.

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC)- An individual intelligence test (IQ), usually administered by the school psychologist, which measures a student’s intelligence in a variety of areas, including linguistic and spatial intelligence. This is a norm-referenced test, meaning that it has statistical validity and reliability for what it states it measures.

Widening Gap- The gap between what a child with a disability knows and what his or her peers know, which widens as he or she advances to higher grades.  We hope to avoid this widening gap, lessening it by the use of interventions.  However, in some cases, acceptance of this gap widening is helpful in determining true and appropriate goals. 

Woodcock-Johnson, Third Edition (WJIII)- A performance-based test commonly used to help to determine a student’s eligibility for special education services.  This is an assessment of academic areas, with components, or subtests, that measure the student's current performance in; Letter Word Recognition (Reading Recognition), Passage Comprehension (Reading Comprehension), Applied Math (Math), Spelling and Academic Knowledge (Science, Social Studies, Humanities). The WJ-III Extended includes 9 subtests: Letter Word Identification, Reading Fluency, Passage Comprehension, Calculation, Math Fluency, Applied Problems, Spelling, Writing Fluency, & Writing Samples. This is a norm-referenced test, meaning that it has statistical validity and reliability for what it states it measures.