504 Plan – a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the Rehabilitation Act and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment. These accommodations and modifications must ensure that there is no discrimination because of the child’s disability.

Accommodations – adaptations that compensate for learners’ weaknesses without modifying the curriculum. Students receiving accommodations read the same material and take the same tests as their peers without disabilities.

Acquisition Deficit – a type of social skills deficit that stems from a lack of knowledge: a child does not understand a skill, and thus cannot master it.

Adaptations – changes in environment that allow students with disabilities to participate in inclusive environments by compensating for learners’ weaknesses.

Adequate Yearly Progress – a measurement defined by the United States federal No Child Left Behind Act that allows the U.S. Department of Education to determine how every public school and school district in the country is performing academically according to results on the standardized tests. All students, including those in special education programs, must demonstrate adequate yearly progress.

Annual Review – He yearly meeting of the Individualized Education Program (IEP_) team. The AR is designed to gather all the IEP team members in one location to update one another on a student’s needs and performance by reviewing progress towards goals and looking at new data like work samples and recent testing.

Antecedent Behavior Consequences (ABC) – A tool used to create a record of disruptive behaviors (utilized as part of functional behavioral assessment) to help to determine the triggers of and motivations behind these behaviors. ABCs are used to record what happened just before a behavior (Antecedent – A), a description of the behavior itself (B) and the consequences of the behavior (C). 

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) – a technique for correcting behavior and social skills deficits in children with special needs. It is based on the understanding that children are more likely to repeat desired behaviors when these behaviors are met with positive reinforcement, and are less likely to repeat undesirable behaviors that are not rewarded.

Assessment – Evaluations used to identify a student’s strengths, weaknesses and progress. These tests 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 of a teacher/parent/aide to standardized and criterion-referenced tests to complex, multi-stage procedures.

Assistive Technology – technology used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. Assistive technology can include mobility devises such as walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware, software and peripherals that assist people with disabilities in accessing information technologies.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) – previously referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD); a condition that can make it hard for a person to sit still, control behavior and pay attention. Children with AD/HD are sometimes eligible for special education services under IDEA’s “other health impairment” disability category.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device (AAC) – includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, wants and ideas. An AAC device is a tool that uses a non0seech mode of communication o augment spoken language. These include electronic devises that digitize or synthesize speech as well as non-electronic communication aids such as manual communication boards.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – A complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.

Behavior Management – responding to, preventing, and de-escalating disruptive behavior.

Developmental and Social History – a narrative assessment formulated by a child’s teacher, parents, pediatrician, therapists and school specialists, focusing 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 – 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 Milestones – a set of functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children can do at a certain age range.

Discrete Trial Therapy (DTT) – a part of applied behavioral analysis (ABA) in which a skill is broken down into its most basic components so that these components may be taught one at a time.

Early Intervention – Services for at-risk children from birth to their third birthdays, as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Fluency Deficit – A type of instructional deficit in which a child needs to practice a skill or receive coaching in order o use a skill effectively. (eg a reading fluency deficit, where the child cannot read smoothly or does so at too slow a rate).

Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) – The education to which every student is entitled under IDEA. Every student is entitled to an education that is appropriate for his or her unique needs and that is provided free of charge.

Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA) – A process which describes a student’s disruptive behaviors, looks for the reasons behind the behaviors and offers interventions that teach new behaviors to replace the undesired ones.

Inclusion/Inclusive Classroom – The term inclusion communicates an all-embracing societal ideology. Regarding individuals with disabilities and special education, inclusion secures opportunities for students with disabilities to learn inside mainstream classrooms. Mainstream classrooms in which students with disabilities learn are known as inclusive classrooms.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) – a legal document that defines special education services between the school district and the parents.

IEP Team – the team of qualified professions made up of the parent, special education teacher, interpreter of test data, district representative, and general education teacher at a minimum. This group makes all 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.

Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) – A written treatment plan that maps out the early intervention services a child (age birth to three) will receive, as well as how and when these services will be administered. It details a child’s current levels of functioning, specific needs and goals for treatment (referred to as outcomes).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – A law that 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

Informed Consent – The signed consent of a parent that describes what the parent is consenting to; informed consent must be obtained before a district assesses, makes a major revision to a child’s program, continues, or stops services for a child with disabilities.

Intellectual Disability (ID) – Significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing simultaneously with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance. ID has been referred to as “Mental Retardation” (MR) in the past, however it is not a currently accepted practice to refer to individuals with intellectual disabilities as mentally retarded.

Interventions – sets of teaching procedures used by educators to help students who are struggling with a skill or lesson succeed in the classroom.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ) – One of the measured used to determine eligibility for special education services.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) – The environment in which students with disabilities must be educated, as mandated by IDEA. Students with disabilities must be educated in a classroom setting that is as close to the general education setting as possible.

Modifications – curricular adaptations that compensate for learners’ weaknesses by changing or lowering expectations or standards.

Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) – 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.

Natural Environment – an educational setting that is comparable to the setting provided to the children without disabilities.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – The current reauthorization of President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), passed in 2001 and implemented in 2002, the purpose of which was to raise achievement and close achievement gaps.

Occupational Therapist (OT) – A professional who treats patients with injuries, illnesses or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

Performance-Based Evaluations – Evaluations, such as the Woodcock Johnson, Third Edition (WJIII) or the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), that are used to help determine a child’s eligibility for special education services.

Physical Therapist (PT)  Physical Therapy is a related service under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Related services are provided to help a child with an educational disability benefit from his/her special education program in the least restrictive learning environment. PTs address performance skills where a child’s disability impacts or compromises their ability to access, participate, and/or to make progress in their natural learning environments.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) – A type of augmentative alternative communication (AAC) originally developed for children with autism. The primary purpose of PECS is to teach individuals with autism (or related communication difficulties) to initiate communication. Individuals are taught to initiate by handing a picture to a communication partner in exchange for a desired item.

Positive Behavior Support (PBS) – An approach to eliminate challenging behaviors and replace them with pro-social skills

Response to Intervention (RTI) – A process used by educators to help students who are struggling with a skill or lesson. If a child does not respond to the initial interventions, more focused interventions are used to help the child master the skill. RTI strategies address both learning and behaviors.

Special Education (SPED) – Term used in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that is defined as specially designed instruction to increase the student’s chances for success.

Specific Learning Disability (SLD) – A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language, that may manifest itself in a difficulty with listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, or doing mathematical calculations. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motod disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. SLDs include conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia.

Speech or Language Impairment (SLI) – A communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) – Also known as a speech therapist, a professional who diagnoses and treats communication and swallowing disorders.

Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale – A norm – referenced individual intelligence test, administered by the school psychologist or special education team. 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.

Student Baseline – a student’s starting point, determined by data collected through universal screening tools. A student’s baseline is used to measure his or her progress throughout the year.

Transition/Transition Plan – transition is a general term used to describe a change in a student’s school or program. A transition plan is specific to an IEP: a student who will turn 16 within the life of his or her individualized education program must have a transition goal and plan that outlines how he or she will transition to life beyond high school.

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

Triennial Review (Tri) – 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. It is often combined with the IEP annual review (AR).

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. A universal screening tool is used as part of the RTI process.

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – An individual intelligence test, 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.

Woodcock Johnson – A performance-based test commonly used to help to determine a student’s eligibility for special education services.