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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.


Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based approach to teaching socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree. ABA is derived from the principles of learning and is used to teach any set of skills or behaviors that are in need of change. ABA uses objective and reliable data collection systems to monitor behavior change and individualized to each child based off his/her specific needs. Some children do not learn the same as other children their age and may need alternative teaching methods in order to learn. ABA is a teaching method that focuses on the principles of learning and motivation to teach the child to want to learn and to “Learn how to Learn”. In an ABA program, motivation and positive reinforcement are key factors in teaching the child socially significant behaviors.


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.


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.


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


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.


The 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.


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).


An evaluation 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.


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


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.

Additional Resource:
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)


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 nonspeech mode of communication to augment spoken language. These include electronic devices that digitize or synthesize speech, as well as non-electronic communication aids such as manual communication boards.


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.

Additional Resources:
Autism Speaks
Rush University Medical Center — The Autism Resource Center
The Autism Program Service Center at Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago
Chicagoland Autism Connection
Chicago Autism Resources
The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP)
Have Dreams


Oral motor impairment can cause a variety of challenges for speech and feeding. The Beckman Oral Motor Protocol uses mechanical muscle responses to determine the baselines for range of movement, variety of movement, strength of movement, and control of movement for the lips, cheeks, jaw, and tongue. The assessment, which uses assisted movement and stretch reflexes to quantify response to pressure and movement, helps determine areas of weakness and reduced coordination so that direct interventions can be applied to help improve oral motor function for more successful speech and feeding. Because these components of movement are functional, not age specific, the protocol is useful with a wide range of ages (birth to geriatric) and diagnostic categories.


Responding to, preventing, and de-escalating disruptive behavior.

Additional Resources on Behavioral and Mental Healthcare:
Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital
Child & Family Development Center
DBSA – Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Thresholds Program for Family and Youth
Thrive Counseling Center – Oak Park


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.


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).


A set of functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children can do at a certain age range.


The Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based (DIR® / Floortime™ Model) Model is a framework that helps clinicians, parents and educators conduct a comprehensive assessment and develop an intervention program tailored to the unique challenges and strengths of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental challenges. The objectives of the DIR® / Floortime™ Model are to build healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual capacities rather than focusing on skills and isolated behaviors.


The D (Developmental) part of the Model describes the building blocks of this foundation. Understanding where the child is developmentally is critical to planning a treatment program. This describes the developmental milestones that every child must master for healthy emotional and intellectual growth.

The Six Developmental Milestones:

Stage One: Discovering your Child’s Sensory and Motor Profile
Stage Two: Intimacy, engagement, & falling in love
Stage Three: Opening and closing circles of communication
Stage Four: Expanding the Circles of communications to Solve Problems
Stage Five: Creating Emotional Ideas; the child’s ability to form ideas develops first in play.
Stage Six: Emotional Ideas & Logical Thinking

Individual Differences:

The I (Individual differences) part of the Model describes the unique biologically-based ways each child takes in, regulates, responds to, and comprehends sensations such as sound, touch, and the planning and sequencing of actions and ideas.

For example, some children are very hyper responsive to touch and sound while others are under-reactive, and still others seek out these sensations. Biological challenges describes the various processing issues that make up a child’s individual differences and that may be interfering with his ability to grow and learn.


The R (Relationship-based) part of the Model describes the learning relationships with caregivers, educators, therapists, peers, and others who tailor their affect based interactions to the child’s individual differences and developmental capacities to enable progress in mastering the essential foundations.

What is the difference between DIR® / Floortime™ and how are they related?

Central to the DIR® / Floortime™ Model is the role of the child’s natural emotions and interests which has been shown to be essential for learning interactions that enable the different parts of the mind and brain to work together and to build successively higher levels of social, emotional, and intellectual capacities. Floortime™ is a specific technique to both follow the child’s natural emotional interests (lead) and at the same time challenge the child towards greater and greater mastery of the social, emotional and intellectual capacities. The DIR® / Floortime™ Model, however, is a comprehensive framework which enables clinicians, parents and educators to construct a program tailored to the child’s unique challenges and strengths.

The DIR® / Floortime™ Model emphasizes the critical role of parents and other family members because of the importance of their emotional relationships with the child.


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.


The Dyad Model pairs two children together to encourage social awareness in a setting that is deliberately set up for success. This model is intended for children with significant sensory or regulatory challenges or those who have difficulty with transitions or changes in their routine. It is also excellent for children who are having difficulty separating from their parents and simply do not do well in noisy, large, or dynamic classroom environments. It is a one or two hour session that introduces the child to the typical classroom cues and introduces adult-directed transitions slowly and gently.

This model reduces the stress for the child of entering a novel environment in which social challenges confront them immediately. A dyad interaction supports the child in expressing social interest in their peers and encourages social interactions in a non-threatening and safe way. Motivating play activities are introduced by the therapist running the dyad using a child-directed floor-time approach. Parents are usually present for these sessions, at least initially, and it promotes a form of gentle separation initiated by the child.

The Three Stages of the Dyad Model:

Stage 1 : Dyad Introduction
Stage 2 : Socialization w/ Peer
Stage 3 : Integration to Group


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


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


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.


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.


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 in mainstream classrooms. Mainstream classrooms in which students with disabilities learn are known as inclusive classrooms.


A legal document that defines special education services between the school district and the parents.


The team of qualified professionals 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.


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).


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.


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.


Significantly sub-average 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.


IM is an assessment and treatment tool used in therapy to improve the neurological processes of motor planning, sequencing and processing.

The IM program provides a structured, goal-oriented process that challenges the patient to synchronize a range of hand and foot exercises to a precise computer-generated reference tone heard through headphones. The patient attempts to match the rhythmic beat with repetitive motor actions. A patented auditory-visual guidance system provides immediate feedback measured in milliseconds, and a score is provided.

Over the course of the treatment, patients learn to:

Focus and attend for longer periods of time
Increase physical endurance and stamina
Filter out internal and external distractions
Improve ability to monitor mental and physical actions as they are occurring
Progressively improve coordinated performance.


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


One of the measurements used to determine eligibility for special education services.


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.


Curricular adaptations that compensate for learners’ weaknesses by changing or lowering expectations or standards.


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. It simply calls them a group of qualified professionals.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


An approach to eliminate challenging behaviors and replace them with pro-social skills.


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.


A transdisciplinary approach to feeding which assesses the “whole child” meaning aspects such as development, sensory processing, oral-motor skills, cognition, nutrition and the child’s environment are taken into account. The approach focuses on helping a child become more comfortable with food by exploring and learning about different foods in a playful and non-stressful way. Children are encouraged to interact with food in series of steps starting with tolerating a food being in the same room as them to touching, kissing, tasting and eventually eating foods.


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.


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 mood 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.


A communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.


Also known as a speech therapist, an SLP is a professional who diagnoses and treats communication and swallowing disorders.


A norm-referenced individual intelligence test, administered by a 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.


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.


Therapeutic Listening is a highly individualized research and music based tool for treating people of all ages who have difficulty processing sensory information, listening, attention, and communication. This tool activates listening to help people tune-in to and respond to their world.

Since the auditory system has connections to many parts of the brain, sound is a powerful way to access the nervous system and affect changes at all levels. The music in Therapeutic Listening albums gives the listener unique and precisely controlled sensory information. The music is electronically modified to highlight the parts of the sound spectrum that naturally trigger attention and activate body movement. In addition to the electronic modifications, Therapeutic Listening capitalizes on the organized rhythmical sound patterns inherent in music to trigger the self-organizing capacities of the nervous system.


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.


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.


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).


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


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.


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.


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

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