The ABCs of IEPs: Special Education Terms and Acronyms Decoded

Image: © Amanda Morin

Image: © Amanda Morin

Have you ever had a conversation in which you don’t understand any of the terms of acronyms being thrown around? If you’re talking about special education, that’s not surprising.

There’s a lot of jargon in the special education world, but don’t let it intimidate you. Here’s what some of those abbreviations, acronyms and jargon mean in plain language.

ACRONYM WHAT IT STANDS FOR WHAT IT MEANS
ABC antecedent, behavior, consequence Typically a chart used as a way to keep track of and analyze your child’s behavior by what triggered it and what happened afterward.
ADA Americans with Disabilities Act A federal civil rights law that says people with disabilities cannot be discriminated against when it comes to accessibility, employment,
transportation, and other public accommodations.
ADHD attention deficit hyperactivity disorder A brain-based issue that causes difficulties with attention, focus, overactivity and distractibility.
AT assistive technology Any type of device, tool or equipment that is used to help a child with a disability be more functional in a certain area.
AYP adequate yearly progress How much your state’s Department of Education education department expects kids to learn in each subject area each year.
BIP behavioral intervention plan An individual plan that your child’s team develops for the school to help him learn and maintain appropriate behavior and social skills.
DD developmental disability A physical or mental condition that impairs your child’s ability to learn or gain skills at the same rate as other children her age.
DSM Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders A manual that outlines the symptoms and criteria for conditions. Health professionals use it to make a medical diagnosis.
EI early intervention Services provided to children ages 0 -3 who have a developmental delay, a known disorder that causes delays in development, or who are at
risk for delays.
ESY extended school year Extended school year services are special education and related services that are provided during summer vacation or other long periods of
time when there is no school.
FAPE free appropriate public education The component of the special education law that says school have to provide equal educational opportunities to kids with disabilities to
learn the same things as their non-disabled peers.
FBA functional behavioral assessment The process of gathering and analyzing information about your child’s behavior in order to create a plan to help your child and his
teachers manage unwanted or inappropriate behaviors.
FERPA Family Education Rights and Privacy Act A federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act The law under which special education services are defined, the rights and responsibilities of schools and parents outlined and the
processes that need to be followed are explained.
IEP individual education program The written plan that includes information about how your child is currently performing in school, his specialized educational goals,what
services and accommodations he needs to meet those goals, and which team members are responsible for working on each goal.
IFSP individual family service plan The written plan outlining the services for children ages birth to three. The plan is family centered as opposed to educationally oriented.
LRE least restrictive environment The placement or special education program for your child that gives her the best chance of learning with peers who do not have
disabilities.
NCLB No Child Left Behind Act “Nickel- bee.” A federal law that was reauthorized in 2001 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).The act says that each
state and its school districts need to be able to measure the educational progress of all students.
OT occupational therapy/therapist A related service that specializes helping with fine motor skills, activities of daily living and sensory issues.
PLAAFP present level of academic achievement and functional performance This statement in your child’s IEP describing her strengths, weaknesses, the way she learns, and at what level she is currently performing
academically.
PLoP present level of performance Another name for a PLAAFP.
PT physical therapy/therapist A related service that focuses on helping with gross motor (large muscle) skills.
RTI Response to Intervention A process by which students having trouble in school can get extra help without being in a special education program.
§ Section This isn’t a term limited to special education. It’s a symbol you’ll see when referring to a place in a legal document in which certain
information can be found.
SAT student assistance team Also known as a “prereferral team.” A group of educators within a school or school district to whom a teacher can turn for advice for
classroom interventions to help before a referral for special education services is made.

A is also for…

  • Accommodations: The adjustments to how your child is taught to help him participate in his general education class. Accommodations can include changes to the format in which your child is taught or the amount of time he has to take tests and complete work.

C is also for…

  • Child Find: A  program outlined in IDEA that requires every state to locate (or “find”) children from birth to age twenty-one who have disabilities or who are at risk of developmental disabilities
  • Consent or Prior Written Consent:  A parent’s right to know ahead of time of and approve of assessment, evaluation, and placement of your child for special education services.
  • Comprehensive Educational Evaluation: The assessments, observations, and testing performed by your child’s school to see if he has a disability that makes him eligible for special education services.

D is also for…

  • Due Process:  The outlined procedure for resolving disputes between parents and special education agencies.
  • Direct Services: Services provided to your child on a one-to-one basis or in a small group setting.
  • DOE: Department of Education

I is also for..

  • Inclusion: Also known as mainstreaming and integration, this refers to including your child in a regular education classroom for some or all of his learning.
  • Intellectual Disability: A term used to refer to a child with cognitive disabilities. It replaces the phrase “mental retardation.”

M is also for…

  • Mainstream(ing): The process of including a child who receives special education services in the regular classroom for instruction.

R is also for…

  • Related Services: Services that are needed for your child to be able to learn successfully. They include, but are not limited to, occupational therapy, assistive technology, physical therapy, and counseling.
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