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"I know for a fact that there are so many other young people like my nephew who can use people like you to stand up and fight for them to get the proper education that they are entitled to."


- Aunt of student with special needs




pencil boy


Glossary of Special Education Terms


504 Plan: a written plan for individuals with disabilities qualifying under the US Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that documents necessary accommodations or services.


accommodations: services or supports used to enable a student to fully access the subject matter and instruction. An accommodation does not alter the content or expectation; instead it is a an adjustment to instructional methods. Accommodations should be specified in a student's IEP or 504 Plan. Examples include books on tape, content enhancements, and allowing additional time to take a test.


active listening: a process of hearing what is being said and understanding the message that is being sent. It is a helpful tool when interacting with others. It means making eye contact, acknowledging what is said, and being able to paraphrase back to the speaker the content of the message and his or her feelings.


adaptations: modifications of the delivery of instruction or materials used with a student.


adaptive behavior: a collection of skills learned in order to function in everyday life.


ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): Federal legislation that gives Civil Rights protection to individuals with disabilities; enacted into law July 1990.


adequate yearly progress (AYP): as specified in No Child Left Behind, all children need to test as proficient on state test of math, reading, and science by the year 2014. In the meantime, the gains the school must make between now and 2014 are broken up into equal increments for each group and measured accordingly. These groups are (1) school as a whole, (2) children with disabilities, (3) children learning English, (4) minority children, and (5) children from low-income families.


administrative review: a way of resolving special education issues by having supervisory personnel within the local school district or state review what has been done by the MDT.


adverse educational impact: in order to qualify for special education services, a student must have a disability that interferes with some aspect of learning.


advocate: a person who has a high degree of skill and knowledge about education and gives expert advice about this field for the purpose of supporting children.


alternative assessment: measures student performance on alternate achievement standards or for a functional life skills curriculum.


antecedent: something that comes before, precedes, or causes a behavior.


assessment: a collecting and bringing together of information about a child's learning needs; a process using formal and informal methods to determine an individual's strengths and weaknesses to plan, for example, his or her educational services.


assistive technology: an item, piece of equipment, or product system purchased commercially, modified or customized and used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of students with disabilities; also, services that assist students in selecting, acquiring, and using devices.


child find: the responsibility of the school district to locate, identify, and evaluate children with disabilities in their jurisdiction.


compensatory education: services determined to be necessary by the MDT as a result of failure of the school district to adequately implement the child's IEP.


consultant: person who gives expert or professional advice.


criterion referenced tests: assessment that compares a person's performance to some specific established level (the criterion) or a specific degree of mastery; his or her performance is not compared with that of other people.


curriculum-based measurement: an informal assessment approach emphasizing repeqted direct measurement of student performance.


differentiation: a way of thinking about and planning in order to meet the diverse needs of students based on their characteristics; teachers differentiate content, process, and product according to students' readiness, interest, and learning profiles through a range of instructional and management strategies.


disability: a documented conditions that results in restricted capability to perform a function of daily life; a disability is not a handicapping condition unless the individual with a disability must function in a particular activity that is impeded by his or her limitation.


dispute process: procedure to resolve disputes between parents and schools.


due process hearing: formal legal proceeding presided over by an impartial public official who listens to both sides of the dispute and renders a decision based upon the law.


eligibility: the process of qualifying for a service under one of the federally defined disability categories; a MDT meeting thta considers that qualification.


enduring understandings: the big ideas, or the important understandings, that we want students to "get inside of" and retain after they've forgotten many of the details. Put differently, the enduring understandings provide a larger purpose for learning the targeted content. They implicitly answer the question, "Why is this topic worth studying?"


evaluation: to examine, judge, and analyze the data collected through the assessment process.


expert: person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject; having, involving, or demonstrating great skills, dexterity, or knowledge as the result of experience or training.


FAPE (free appropriate public education): the guaranteed right of children with disabilities to receive an education that meets their unique needs at no cost to parents.


FBA (functional behavior assessment): a systematic data-collection procedure conducted by the MDT, exploring the functions or reasons for students' interfering behaviors.


general education: a standard curriculum adopted by the state or local school district for all children from preschool to high school; the setting where this instruction routinely takes place.


highly qualified: related to the teacher certifications requirements mandated by federal and state laws beginning in 2005.


identification: the process of locating and identifying children needing special services.


inclusion: the idea or philosophy related to students with disabilities participating and being educated in the general education classroom/program to the extent possible.


Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE): Federal law defines an IEE broadly as "an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency responsible for the education of the child in question " (IDEA, 2006, section 300.503); it is provided either at parent expense or at public expense as a result of a parent's request or a due process hearing decision.


Individualized Education Plan (IEP): a legal document designed by a team of educators, specialists, and the child's parent(s)/guardian(s) for students eligible as described in IDEA 2004; has many required sections, specifying many aspects of a disabled child's education.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA): first enacted in 1975 as the Education for all Handicapped Children Act, and subsequently periodically reauthorized, it is a comprehensive federally funded law that governs the education of students with disabilities.


intelligence quotient: a standard score derived from psychological testing typically used to describe cognitive ability.


informed consent: signed parental agreement to an action proposed by the district after the parent is provided full information in a way he or she can understand.


interfering behavior: a child's behavior that gets in the way of his or her ability to access curriculum and/or participate in the classroom.


interim alternative educational setting (IAES): a setting, other than the student's current placement, that may be considered by the MDT as a result of disciplinary infractions, in which the child will continue to be educated and progress toward IEP goals.


intervention: action taken to correct, remediate, or prevent identified or potential educational, medical, or developmental problems.


Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): refers to the concept that children with disabilities should be educated to the maximum extent possible with children who are not disabled while meeting all their learning needs and physical requirements; the type of setting is stipulated in a child's IEP; LRE is an individual determination, where what is right for one student is not necessarily right for another.


local education agency (LEA): a school district, board of education, or other public authority under the supervision of a state educational agency having administrative control and direction of public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or political subdivision in a state.


mainstream: the placement or a student with a disability into a general education classroom or any nonacademic stetting (such as physical education, lunch, etc.) for any part of the school day.


manifestation determination: a process as a result of disciplinary actions that constitutes a change of placement whereby the MDT considers the relationship between the student's disability and the conduct in question and may adjust the disciplinary action, as well as the student's IEP, accordingly.


mastery criteria/mastery level: the cutoff score on a criterion-referenced test; the condition for mastery of an IEP goal.


meaningful progress: improvement in student performance individually determined to be sufficient to indicate that FAPE is being provided.


modification: changes to curriculum demand or assessment criteria such that the curriculum demand or assessment criteria are altered.


multidisciplinary team (MDT): a group including parents and professionals with different areas of expertise who come together for the purpose of looking at an individual child's educational program.


multiple intelligences: educational theory put forth by psychologist, Howard Gardner, which suggests that an array of different kinds of "intelligence" exists in human beings including: Verbal-Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Visual-Spatial, Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalistic.


No Child Left Behind: a United States federal law that aims to increase the standards of accountability for states, school districts, and schools, as well as provide parents more flexibility in choosing which schools their children will attend.


parent: a natural, adoptive, or foster parent; a guardian or individual acting in place of a natural or adoptive parent with whom the child lives or who is legally responsible for the child's welfare; a required member of the MDT team.


Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLOP): a statement in the IEP of the child's current baseline of strengths and needs as measured by formal and informal evaluations.


Prior Written Notice: required written notice to parents when the school proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the identifications, evaluation, or educational placement of the child.


procedural safeguards: rights regarding the special education of students who are either identified with a disability or suspected of having a disability; a booklet containing certain aspects of these rights required to be provided to parents once each year, as well as upon referral for special education, filing of a complaint, or upon parent request.


referral: a written request for evaluation or eligibility for special education and related services.


related services: services that are developmental, corrective, and other services required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education.


Response to Intervention (RTI): a process for increasing and/or changing supports, instruction, and interventions to address students' needs; under IDEA 2004, one of the preferred methods for identifying specific learning disabilities. For more information, visit the National Center on Response to Intervention website.


scientifically based: refers to the requirements in NCLB and IDEA 2004 that intervention to the greatest extent possible employs systematic methods of data analysis that are accepted by peer-reviewed journals or approved by a panel of independent experts.


screening: the process of administering global methods to determine if the child has a suspected disability and whether the child should have evaluations to determine if he qualifies for special education services and/or related services.


special education: specialized instruction specifically designed to meet the unique needs of a student with a disability, including classroom instructions, instruction in physical education, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions.


standardized tests: tests where the administration, scoring, and interpretations are set or prescribed and must be strictly followed; scores resulting from these tests are based on a normed population and compare students to their same-age peers.


stay put: commonly refers to the student remaining in his current educational setting while the due process complaint is being resolved, although there are important exceptions to this legal distinction.


supplementary aides and services: supports that are provided in the classroom, extracurricular, and nonacademic settings to allow a student with a disability to be educated with his nondisabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate; when possible these supports should be scientifically based.


transition services: a coordinated set of activities including special education and related services and community participation as listed in the IEP that facilitate the student's move to postsecondary options; may include vocational assessment, career exploration, and vocational education. 



Source: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What You Can Do Now to Advocate for Your Exceptional Child's Education by Michelle Davis and Rich Weinfeld. Prufrock Press, 2008.