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Special Education Terms

Special Education vocabulary can sound very foreign. Some terms and acronyms used frequently in ARDs are listed below.


Special Education Terms


Accessing the General Education Curriculum occurs when students with disabilities are actively engaged in learning the content and skills of the same curriculum that is being taught to general education students. This is our current perspective on access, which is more focused on curriculum access than access to a particular setting. Access is more likely to occur when instructional and learning goals are operationalized and monitored through appropriate assessments, research-based instructional practices and materials are utilized, and accommodations matched to the child's individual needs are made available.


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


Adaptation involves an adjustment to the instructional content or performance expectations of students with disabilities from what is expected or taught to students in general education. Adaptations are usually included as part of a student's IEP. Adaptations can include decreasing the number of exercises the student is expected to complete, the assignment of different reading materials, or the use of a calculator instead of working out problems by hand.


Adapted Physical Education Teacher provides direct and consultative services for students who require a change of TEKS in P.E.


Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meeting (also called an IEP meeting) is a scheduled meeting with parents and staff to review current evaluation information, determine eligibility and educational need for special services, finalize the IEP (Individual Education Program), and determine the most appropriate placement for the services necessary. This meeting must be held at least annually and parent input is extremely valuable. An ARD meeting may also be called to discuss discipline, review/add goals and objectives, or change special education placement.


Annual Goal is a statement of reasonable expectations for a student with a disability to accomplish in the next 12 months. These goals are included in the student's IEP and should help to direct the services and instruction the student will receive.


Assistive Technology is technology designed to be utilized in an assistive technology device or assistive technology service. An assistive technology device is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Examples include Braille readers, motorized wheelchairs, and specialized keyboards.


Autism (as defined by IDEA) means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects educational performance. Characteristics often associated with autism are engaging in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to changes in daily routines or the environment, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term autism does not apply if the child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance.


Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) is developed when the student’s behavior is interfering with his/her ability to learn or the learning of others in the classroom. The parent will be asked for input for the Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA) to develop the BIP. The BIP will be discussed in the ARD/IEP meeting.


Deaf-Blindness (as defined by IDEA) means 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 (as defined by IDEA) means a hearing impairment so severe that a child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.


Dyslexia: Students who have dyslexia demonstrate an inability to attain language skills commensurate with their intellectual ability. The challenges these students face mainly arise in the area of processing information and having the ability to reproduce it in an understandable fashion. Individuals having dyslexia may demonstrate problems in any of the areas of reading, writing, spelling, or math calculations.


An Educational Diagnostician is a person who conducts evaluations and writes the report for the ARD. She/He assists classroom teachers with academic and behavioral strategies.


Educational Service Center (ESC) VII is located in Kilgore, Texas and provides support to Rains ISD in all areas. 


Emotional Disturbance - ED - (as defined by IDEA) means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child's educational performance:

  • An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.


  • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.


  • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.


  • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.


  • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.


The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to socially maladjusted children unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.


Extended School Year (ESY) refers to the special education and related services which meet the state standards that a student with disabilities receives beyond the school year as stipulated in the IEP. These services are provided at no charge to the family or student.


Free Appropriate Public Education - FAPE - is a right that is guaranteed to students with disabilities by IDEA. The provision states that special education and related services, in accordance with the state's standards, are provided free of charge under public supervision and direction in compliance with the student's IEP. It includes preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education.

Full and Individual Initial Evaluation - FIIE - includes gathering and compiling data on the child to determine current functioning levels and the strengths and areas of weakness. This is the basis to determine goals and objectives for the child’s instruction.


General Curriculum is the established plan of instruction for all students in a Local Education Agency (LEA). It can be based on the LEA's or state's standards and benchmarks. It incorporates the core of what students learn - i.e., mandated academic instruction. Social, communication, and life skills are sometimes also integrated.


Gifted students show outstanding talent compared to other children of their age, experience or environment.


Greenville Regional Day School Program for the Deaf - GRDSPD - provides center-based services and itinerant teachers to Rains ISD.


Hearing Impairment (as defined by IDEA) means 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”.


Inclusion occurs when students with disabilities are included in the general education classroom/program to the extent possible. Any support services the student needs will be provided in this setting.


Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legal document designed by a team of educators, specialists, and the child's parent(s)/guardian(s) that outlines the child's learning/behavioral goals and objectives. This document must be updated at least every 12 months; however, an IEP team meeting can be called by any member of the team at any time. The IEP includes a description of the child's present level of educational performance and identifies annual goals and objectives along with methods for assessing progress toward goals and objectives. In addition, the IEP includes any necessary supports, accommodations, adaptations, and/or related services.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA - was first enacted in 1975 as the Education for all Handicapped Children Act. It is a comprehensive law that governs the education of students with disabilities. The current version of the law was amended in 2004 (referred to as IDEA '04 or PL 108-446). For more information about the IDEA, go to the U. S. Department of Education's IDEA web site at This new site was created to provide a one-stop-shop for resources related to IDEA and its implementing regulations.


Intellectual Disability - ID - (as defined by IDEA) means significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing at the same time with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.


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.


Licensed Specialist in School Psychology - LSSP - conducts evaluations and assists classroom teachers with classroom management. She/He may also facilitate the writing of Behavior Intervention Plans for students when appropriate.


Mainstream is the placement of a student with a disability into a general education classroom or any non-academic setting (such as physical education, lunch, etc.) for any part of the school day. This type of placement is often seen as being appropriate once it is determined that the child can keep up academically or interact appropriately with the other students.


Modification involves an adjustment to the instructional content or performance expectations of students with disabilities from what is expected or taught to students in general education.


Multiple Disabilities (as defined by IDEA) means simultaneous impairments, the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in a special education program solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness.


Occupational Therapy - OT - is a support service that focuses on developing functional skills related to sensory-motor integration, coordination of movement, fine motor skills, self-help skills (dressing, self-feeding, etc.), adaptive devices/equipment, and positioning for school work. This related service, based on an evaluation, is determined necessary by the ARD/IEP committee in order for the student to benefit from instruction.


Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services - OSERS - An agency of the federal government's executive branch within the Department of Education.


Office of Special Education Programs - OSEP - An office within OSERS charged with assuring that the various states comply with IDEA.


Orthopedic Impairment (as defined by IDEA) means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly (e.g. clubfoot, absence of some member, etc.), impairments caused by disease (e.g. poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).


Other Health Impairment - OHI - (as defined by IDEA) means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that (a) is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia; and (b) adversely affects a child's educational performance.


Physical Therapy - PT - is a specialized related service for students who have significant gross motor difficulties. This related service, based on an evaluation, is determined necessary by the ARD/IEP committee in order for the student to benefit from instruction.


Related Services are developmental, corrective, and other services required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education. Related services may include transportation and support services such as audiology, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, counseling, interpreters for persons with hearing impairments, school health services, and parent counseling and training.


Section 504 is a component of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education. Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district's jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. This may be defined as regular or special education services. Section 504 does require the development of a plan, usually referred to as a 504 plan, although this written document is not mandated. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) of IDEA may be used as the 504 plan . Typically, a student who needs 504 services needs accommodations and/or related services but does not need special placement or instruction from a special education teacher. For example, students with ADD or ADHD, who do not qualify under the disability categories of IDEA, often have 504 plans. General education teachers, resource teachers, and speech and language therapists usually provide additional services.

Specific Learning Disability - SLD - As currently defined in IDEA, the term refers to 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 an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of a visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.


Speech Language Pathologist provides speech therapy that includes language development and articulation. They also evaluate for eligibility.


Speech Language Impairment (as defined by IDEA) means a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance.


Transition is the set of activities and services that assist students with disabilities to successfully move from the school environment to the post-school environment, such as employment, post-secondary education, or vocational training. These services can include adult education, independent living, and community participation.


Traumatic Brain Injury - TBI - (as defined by IDEA) means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. The term does not include brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by birth trauma.


Visual Impairment (as defined by IDEA) means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.