“What Does That Mean?” Glossary of Special Education Terms and Acronyms
Explaining the acronyms, abbreviations, and terms associated with special education.
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or a learning disability, you’ve entered a new world of special-ed acronyms, abbreviations, and terms. This glossary will help you penetrate the jargon to get your child the educational help he or she needs.
Accommodations — Techniques and materials that help students with ADHD or LD learn or perform schoolwork more effectively. Accommodations include extra time on tests, a lighter homework load, and permission to tape-record assignments.
Assistive Technology — Equipment or software that helps children compensate for learning impairments. Examples include electronic spell-checkers and audiobooks.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) — A neurobiological disorder that causes problems with attention span, impulse control, and activity level.
Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) — A set of strategies developed by school personnel to help a child behave in a way that is appropriate to the classroom and that allows him to learn.
Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician — A physician who specializes in childhood behavioral problems, such as ADHD and aggressive behavior, as well as difficulties at school.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) — A publication of the American Psychiatric Association that is used to diagnose psychiatric disorders, including ADHD.
Educational Advocate — A professional who works with families to secure appropriate educational placement or services for children with ADHD or LD.
Educational Psychologist — A psychologist who specializes in learning and in the behavioral, social, and emotional problems that interfere with school performance.
Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) — Under IDEA (see below), public schools are required to provide disabled students with appropriate educational services at no cost to the parents.
Formal Assessment — A school-based evaluation of a student’s learning difficulties using standardized tests and other tools. A team of school professionals uses the assessment to determine a child’s eligibility for special education and related services.
Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) — An evaluation conducted by a qualified professional who is unaffiliated with a public school district. Schools are required to consider the findings or recommendations of an IEE.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — The federal law that guarantees special education and related services to students with disabilities. ADHD is not listed among IDEA’s disability categories, but children with ADHD often qualify under a category called “Other Health Impairments.”
Individualized Education Program (IEP) — The formal, written plan that guides the delivery of special-education services to a child who qualifies for such assistance under IDEA.
Learning Disability (LD) — A neurobiological disorder that impairs a person’s ability to read, write, or do math by affecting the way he receives, processes, or expresses information.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) — Under IDEA, school districts must provide special-ed services in a general education setting, rather than in separate classes or schools, whenever possible. A regular classroom is the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities.
Modification — An adjustment in the curriculum that creates a different standard for students with disabilities, as compared to others in the class.
Multidisciplinary Team — A group of people who work together to develop and review a child’s IEP. The team might include the child’s classroom and special-education teachers, school administrator, school psychologist, therapist, educational advocate, and parents.
Neuropsychologist — A psychologist who specializes in the relationship between brain function and behavior.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — The federal law that grants children with disabilities the right to an appropriate public school education. Children with ADHD or LD who are ineligible for special-education services under IDEA may qualify for accommodations and services under Section 504. The written plan outlining these services is called a 504 Plan.
Special Education (SPED) — Specially designed instruction for children whose educational needs can’t be met in a regular instructional program.
Updated on January 12, 2020