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Glossary of Special Education Terms / Acronyms
Posted 7/12/18

Accommodation:  Provides a student with a disability to participate in a course, standard or test which does not fundamentally alter or lower the standard or expectation of the course, standard or test. It allows the student to complete the same assignment or test but with a change in the timing, formation, setting, scheduling, response and/or presentation. Examples may include extended time, preferred seating and are written into the IEP. Grading is based on the established course criteria.


ADDAttention Deficit Disorder:  Persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development and that interferes with developmentally appropriate social, academic functioning.  


ADHDAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder


AEAge Equivalent:  A way of reporting test scores in which the score is equal to that of an average child of that age. (e.g., an age equivalent score of 8.6 means that the child did as well as an average child who is 8 years and 6 months old.)


Age of Majority:  When an individual with exceptional needs reaches the age of 18, the district provides notice of procedural safeguards to the student and his/her parents. All rights accorded to a parent then transfer to the student. Beginning at least one year before, the student's IEP must include a statement that the student has been informed of this notice. 


APEAdapted Physical Education:  Physical education program provided to students who require developmental or corrective instruction.


Area Board on Developmental Disabilities:  Responsible for monitoring to protect/advocate the rights of people with developmental disabilities.


Articulation:  The process of executing movements of the speech organs (tongue, lips, jaw, vocal cords) to produce speech sounds.


Auditory Discrimination:  The ability to detect differences in sounds and to sort and compare them with each other.


Autism:  Autism is a developmental disability that affects a person's ability to communicate, understand language, play and interact with others. Autism is a behavioral syndrome, which means that its definition is based on patterns of behavior that a person exhibits. Individuals with autism vary widely in ability and personality. It is a neurological disability that although it affects the functioning of the brain, the specific cause is unknown. Autism Spectrum Disorder encompasses a broad definition of autism that includes related disabilities such as Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.


CAChronological Age:  The actual age of a student on a given day. (e.g., Mary's age is 7 years 4 months.)


CACCommunity Advisory Committee:  Parents of individuals with exceptional needs, teachers and other community members who work with the SELPA administration to develop policy and support the needs of special education students.


CAPDCentral Auditory Processing Disorder:  A reduced or impaired ability to discriminate, recognize or comprehend auditory information - broadly defined its "what we do with what we hear".


CCSCalifornia Children's Services:  A State of California agency that provides medically necessary services/equipment and/or therapy to medically eligible children.


DDDevelopmental Disability:  A severe chronic disability, which is attributable to a mental/physical impairment or combination and results in substantial functional limitations in the major life activities.


CBI / Community Based Instruction


CE / Counseling Enriched


CP / Cerebral Palsy


DHH/ Deaf/Hard of Hearing


DISDesignated Instructional Services:  Instruction and services necessary for the pupil to benefit from his/her instructional program. Credentialed specialists provide services not usually part of the regular or special classroom structure. DIS may include but not limited to: Speech/Language, Adaptive Physical Education services, Counseling, transportation, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy.


Disability:  A physical or mental condition, which limits a person's functioning if not corrected.


ECSE / Early Childhood Special Education 


ED / Emotionally Disturbed 


ELLEnglish Language Learners:  Those students whose primary language is not English.


Expressive Language:  Includes the skills involved in communicating one's thoughts and feelings to others.


FAPEFree Appropriate Public Education:  Special education and related services that are provided at public expense. It is provided in conformity with the individualized education program required under state and federal law to enable the child to receive educational benefits.


GEGrade Equivalent:  The score a student makes on an achievement test, translated into a standard score which can then be compared to the typical score for students at that grade level (e.g., a "grade equivalent" score of 4.5 represents the score made by the average student who has been in the fourth grade for 5 months).


Hyperactivity:  Abnormal excess of physical action accompanied by restlessness, low tolerance for frustration and short attention span.


IDEAIndividuals with Disabilities Education Act:  Federal legislation that mandates a free and appropriate education to all children. It governs the education of students with disabilities. Originally passed in 1975 as PL94-142 with later amendments in 1986, 1990 and 1997. Final regulations went into effect in May 1999.


IEPIndividualized Education Program:  A written plan, which describes the specialized educational program and services to be provided to meet the unique educational needs of a pupil with a disability. It includes the educational goals and objectives of the special education needed.


IEP Team:  A multidisciplinary team established in accordance with the provisions of state regulations. The IEP Team can meet to review eligibility, current progress eligibility, goals and objectives of identified special education students.


IFSPIndividualized Family Service Plan:  A written plan for providing early intervention services to a child eligible under this part and the child's family. The plan must: (1) be developed in accordance with state and federal regulations; (2) be based on the evaluation and assessment. It serves children from birth to 2.11 years of age. Services are provided by education or Regional Center depending on the nature of the child's disability.


ITPIndividual Transition Plan:  Beginning at age 16, or 14 if appropriate, a written transition plan is developed.Based on the student's needs, taking into account the student's preferences and interests, the ITP is designed to promote movement from school to post-school activities of adult community life.


IWENIndividual With Exceptional Needs:  Pupils, who are entitled to attend public schools pursuant to state law and who, because of mental, physical or emotional reason, have been identified as having a disability and require special education programs and services.


LCILicensed Children’s Institution:  A community care facility licensed by the California Department of Social Services. This includes a group home, foster family agency and a community treatment facility.


LEALocal Education Agency:  A public board of education or other public authority legally constituted in California for either administrative control or direction of public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of California, or such combination of school districts or counties as are recognized in California as an administrative agency for its public elementary or secondary schools.


LEP / Limited English Proficient


Local Plan:  A legal document that describes in detail how the special education local agency will implement special education laws and regulations within its jurisdiction.


Low Incidence Disability:  A severe disabling condition with an expected incidence rate of less than one percent of the total statewide enrollment.  The conditions include hearing impairments, vision impairments and severe orthopedic impairments, or any combination thereof.


LRELeast Restrictive Environment:  An environment in which services to children with disabilities are provided: (1) to the maximum extent appropriate, with children who are not disabled and in which; (2) special classes or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.


Modification:  Students with significant special needs also have the opportunity to take courses in a modified form, if recommended by the IEP team and with parent notification and consent.  A modification is an adjustment to an assignment or test that changes the standard or what the test or assignment is supposed to measure.


NPANon-Public Agency:  A private agency which conforms with the requirements of federal and state laws and regulations governing the education of pupils with disabilities and which has been certified by the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the purpose of contracting with public schools for the instruction of pupils with disabilities.  These services are provided only when no appropriate public education program is available.


MH / Multi Handicapped 


NPSNon-Public, Non-Sectarian School:  A private, non-sectarian school which conforms with the requirements of federal and state laws and regulations governing the education of pupils with disabilities and which has been certified by the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the purpose of contracting with public schools for the instruction of pupils with disabilities.  These services are provided only when no appropriate public education program is available.


OOH / Orthopedically Handicapped

HIOther Health Impairment:  Students with limited strength, vitality or alertness, due to chronic or acute health problems such as a heart condition, cancer, leukemia, chronic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, epilepsy, diabetes and hematological disorders which adversely affects a pupil’s educational performance.


OIOrthopedic Impairment:  Pupils who have a severe orthopedic impairment, which adversely affects their educational performance.  Such orthopedic impairments include impairments caused by congenital anomaly, disease and impairments from other causes (polio, cerebral palsy).


OT / Occupational Therapy 


PH / Physically Handicapped 


Phonology:  The study of speech sounds and the rules governing how they are combined to convey meaning.

PLC / Professional Learning Communities

Program Specialist:  A specialist who holds a valid special education credential, clinical services credential, health services credential, or a school psychologist authorization and has advanced training and related experience in the education of individuals with exceptional needs and a specialized in-depth knowledge in preschool disabilities, career vocational development, or one or more areas of major disabling conditions.


PT / Physical Therapy 


Receptive Language:  Includes the skills involved in understanding language.


Regional Center:  A private, non-profit organization under contract with the California Department of Developmental Services.  There are 21 statewide Regional Centers that are responsible for the coordination and development of services to meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities. 


ROP / Regional Occupation Program 


RSPResource Specialist Program:  Provides special education instruction in specific skill areas, materials and supplemental services to children with disabilities who are assigned to general education classroom teachers for the majority of the school day.


SDCSpecial Day Class:  Designed to meet the needs of students who, because of the nature or severity of the disability, require a small group, self-contained instructional setting for the majority of the school day.


Section 504:  In 1977, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides protection from discrimination for individuals with disabilities.  Student with disabilities may be eligible for various modifications so that they an access a free and appropriate education.


SELPASpecial Education Local Plan Area:  In 1977, all school districts and county school offices were required to join to form geographical regions of sufficient size and scope to provide for all the special education service needs of children residing within the region boundaries.  Each SELPA develops a local plan describing how it provides special education services.


Semantics:  The aspect of language concerned with meaning or content.


Sensory Processing:  The way, in which a child registers and perceives sensory information through a variety of sensory channels, including tactile, visual, auditory, proprioceptive and vestibular.


Severely Disabled:  Students requiring intensive instruction and training in programs serving students with disabilities such as autism, blindness, deafness, severe orthopedic impairments, serious emotional disturbance, severe mental retardation and those with multiple disabilities.


SH / Severely Handicapped 


SLDSpecific Learning Disability:  Pupils with a disorder in one more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an impaired ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations and have a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement in one or more academic areas.


Special Education:  Specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent, to meet the unique needs of individuals with exceptional needs, whose educational needs cannot be met with modification of the regular instruction program and related services that may be needed to assist these pupils to benefit from specially designed instruction.


Speech or Language Impairment:  A communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance.


Speech Language Therapy:  Remediation provided by a Speech/Language Specialist to facilitate language development, both receptively and expressively or to correct faulty speech patterns, like stuttering or voice problems.


SSTStudent Study Team:  A team of school site personnel and the parent who work together to generate possible solutions for students who are experiencing difficulties within the regular education setting.  It meets to consider a student’s strengths and needs and to design a team action plan for student success.


Syndrome:  A group of related symptoms, which characterize a disease or disorder.


Syntax:  How words are put together in a sentence to convey meaning.


TBITraumatic Brain Injury:  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 apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by birth trauma.


Transition:  An educational process designed to help students move from one education program to another (e.g., school to employment and a quality adult life, early intervention program to pre-school). 


VH / Visually Handicapped 


Visual Discrimination:  Ability to detect differences in objects, forms, letters or words.


VI / Visually Impaired 


Visual Motor: The ability to coordinate vision with body movements.


Vocational Services:  Organized educational programs which are directly related to the preparation of individuals for paid or unpaid employment.