Glossary of Special Education Terms

The ABCs of Special Education Terms

Listed below are definitions to commonly used terms in special education. Many of these terms are often shortened, so their abbreviated term is in parentheses. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with these terms to make the referral process easier.

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Commonly Used Acronyms

  • ADA – American with Disabilities Act
  • ADD/ADHD – Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
  • APE – Adaptive Physical Education
  • AE – Age Equivalent
  • AIS – Academic Intervention Services
  • ASL – American Sign Language
  • AT – Assistive Technology
  • AU – Autism
  • BOCES – Board of Cooperative Educational Services
  • BOE – Board of Education
  • CPSE – Committee on Preschool Special Education
  • CSE – Committee on Special Education
  • DB – Deaf and Blind
  • DD – Developmental Disability
  • DHH – Deaf/Hard of Hearing
  • ED – Emotionally Disturbed
  • FAPE – Free and Appropriate Public Education
  • FERPA – Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
  • IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • IEE – Independent Education Evaluation
  • IEP – Individualized Education Program
  • IH – Impartial Hearing
  • IQ – Intelligence Quotient
  • LD – Learning Disabled
  • LRE – Least Restrictive Environment
  • MD – Multiple Disabilities
  • MR – Mentally Retarded
  • OHI – Other health Impaired
  • OI – Orthopedically Impaired
  • OT – Occupational Therapy
  • PDD – Pervasive Developmental Disorder
  • PT – Physical Therapy
  • SED – State Education Department
  • SEIT – Special Education Itinerant Teacher Services
  • SETRC – Special Education Training Resource Centers
  • SI – Speech Impaired
  • TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury
  • TDD – Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf
  • VESID – Office of Vocational & Educational Services For Individuals with Disabilities
  • VI – Visually Impaired
  • VR – Vocational Rehabilitation

Special Education Definitions

Academic Intervention Services (AIS) – Student support services which supplement instruction provided in the general curriculum and are designed to assist students in meeting State learning standards. AIS are available to students with special needs and shall be provided consistent with the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Advocacy – The act of supporting or defending a child’s interests and rights.

Annual Review – An evaluation, conducted at least one time per year by the Committee on Special Education, for each child with a disability for the purposes of recommending the continuation, modification, or termination of the special education program.

Assessment – Evaluation procedures used to identify a child’s needs and the family’s concerns and priorities about their child’s development.

Assistive Technology Devices and Services – Equipment and services that are approved to be used to improve or maintain the abilities of a child to function including such activities as playing, communicating, or eating.

BOCES – Board of Cooperative Educational Services

Child with a disability – A person under the age of 21 who is entitled to attend public schools because of mental, physical, or emotional reasons can only receive appropriate educational opportunities from a program of special education.

Cognitive – A term that describes the process used for remembering, reasoning, understanding, and making decisions. Your child’s cognitive abilities will be assessed during the evaluation process.

Committee on Special Education (CSE) – This is a decision-making committee appointed by the school board of education to determine eligibility and the appropriate level of services for children aged five to 21 years old. The CSE is a multidisciplinary team established to conduct meetings to develop, review, or revise the individual education program (IEP) of a student with a disability.

Confidentiality – The right that personal information about a child and family is not released without parent consent or only when permitted or required by law.

Consent – The written approval a parent gives to the Committee on Special Education to have their child evaluated and receive services. Consent is always voluntary and a parent may revoke it at any time.

Developmental History – Steps or stages of a child’s growth in such skills as sitting, walking, and talking. This information is gathered as part of the social history requirements.

Dominant Language – The language or other mode of communication that the family normally uses. Evaluations of your child are required to be administered in the child’s dominant language.

Due Process – Procedures designed to protect a person’s rights. This includes requirements for confidentiality, consent, and complaint mechanisms.

Educationally Related Support Services (ERSS) – Services intended for students who are not eligible for special education services yet eligible to receive speech and counseling services.

Impartial Hearing – A formal process at which a family’s complaints can be heard by an impartial hearing officer who will resolve the dispute or complaint regarding the child’s evaluation, IEP, or certain other issues.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) – This IEP is a written plan developed by the CSE which specifies the appropriate level of special education programs and services to be provided to meet the unique educational needs of a student with a disability.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) – Means that placement of students with disabilities in special classes, separate schools, or other removal from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that even with the use of supplementary aids and services, education cannot be satisfactorily achieved.

Mediation – A method for solving a problem that uses persons trained in helping people resolve their own problems. In mediation, the school district and parent will try to reach an agreement with which both parties are satisfied.

Occupational Therapy (OT) – Services delivered by an Occupational Therapist that relate to self-help skills, adaptive behavior and play, and sensory and motor and postural development.

Parent Support Group – Discussion and information-sharing meetings for parents of children with disabilities.

Pendency – A due process right that the parent and child have that allows the child and family to continue to receive services as described on the current IEP while the parent works to resolve a dispute.

Physical Therapy (PT) – Services provided by a Physical Therapist that relate to large movement difficulties and related functional problems.

Psychological Evaluation – Means a process by which a New York State-certified school psychologist or licensed psychologist uses, to the extent deemed necessary for purposes of educational planning, a variety of psychological and educational techniques and examinations in the student’s dominant language, to study and describe a student’s developmental, learning, behavioral, and other personality characteristics.

Reevaluation Review – A reassessment of the child’s ability and achievement within a three-year period.

Related Services – Means support services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological services, and counseling services. These services can be delivered in an individual or group setting.

Section 504 Accommodation Plan – An educational plan or modifications for a student suspected of a disability who may not require special education services.

SETRC – Special Education Training Resource Centers

Social History – Preparing an assessment of the social and emotional strengths and needs of the child.

Special Education – Specially designed instruction that includes special services or programs.

Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) – A preschool special education teacher who provides direct and indirect service in regular programs or a child’s home for students ages three and four.

Speech Therapy (SP or ST) – Services provided by a Speech and Language Pathologist that relate to delays in speech development and communication.

State Education Department (SED) – Refers to the state agency that establishes education regulations and provides support to counties and school districts.

Subcommittee – A decision-making committee appointed by the Board of Education. May perform functions similar to CSE with some exceptions.

TRE – Technology Resources for Education

VESID – Office of Vocational & Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities.