Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Special Education Definitions

Accommodations – Accommodations do not reduce grade level standards but rather help provide access to the curriculum.  Accommodations can include visual presentation, auditory presentation, multi-sensory presentation, response, setting, organization, timing and scheduling.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 - means Legislation enacted to prohibit discrimination based on disability.

Assessment – An assessment is a battery of of formal or informal tests used to determine a disability category and IEP eligibility.  An assessment should take place in all areas of suspected disability.  These could include cognitive, achievement, speech, auditory process, emotional, neuropsychological, memory, attention, developmental, visual and sensory.  The personnel conducting the assessments must be professionally trained and competent.  They should be able to explain the test results in language the parents can understand.

Assistive technology device – Means any item, piece of equipment, or system, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – a behavior disorder, usually first diagnosed in childhood, that is characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and, in some cases, hyperactivity. A Child with this disorder may be eligible for special education under other health impairment, specific learning disability, and emotional disturbance categories if condition adversely affects educational performance.

Audiology – means the study of impaired hearing that cannot be improved by medication or surgical therapy and is considered a related service under IDEA.

Autism – means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Autism is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Behavior intervention plan – means a plan that address a student’s disruptive behaviors  using positive strategies, program modifications, and supplementary aids and supports.

Charter school – means an independent public schools that operate under public supervision but outside public school systems. 

Child find – A requirement that the State must have in effect policies and procedures to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the State who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated.

Child with a disability – means a child meeting one of the IDEA eligibility categories and who, by reason thereof needs special education and related services.

Consent – means a requirement that the parent be informed of all information that relates to any action that school wants to take about the child and agree to that action including initial consent for evaluation and consent for services.  Parents can revoke their consent at any time.

Counseling services – means services provided by qualified social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors, or other qualified personnel and is considered a related service under IDEA.

Cumulative file – means the file maintained by the school about the student.

Deaf-blindness – means concomitant 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.    Deaf-Blindness is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Deafness – means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.  Deafness is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Disability – means an impairment that substantially affects one or more major life activities; an individual who has a record of having such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Due process complaint notice – means a notice filed to request a due process hearing

Due process hearing – means the procedural safeguards in IDEA to resolve disputes between parents and schools.  It is an administrative hearing before an impartial hearing officer or administrative law judge.

Dyslexia – means a learning disorder marked by a severe difficulty in recognizing and understanding written language, leading to spelling and writing problems.  Dyslexia is listed as a specific learning disability in IDEA.

Early identification and assessment of disabilities in children – means the implementation of a formal plan for identifying a disability as early as possible in a child’s life.

Education records – means all records about students that are maintained by an educational agency or institution.

Emotional disturbance - 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:

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

(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems

 Emotional Disturbance is considered an eligibility category under IDEA

Free appropriate public education – means special education and related services that have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge that meet the standards of the State educational agency and are provided in conformity with the individualized education program.

General curriculum – means the curriculum adopted by the State for all children from kindergarten through high school.

Hearing impairment – means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness in this section.  Hearing impairment is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Highly qualified teacher – means teachers who are certified by the state or pass the state teacher examination, demonstrate competence in the subject area they teach, and hold a license to teach.

Individualized education program – means a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with IDEA.

Inclusion – means the practice of educating students with special needs in regular classes  with needed accommodations and services instead of in special education classes.

Interpreting services – means oral transliteration services, cued language transliteration services, sign language transliteration and interpreting services, and transcription services, such as communication access real-time translation (CART), C-Print, and TypeWell and is considered a related service under IDEA.

Least restrictive environment (LRE) – means the IDEA requirement that children with disabilities be educated with children who are not disabled to the extent possible.  This means that the child should be placed into a general education class and only be removed if the use of aids and other services can’t provide satisfactory results.

Mainstreaming – the practice of educating students with special needs in regular classes during specific time periods based on their skills without specially designed instruction or support.

Manifestation determination – means the determination of whether inappropriate behavior that violates a student’s code of conduct was caused by the child’s disability.

Medical services – means services provided by a licensed physician to determine a child’s medically related disability that results in the child’s need for special education and related services.  This is also considered a related service under IDEA.

Mental retardation – means significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Mental Retardation is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Modifications – Modifications actually lower learning expectations and should only be used if this is the only way for the child to be successful.  Parents must understand if modifications to grade level standards are being made their child may be at risk for not meeting graduation requirements. 

Multiple disabilities – means concomitant impairments (such as mental retardation-blindness or mental retardation orthopedic impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Multiple disabilities does not include deaf-blindness.  Multiple Disabilities is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Occupational therapy – means services provided by a qualified occupational therapist and Includes:

(A) Improving, developing, or restoring functions impaired or lost through illness, injury, or deprivation;

(B) Improving ability to perform tasks for independent functioning if functions are impaired or lost; and

(C) Preventing, through early intervention, initial or further impairment or loss of function.

This is also considered a related service under IDEA.

Orientation and mobility servicesmeans services provided to blind or visually impaired children by qualified personnel to enable those students to attain systematic orientation to and safe movement within their environments in school, home, and community.  This is also considered a related service under IDEA.

Orthopedic impairment – means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.  The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).  Orthopedic impairment is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Other health impairment - 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 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, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome.  It must also adversely affect a child’s educational performance.  Other Health Impairments is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Parent – means a biological, adoptive, foster, guardian or surrogate parent of the child. May also include an individual acting in the place of a biological or adoptive parent (including a grandparent, stepparent, or other relative) with whom the child lives, or an individual who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare.

Physical therapy – means services provided by a qualified physical therapist includes therapy to remediate gross motor skills.  This is also considered a related service under IDEA.

Prior written notice – means the required written notice to parents when school proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child.

Procedural safeguards notice – means the requirement that schools provide full easily understood explanation of procedural safeguards that describe parent’s right to an independent educational evaluation, to examine records, to request mediation and due process.

Psychological services – means administering psychological and educational tests, interpreting test results,  and interpreting child behavior related to learning.  This is also considered a related service under IDEA.

Recreation – means therapeutic recreation services, recreation programs, and leisure education.  This is also considered a related service under IDEA.

Related services – means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes.  Related services also include school health services and school nurse services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.

Response to intervention – means a way to determine if a child has a specific learning disability by the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention.

School nurse services – means health services that are designed to enable a child with a disability to receive FAPE as described in the child’s IEP. School nurse services are services provided by a qualified school nurse. School health services are services that may be provided by either a qualified school nurse or other qualified person.  This is also considered a related service under IDEA.

Serious bodily injury – means bodily injury which involves a substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.

Special education – means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability

Specific learning disability - means 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 the 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.  Specific Learning Disability is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Speech-language pathology services – means identification and diagnosis of speech or language impairments, speech or language therapy, counseling and guidance.  This is also considered a related service under IDEA.

Speech or language impairment – means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.  Speech or Language Impairments is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Stay-put – means the School District must maintain the current educational placement with no reduction in services pending any proceedings such as due process or formal mediation.

Transition services – means an IEP requirement that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.

Transportation – includes travel to and from school and between schools, travel in and around school buildings and specialized equipment (such as special or adapted buses, lifts, and ramps), if required to provide special transportation for a child with a disability.  This is also considered a related service under IDEA.

Traumatic brain injury – 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.  Traumatic Brain Injury is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

Visual impairment including blindness – means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.  Visual Impairment including Blindness is considered an eligibility category under IDEA.

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