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Education Glossary

Common Terms Used in the Education Process and IEP (Individual Education Plan)

504 plan: A plan that specifies the accommodations and modifications necessary for a student with a disability to attend school with her or his peers; named for Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, ensuring that children with disabilities have equal access to public education; students with 504 plans do not meet the eligibility requirements forspecial education under IDEA.

absence seizure: petit mal seizure. An epileptic seizure involving brief loss of consciousness (usually less than 30 seconds).

accessibility: An optimal state in which barrier-free environments allow maximum participation and access by individuals with disabilities.

accommodation: Service or support related to a student’s disability that allows her or him to fully access a given subject matter and to accurately demonstrate knowledge without requiring a fundamental alteration to the assignment’s or test’s standard or expectation.

acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that occurs through illness or accident in an individual born with normal hearing, also called adventitious hearing loss.

Acting-out: Behavior is that characterized as inappropriate, aggressive, or destructive.

action plan: Any of a number of methods to support the implementation of a comprehensive behavior management plan.

adapted physical education teacher: Professional whose role it is to assist physical education teachers in the development of appropriate accommodations and modifications so that students with disabilities can participate in physical education activities; adapted physical education teachers may also provide an individualized program of physical education for students with disabilities.

adapting instruction: To make changes to classroom instruction in order to allow students equal access to the curriculum and to give students the opportunity to both process and demonstrate what has been taught; instructional adaptations can include both accommodations and modifications.

adaptive behavior: The performance of the everyday life skills expected of adults, including communication, self-care, social skills, home living, leisure, and self-direction.

adaptive skills: Any one of numerous instructional targets that focus on an individual’s ability to function in a typical environment and on successful adultoutcomes (independent living, employment, and community participation).

adult service: Any one of a variety of services available to individuals with disabilities who meet certain eligibility requirements and that typically falls into one of three categories: employment services, social security and health services, and community living and support services. In some cases, adult services are provided through agencies that also serve persons without disabilities (e.g., Medicaid).

alternate assessment: Assessments used with students who are unable to take the typically administered standardized tests, even with accommodations; generally reserved for students with the most significant disabilties.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Federal disability antidiscrimination legislation passed in 1990 to guarantee basic civil rights to people with disabilities; similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin, and religion, ADA guarantees equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in areas of employment, transportation, government services, telecommunications, and public accommodations.

annual goals: Statements in a student’s IEP that outline the major expectations for that student during the upcoming twelve months; must be objective and measurable.

annual review: Required meeting of the IEP team, including parents and school professionals, to review the student’s goals for the next year.

anxiety disorder: Any one of a family of conditions characterized by an irrational dread of ordinary circumstances and everyday occurrences; the condition causes painful uneasiness and emotional tension or confusion.

aphasia: The loss or impairment of language ability due to brain injury.

applied behavior analysis: Research methodology that employs single subject designs (e.g., reversal, multiple baseline); paradigms that describe human behaviorin terms of events that stimulate behavior, maintain behavior, and increase its likelihood.

apraxia: The inability to perform purposive actions, such as moving the muscles in speech or other voluntary acts.array of services.

articulation disorder: The abnormal production of speech sounds or an inability to speak fluently or coherently.

Asperger syndrome: A disorder that is part of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in which cognition is usually in the average or above-average range.

assistive device: Any piece of equipment or technology that facilitates people’s work, communication, mobility, or other aspect of daily life.

assistive technology: Any item, service, equipment, or product system—whether acquired commercially, specially designed, or created via changes to an existing product—that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities in the daily life of an individual with a disability; comes in two forms, devices and services.

association: The ability to recognize the relationships among different concepts or knowledge bases; made up of memory and the executive control.

astigmatism: Blurred vision caused by an irregular cornea or lens.

autism: A pervasive developmental disorder considered to be part of the autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) characterized by problems in communication and social interaction, and repetitive or manneristic behaviors; generally evident by age three.

autistic spectrum disorder (ASD): Any one of a family of disorders characterized by a pronounced difficulty with communication, inhibited social interaction, and manneristic behaviors.

autosomal recessive disorder: A genetically transmitted disorder which can only be passed down when both parents carry the gene.

behavioral intervention plan (BIP): A set of strategies designed to address the function of a student’sbehavior as a means through which to alter it; requires a functional behavioral assessment and an associated plan that describes individually determined procedures for both prevention and intervention.

behavioral phenotype (symptoms): A collection of behaviors—including cognitive, language, and social behaviors as well as psychopathological symptoms—that tend to occur together in persons with specific genetic syndrome.

Best Buddies: A program that pairs college students with people with intellectual disabilities as a means through which to build relationships, friendships, and opportunities for support.

Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP): Term referring to a student’s ability to effectively understand and use the more advanced and complex language necessary to understand academic subjects and abstractions, sometimes referred to as academic language.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS): An educational initiative originally sponsored by the National Governors Association designed to create consistent educational standards to prepare students across the United States either for college or for post-secondary employment.

concept development: The construction of ideas or mental images through a process of classifying or grouping similar things (e.g., beagles, poodles, and golden retrievers are all dogs) and through discriminating categories or concepts (e.g., dogs are different from cats).

cued speech: A method to aid speech reading in people with hearing impairment in which an interpreter uses hand signals near his or her mouth to supplement or clarify lip reading by helping to distinguish sounds.

developmental delay: Term used to encompass a variety of disabilities in infants and young children indicating that they are significantly behind the norm for development in one or more areas, including motor development, socialization, independent functioning, cognitive development, or communication.

early expressive language delay (EELD): A significant interruption in the development of expressive languagethat is apparent by age two.early interveningInstructional intervention in which assistance or services are offered to students as soon as they begin to struggle academically and before they fall too far behind their peers.

early intervention: Specialized services provided to very young children at risk for or showing signs of developmental delay.

etiology: The causes of a disability, including genetic, physiological, environmental, or psychological factors.

eugenics: A pseudoscientific social study characterized by its belief in the ‘perfectibility’ of human beings through directed breeding; supports improving the human race through selective reproduction and protecting society by not allowing people with disabilities to reproduce, reside in mainstream society, or, in some cases, live.

expressive language: The ability to communicate thoughts and feelings through gestures, sign language, verbalization, or the written word.

genetic counseling: Discussions between medical personnel and prospective parents for the purpose of determining the parents’ genetic history and their likelihood of bearing children with disabilities.

idioms: Words and phrases that have meanings different from the literal one.

IEP Team: The multidisciplinary team of education and related services professionals that develops and evaluates, along with the students and their parents, the individualized education program plan for each student with a disability.

individualized education program (IEP); A written plan used to delineate an individual student’s current level of development and his or her learning goals, as well as to specify any accommodations, modifications, and related services that a student might need to attend school and maximize his or her learning.

individualized family service plan (IFSP): A written document used to record and guide the early interventionprocess for young children with disabilities and their families; designed to reflect individual concerns, priorities, and resources.

individualized transition plan (ITP): A statement, included in a high-school student’s IEP, outlining the transition services required for coordination and delivery of services as the student nears adulthood.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Name given in 1990 to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) and used for all reauthorizations of the law that guarantees students with disabilities the right to a free appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.

intellectual disability: A disability characterized by significant intellectual impairment and deficits in adaptive functioning that occurs in the developmental period (before the age of eighteen) and has adverse effects on education.

language impairment: A pronounced difficulty or inability to master the various systems of rules in language.

learned helplessness: A phenomenon in which individuals, usually as a result of repeated failure or control by others, gradually become less willing to attempt tasks.

learning disability (LD): Any one of a variety of disorders characterized by a difficulty or delay in the development of the ability to learn or use information.

least restrictive environment (LRE): One of the principles outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requiring that students with disabilities be educated with their non-disabled peers to the greatest appropriate extent.

legal mandates: In reference to education policy, the laws or legislative changes that outline the required guidelines for serving students with disabilities.

life skills: Generally speaking, any of those skills used to manage a home, cook, shop, manage finances, and organize personal living environments.

mainstreaming: Process through which students with special needs are placed in an educational setting that is as close to what is considered the norm for most students for some or all of their school day; the term is now somewhat outdated.

mastery measurement (MM): A form of classroom assessment conducted on a regular basis; once a teacher has determined the instructional sequence for the year, each skill in the sequence is assessed until mastery has been achieved, after which the next skill is introduced and assessed.

mediation: Process through which a neutral party facilitates a meeting between parents and school officials to resolve disagreements about a student’s individualized education program and questions about his or her placement and services.

mental age (MA): An age estimate of an individual’s mental ability, derived from an artificial comparison of the individual’s IQ score and chronological age; not a preferred means of describing an individual’s abilities.

microcephaly: A neurological condition characterized by the occurrence of a small, conical-shaped head and an underdeveloped brain.

modeling: The act of providing an example as a means through which to encourage the imitation of a skill, process, characteristic, or style; process whereby a teacher observes a colleague as he or she provides instruction in order to see the process in action and to see its benefits firsthand.

multidisciplinary team: A team of teachers, educational professionals (e.g., related servicespersonnel, school psychologist), administrators, specialists, and parents or guardians who assess the individual needs of students to determine eligibility for special education and develop individualized education programs (IEP); often called IEP teams.

neuromotor impairment: Condition that affects the central nervous system, limiting an individual’s ability to move or to control the operation of his or her muscles.

non-verbal learning disabilities: Term used to describe a subgroup of learning impairments that hinders an individual’s ability to decipher non-verbal communication (e.g., facial expressions, eye contact) due to a dysfunction in the part of the brain that controls non-verbal reasoning.

occupational therapist (OT): Professional who directs activities to help improve fine-motor muscular control and develop self-help skills and adaptive behavior in conjunction with services for persons with disabilities.

paraprofessional: An individual trained to assist a professional.

perseveration: The tendency to repeat behaviors; may be found in persons with brain injuries or ADHD.

pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS): A disorder included in the autistic spectrum disorder (ASD)characterized by problems in communication and social interaction, and repetitive or manneristic behaviors.

petit mal seizure (absense seizure): A form of generalized seizure that causes a brief clouding or loss of consciousness.

phonics: A method of reading instruction in which students are taught the relationship between sounds and written letters.

phonological awareness: An understanding of the relationship between sounds and the corresponding words or word parts that they represent; facilitates the abilities to rhyme and to understand sound-symbol relationships; an oral language skill that enables children to understand that words can be represented in print.

physical therapist (PT): A professional who treats movement dysfunctions through a variety of nonmedical means in a program tailored to the individual’s needs; provides a special education related service.

picture exchange communication system (PECS): A technique used to provide individuals who are nonverbal, particularly children with autism, where pictures are used to make requests.

portfolio assessment: An alternative form of individualized evaluation that includes numerous samples of the student’s work across all curriculum targets and reports of teachers and parents about that individual’s social skills.

positive behavior intervention plan (PBIP): Instructional strategy which deploys positive reinforcement procedures as a means through which to support a student’s appropriate or desirable behavior.

Public Law (PL) 94-142: The first special education law, passed by Congress in 1975 as the Education of All Handicapped Children Act and later updated as IDEA.

Social Security Disability Office: The office that houses federal programs tasked with providing benefits to individuals with disabilities who qualify and meet the established medical criteria.

speech/ language pathologist (SLP): A professional who diagnoses and treats problems in the area of speech and language development; a related services provider.

standard deviation (SD): In connection with standardized assessments, a statistical measure that expresses the variability and the distribution from the mean of a set of scores.

strabismus: A condition that prevents the eyes from aiming in the same direction at the same time; a misalignment of the eyes.

student accountability: A system of accountability in which primary responsibility is assigned to the student; designed to motivate students to achieve their best.

supported employment: An approach to job training whereby students with disabilities are placed in paying jobs for which they receive significant assistance and support.