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Special Education Terms

Special Education Terminology/Definitions

Assistive Technology (AT):  Any item a child needs to increase, maintain or improve how the child does in school.  AT includes low-tech and high-tech items, from a calculator to a computer.  AT also can mean services a child needs to help in choosing, getting, or using the item.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP):  The IEP Team makes a plan to help prevent problem behaviors.  The plan helps a child learn new appropriate behaviors.  A positive behavior plan is not a list of punishments and or consequences.  The plan uses information from a functional behavior assessment to develop the plan.

Case Manager:  Each student in special education has a teacher assigned as their case manager.  This teacher is the primary person who has contact with the family and arranges the IEP meetings.  The case manager does not have to be licensed in the area of disability to work with the student but someone certified in that disability area must do the assessing.

CESA:  Cooperative Educational Service Agency.  This agency provides special education and other services to schools.  Schools buy services from a CESA, but the school is still responsible for the services.

Consent:  The parent tells the school in writing the parent understands and agrees to what the school plans to do.  The consent from says the parent understands consent is voluntary, and the parent can take it back at any time before the school does what it plans to do.  Parents can revoke the consent, but does not cancel what the LEA has already done.

Curriculum: Students can follow three different curriculums or a combination of the following:

  • General Education Curriculum- Regular Education Curriculum that a child from that grade level or content area will be taught.
  • Modified Curriculum-Modifications to the regular education curriculum that a child from that grade level or content area will be taught.  For example: slower pace, written to the child’s reading level.
  • Alternative Curriculum-Students will follow the Extended Grade Band Standards.  These are different from there same age peers and/or content level.

Evaluation: When a professional gathers information about a child to decide if the child qualifies for special education or the kind and amount of services the child needs.  Evaluation can be testing, observing, or talking to people who work with the child.

Evaluation Report:  The IEP team gathers all evaluation information about a child who is being evaluated.  They work together to write a final report about the evaluation.  The report includes whether the child qualifies for special education.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE):  Every child who is eligible for special education must receive a FAPE which means the school cannot charge for the child’s education, and that education must enable the child to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education curriculum.

Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA):  The IEP Team finds out what makes the child keep doing problem behaviors and how to help the child learn how to behave differently.

Home-based schooling: Parents choose to teach their child at home instead of sending their child to learn basic subjects.

Homebound schooling: When the child’s IEP Team decides it is appropriate, the school teaches a child at home.  The IEP Team’s decision must be based on the child’s needs.

Individual Education Plan (IEP):  The plan developed by the child’s IEP team which indicated the child’s annual goals, and specifies the special education and related services which the child will receive.

Annual IEP- Every student who qualifies for Special Education services has an Individual Education Plan.  An annual IEP is done to set new educational goals.  The forms and requirements of the IEP continually change as the Federal IDEA Law changes.

New referral or 3-year evaluation-The IEP meeting is held to determine if the child has a disability and a need for Special Education Services or continual needs in the case of a 3 year evaluation.  The school decides who will be the school staff on the IEP team and sends parents an invitation to the IEP meeting.  The invitation lists the names of the people, the categories they represent.  The referral/3 year re-evaluation meetings have two parts. 1-determination of need for special education 2-the IEP that contains annual goals.

Itinerant instruction: Instruction that is provided by staff traveling to multiple schools or school districts and offer services in such areas as Visual Impairment, Hearing Impairment, Orientation and Mobility, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, etc.

LEA representative:  A person on the IEP Team who has knowledge about, and can commit the school’s resources so that the child receives the IEP services.  All IEP meetings MUST have an LEA representative.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE):  LRE is a concept referring to the extent of removal of a child from education with children who do not have disabilities as little as possible.

Parent’s Rights:  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Federal law concerning the education of students with disabilities, requires schools to provide parents of a child with a disability with a notice containing a full explanation of the procedural safeguards. A copy of this must be given to parents annually.

Placement:  The child’s setting (regular class, resource room, self-contained class), and the school building the child attends for receiving special education.

Related Services: Things a child may need to benefit from special education. They are included in the IEP. Examples of related services are occupational therapy, physical therapy, health services, and speech/language.

Special Education: Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. The services are provided at no cost to parents. These services can be provided in many different settings.

Supplementary Aids and Services:  Services and supports provided in regular education classes and other settings to help a child with a disability be educated with children who do not have disabilities as much as is appropriate.

Transition:  Transition is the term for preparing a child for life after high school.  Transition planning is a required part of every child’s IEP starting at age 14.  Transition planning is also required for every child moving from Birth to Three Programs to a school’s Early Childhood special education.  Sometimes transition planning happens when a child moves from one grade to the next, or one school to the next.  Transition can also mean moving from one class to the next class in school.

Wisconsin Alternate Assessment (WAA):  State guidelines for testing children with disabilities who cannot take the regular required state tests.



Frequently Used Education Acronyms/Terms in Special Education

Acronym Description
ADD Attention Deficit Disorder
ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
AODA Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse
AT Assistive Technology
AYP Adequate Yearly Progress
BIP Behavior Intervention Plan
CD Cognitive Disability
CESA Cooperative Educational Service Agency
DOC Department of Corrections
DPI Department of Public Instruction
DVR Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in the Department of Workforce Development
EBD Emotional Behavioral Disability (formerly ED)
EC Early Childhood
ESY Extended School Year
FACETS Family Assistance Center for Education, Training and Support
The Statewide Parent Training and Information Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Education
FAPE Free Appropriate Public Education
FBA Functional Behavioral Assessment
FERPA Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the current federal special education law.
IEP Individualized Education Program
LEA Local Educational Agency
In Wisconsin, school districts, DHFS, DOC, and non-district charter schools.
LEP Limited English Proficient
LRE Least Restrictive Environment
OHI Other Health Impairment
OI Orthopedic Impairment
OT Occupational Therapy
PBIS Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports
PT Physical Therapy
PLOEP Present Level of Educational Performance
RCC Residential Care Center (formerly known as CCI)
RtI Response to Intervention
SDD Significant Developmental Delay
SLD Specific Learning Disability (formerly just LD)
TBI Traumatic Brain Injury