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I remember being in college as a Teaching Assistant providing tutoring to mostly freshman students for an Earth Science 101 class. Most of the students who attended my study group were failing or making a “D” in the class. When I asked them WHY were they taking Earth Science they told me because they thought it would be easier than Biology or Physics. Little did they know, Earth Science is like ANY other science class: you MUST know the jargon of the subject, or you will fail the exam. Thankfully, that was something I could teach them and hope to be able to teach you the jargon of special education!
Special education, like any profession, is FULL of jargon! By coming into an IEP meeting, knowing the jargon, you are one step ahead of most parents, and the people sitting at the table will think you know what you are doing; whether that is true or not! In our IEP/504 Assistance group on Facebook, many of the parents said they had never heard of the following acronyms. When you are done with this list you will be one step closer to mastering special education jargon!

ABA: ABA stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis. It is a type of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading, and academics as well as adaptive learning skills, such as fine motor dexterity, hygiene, grooming, domestic capabilities, punctuality, and job competence. ABA is effective for children and adults with psychological disorders in a variety of settings, including schools, workplaces, homes, and clinics. It has also been shown that consistent ABA can significantly improve behaviors and skills and decrease the need for special services. In the educational setting, I see ABA applied to children by people who have only attended a workshop on how to write a BIP. This can cause a problem because the BIP will be ineffective so you may need to ask for an IEE for the FBA/BIP (see why you need to know jargon?).

Accommodations: 504s only contain accommodations while an IEP can contain accommodations, modifications, and goals. Accommodations are used to describe an alteration of the environment, curriculum format, or equipment that allows an individual with a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks. They allow students with disabilities to pursue a regular course of study. Since accommodations do not alter what is being taught, instructors should be able to implement the same grading scale for students with disabilities as they do for students without disabilities.

ADHD/Executive Function: ADHD is an acronym for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. The hallmark of ADHD is an executive functioning disorder. A deficit in executive functioning is known to cause many problems in the educational environment. I have written several blog posts on this topic and you can find that information in the hyperlinked words in this section.

AT: Assistive Technology, as defined by 20 USC § 1401(1)(A), says the term “assistive technology device” means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability. So what is considered assistive technology service?


20 U.S. Code § 1401(2), defines the term “assistive technology service” to mean any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Such term includes—
(A). the evaluation of the needs of such child, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child’s customary environment;
(B). purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by such child;
(C). selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
(D). coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
(E). training or technical assistance for such child, or, where appropriate, the family of such child; and
(F). training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of such child.

In 34 CFR 300.105 – Assistive technology it says:
(a) Each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in §§ 300.5 and 300.6, respectively, are made available to a child with a disability if required as a part of the child’s –
(1) Special education under § 300.39;
(2) Related services under § 300.34; or
(3) Supplementary aids and services under §§ 300.42 and 300.114(a)(2)(ii).
(b) On a case-by-case basis, the use of school-purchased assistive technology devices in a child’s home or in other settings is required if the child’s IEP Team determines that the child needs access to those devices in order to receive FAPE.
Computer with large icons so they may be seen clearly along with a high visibility keyboard
One type of AT set up
If you are needing strategies to get the school to consider assistive technology you can try these strategies from Wrightslaw

If the school says…
We’ve considered your child’s need for assistive technology and have determined that s/he will not benefit…
Then you can say…
I would like to review the documentation that supports your decision. In particular, I would like to see the data regarding performance with assistive technology and performance without.

If the school says…
Best practice suggests you always begin with no-tech solutions first.
Then you can say…
Consideration should not be a linear process of trial and error. Rather, all possible solutions should be explored.

If the school says…
We can’t afford that.
Then you can say…
Cost cannot be considered a factor in AT consideration.

If the school says…
We are not sure what types of AT are out there.
Then you can say…
What steps will you take to fulfill the AT consideration mandate?

If the school says…
It’s not clear that (the student) actually does better with the AT.
Then you say…

I would like to see the data that supports such a conclusion. Typically, we need to review performance data over time, with and without the technology to come to such a conclusion.


If the school says…
We don’t want him to become dependent on a text-reader…when will he ever learn to read.
Then you say…
Since the student doesn’t have the independent reading skills and the expectation in grade 4 and beyond is to access large amounts of text, how will you demonstrate that he has access to the curriculum without a text-reader?

If the school says…
Your child is not the only one that struggles with this problem.
Then you say…
I can appreciate your concern, but my primary interest is the success of MY child. As a result, what are you going to do to ensure that my child is successful?

If the school says…
We will provide some specialized technology, but there is no need to write it into the IEP.
Then you say…
I am pleased to hear that assistive technology will be provided. However, to ensure the rights of all parties are protected, our plan for acquiring and using AT should be written on the IEP.

If the school says…
We are not authorized to make a decision about AT.
Then you say…
I am disappointed to hear that. I guess we will need to adjourn the meeting until an appropriate administrator is here.

If the school says…
The textbook is not available in digital format.
Then you say…
That’s unfortunate. That means that the textbook must be scanned using a “scan and read” program such as Kurzweil or WYNN or be professionally scanned.

If the school says…
Copyright laws do not permit us to have your child’s textbook scanned.
Then you say…
Because my child’s reading is ___ grades below grade level, s/he requires alternative ways to access the general curriculum.

If the school says…
The student isn’t eligible for AT because he does not meet criteria for a “print disability” under Chafee.
Then you say…
Many students with learning, hearing, or other cognitive disabilities who need AIM will not qualify under copyright law as a student with a “print disability” (e.g., dyslexia); yet it is still the responsibility of SEAs (State Education Agencies) and LEAs (Local Education Agencies) to provide AIM to them.

If the school says…
The student must have an Assistive Technology evaluation before s/he can be provided with grade level textbooks in accessible formats.
Then you say…
Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) must be provided in a “timely manner” (“at the same time as other children receive instructional materials”).

I hope this will give you a good start on trying to acquire AT for your child! Remember, support documentation is in the hyperlinks in this section.

BCBA: This is important if you are asking for an FBA. A functional behavior assessment (FBA) is best completed by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). They have more training than other school staff that could be assigned to conduct the assessment.

BIP: Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) is completed after an FBA. The only time a behavioral intervention plan is required by IDEA is when a student’s behavior, that led to a disciplinary change of placement, is determined to be a manifestation of his/her disability. [34 C.F.R. § 300.530(f)(1)(i-ii)] When this occurs, IDEA regulations require the school to return the child to the placement from which he/she was removed and require the child’s IEP team to implement a behavioral intervention plan for the child, or review and modify it as necessary if there is already such a plan in place. [34 C.F.R. § 300.530(f)(1)] The regulations do not define behavioral implementation plan or explain what such a plan must look like; instead, this is left to the IEP team.

In the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, the federal regulations require IEP teams to consider the use of positive behavioral interventions, supports, and other strategies to address that behavior. [34 C.F.R. § 300.324(a)(2)(i)] IEP teams have wide latitude in determining how to best address a child’s behavior, including behavioral goals, behavioral supports, and services (such as a behavior coach or counseling services), or through a behavioral intervention plan. Additionally, behavior can be addressed outside of the IEP process through a behavior contract or through the use of informal strategies.

ESY: ESY stands for Extended School Year and this is an important term to know! Often I hear parents say their child was turned down for more schooling during the summer (ESY) because their child did not have significant enough regression-recruitment to qualify for the summer program.

Because ESY services are uniquely designed to provide FAPE to students with disabilities, it is necessary to emphasize that these services are the following:

  • Not based on the category of student’s disability – services must be based on the student’s unique educational needs;
  • Not limited to summer months;
  • Not mandated twelve-month services for all students with disabilities;
  • Not a child care service;
  • Not required to be provided each day and/or all hours of the school day;
  • Not an automatic program provision from year to year;
  • Not regular education summer school, compensatory services, or enrichment programs;
  • Not required to be provided in a traditional classroom setting;
  • Not a predetermined program design; and
  • Not a service to be provided to maximize each student’s potential.
Procedures used by local school districts to assist the IEP team in determining the need for ESY services must do the following:
  • Prohibit the postponement of the decision by the IEP team regarding ESY services until after the summer in order to gather data or to determine what would happen if ESY services were not provided;
  • Should allow the decision by the IEP team regarding ESY services to be made early enough to ensure that the parents can exercise their due process rights;
  • Not pre-limit the ESY services to a set number of days, hours of service;
  • Not restrict the provision of ESY services for administrative convenience;
  • Not allow the availability of ESY services to be limited by the financial resources of the local school district; and
  • Not limit ESY services to predetermined disability categories nor categorically exclude certain students with disabilities.
Listed below are factors to be considered by the IEP team to assess the need for ESY services.
  • Critical Skills: A critical skill includes any skill determined by the IEP team to be critical to the student’s overall educational progress, including academic, social and behavior, independent living, communication, fine and large motor skills, as well as other identified skills pertinent to receiving FAPE.
  • Degree of Progress: The IEP team must review the expected degree of progress on IEP goals targeting critical skills and determine whether the student’s slow rate or lack of progress is likely to prevent the student from educational benefit during the school year without ESY services.
  • Emerging Skills/Breakthrough Opportunities: The IEP team determines whether IEP goals targeting critical skills are at a breakthrough point. At this point, the IEP team determines whether the interruption of instruction caused by a school break is likely to prevent the student from educational benefit without ESY services.
  • Regression: The IEP team can consider regression which is a substantial loss of any critical skill and reverting back to a performance level than what was previously obtained after a school break without ESY services.
  • Recoupment (Recovery): The IEP team can consider lack of recoupment which is the inability to recover a loss of critical skills in a reasonable time following a school break without ESY services. Most students without disabilities recoup skills within a few days after short breaks or a few weeks after longer breaks such as over the summer.
  • Nature and/or Severity of the Disability: The IEP team can consider if the nature and/or severity of the student’s disability is likely to prevent the student from educational benefit during the school year without ESY services.
Special Circumstances or Other Factors: The IEP team can consider special circumstances that will prevent the student from educational benefit during the school year without ESY services such as the ability of the student to interact with students without disabilities and transition needs. In determining the need for ESY services, the following discussion questions may help the IEP team:
  • Does the student need an extensive review to demonstrate previously learned skills?
  • What inconsistencies does the student demonstrate in mastered or partially acquired skills after a break in services?
  • Has the student reached a critical point of instruction or behavior management where a break in services would have serious, detrimental effects?
  • Does the student demonstrate behaviors or critical skill deficits that would cause regression if breaks in programming occur?
  • Is there a degenerative medical condition that might cause regression?
  • Will a break in programming jeopardize the student’s placement in the least restrictive environment?
If ESY services are determined necessary for the student to receive FAPE and educational benefit during the regular school year, then they must be provided. To demonstrate evidence for the need for ESY services, the following types of information can be reviewed:
  • historical data;
  • review of progress or previously demonstrated mastery of IEP goals over time;
  • data on the rates and inconsistencies of both learning and relearning information and skills using standardized tests, samples of student work, and curriculum-based assessments including pre and post-tests before and after school breaks;
  • documented clinical evidence;
  • multiple observations from teachers, therapists, parents, and others having direct contact with the student who can interpret instructional implications;
  • behavior or skill-based logs;
  • attendance information;
  • expert opinions; and
  • other objective evidence.
To summarize, ESY decisions are driven by student need based upon data to substantiate that FAPE would not be provided without the services. Regression and recoupment are not the only factors to determine the need for ESY. When proposing ESY, school districts must consider how to meet the individual needs of the student which may not be met in an existing special education program. The requirements relevant to the provision of special education services such as written prior notice to parents and consideration for the least restrictive environment must be followed when IEP teams consider ESY. Though every state can have slightly different rules this outlines the basics for ESY.

FAPE: This is SUPER important to know! Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) defined under Section 504 is:

An appropriate education may comprise education in regular classes, education in regular classes with the use of related aids and services, or special education and related services in separate classrooms for all or portions of the school day. Special education may include specially designed instruction in classrooms, at home, or in private or public institutions, and may be accompanied by related services such as speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy, psychological counseling, and medical diagnostic services necessary to the child’s education. An appropriate education will include:
  • education services designed to meet the individual education needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met;
  • the education of each student with a disability with nondisabled students, to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the student with a disability;
  • evaluation and placement procedures established to guard against misclassification or inappropriate placement of students, and a periodic reevaluation of students who have been provided special education or related services; and
  • establishment of due process procedures that enable parents and guardians to:
  • receive required notices;
  • review their child’s records; and
  • challenge identification, evaluation, and placement decisions.
Due process procedures must also provide for an impartial hearing with the opportunity for participation by parents and representation by counsel, and a review procedure.
Under IDEA FAPE is defined as:
§ 300.17 Free appropriate public education.
Free appropriate public education or FAPE means special education and related services that –
(a) Are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
(b) Meet the standards of the SEA, including the requirements of this part;
(c) Include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and

(d) Are provided in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP) that meets the requirements of §§ 300.320 through 300.324 


§ 300.101 Free appropriate public education (FAPE).

(a)General. A free appropriate public education must be available to all children residing in the State between the ages of 3 and 21, inclusive, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school, as provided for in § 300.530(d).
(b)FAPE for children beginning at age 3.
(1) Each State must ensure that –
(i) The obligation to make FAPE available to each eligible child residing in the State begins no later than the child’s third birthday; and
(ii) An IEP or an IFSP is in effect for the child by that date, in accordance with § 300.323(b).
(2) If a child’s third birthday occurs during the summer, the child’s IEP Team shall determine the date when services under the IEP or IFSP will begin.
(c)Children advancing from grade to grade.
(1) Each State must ensure that FAPE is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even though the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade, and is advancing from grade to grade.
(2) The determination that a child described in paragraph (a) of this section is eligible under this part, must be made on an individual basis by the group responsible within the child’s LEA for making eligibility determinations.
Behavior that warrants a FBA
Behavior that warrants consideration of a FBA
So what is an FBA? It is a Functional Behavior Assessment. has a GREAT article on when an FBA will be developed and implemented. An FBA should include PBIS. An FBA should not be punishment-based but should use positive rewards and incentives for desired behaviors. I cover much of this too in my blog post Don’t Take Away Recess! Also, OSEP has also released guidance in the 2016 OSEP Dear Colleague Letter on Supporting Behavior of Students with Disabilities.  You will find all the links in this section very information if you need an FBA.

Goals: These are found in the IEP and often you will hear Goals referred to as SMART goals. SMART goals will be covered in the next blog post.

IDEA: IDEA is one of the major laws that impact special education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.

The IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.
Infants and toddlers, birth through age 2, with disabilities and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth ages 3 through 21 receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.

Congress reauthorized the IDEA in 2004 and most recently amended the IDEA through Public Law 114-95, the Every Student Succeeds Act, in December 2015. 
In the law, Congress states:
Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.
The stated purpose of the IDEA is:
  • to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living;
  • to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected;
  • to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities;
  • to assist States in the implementation of a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families;
  • to ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities by supporting system improvement activities; coordinated research and personnel preparation; coordinated technical assistance, dissemination, and support; and technology development and media services;
  • to assess, and ensure the effectiveness of, efforts to educate children with disabilities.
IDEA is a bit confusing since it is codified and can be found at 20 U.S. Code Chapter 33 – EDUCATION OF INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES and IDEA is also listed in the Code of Federal Registration (CFR) at 34 CFR Part 300 – ASSISTANCE TO STATES FOR THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES. If your child has an IEP the main part of the regulation you will want to refer to is Subpart D that covers Evaluations, Eligibility Determinations, Individualized Education Programs, and Educational Placements.

IEE: An IEE is an Individual Educational Evaluation. An IEE can be asked for within one year of the school’s last complete psycho-educational evaluation. Here is the law on IEE.


§ 300.502 Independent educational evaluation.
(1) The parents of a child with a disability have the right under this part to obtain an independent educational evaluation of the child, subject to paragraphs (b) through (e) of this section.
(2) Each public agency must provide to parents, upon request for an independent educational evaluation, information about where an independent educational evaluation may be obtained, and the agency criteria applicable for independent educational evaluations as set forth in paragraph (e) of this section.
(3) For the purposes of this subpart –
(i)Independent educational evaluation means an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency responsible for the education of the child in question; and
(ii)Public expense means that the public agency either pays for the full cost of the evaluation or ensures that the evaluation is otherwise provided at no cost to the parent, consistent with § 300.103.
(b)Parent right to evaluation at public expense.
(1) A parent has the right to an independent educational evaluation at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency, subject to the conditions in paragraphs (b)(2) through (4) of this section.
(2) If a parent requests an independent educational evaluation at public expense, the public agency must, without unnecessary delay, either –
(i) File a due process complaint to request a hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate; or
(ii) Ensure that an independent educational evaluation is provided at public expense, unless the agency demonstrates in a hearing pursuant to §§ 300.507 through 300.513 that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet agency criteria.
(3) If the public agency files a due process complaint notice to request a hearing and the final decision is that the agency’s evaluation is appropriate, the parent still has the right to an independent educational evaluation, but not at public expense.
(4) If a parent requests an independent educational evaluation, the public agency may ask for the parent‘s reason why he or she objects to the public evaluation. However, the public agency may not require the parent to provide an explanation and may not unreasonably delay either providing the independent educational evaluation at public expense or filing a due process complaint to request a due process hearing to defend the public evaluation.
(5) A parent is entitled to only one independent educational evaluation at public expense each time the public agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees.
(c)Parent-initiated evaluations. If the parent obtains an independent educational evaluation at public expense or shares with the public agency an evaluation obtained at private expense, the results of the evaluation
(1) Must be considered by the public agency, if it meets agency criteria, in any decision made with respect to the provision of FAPE to the child; and
(2) May be presented by any party as evidence at a hearing on a due process complaint under subpart E of this part regarding that child.
(d)Requests for evaluations by hearing officers. If a hearing officer requests an independent educational evaluation as part of a hearing on a due process complaint, the cost of the evaluation must be at public expense.
(e)Agency criteria.
(1) If an independent educational evaluation is at public expense, the criteria under which the evaluation is obtained, including the location of the evaluation and the qualifications of the examiner, must be the same as the criteria that the public agency uses when it initiates an evaluation, to the extent those criteria are consistent with the parent‘s right to an independent educational evaluation.
(2) Except for the criteria described in paragraph (e)(1) of this section, a public agency may not impose conditions or timelines related to obtaining an independent educational evaluation at public expense.
[Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1415(b)(1) and (d)(2)(A)]
This means that you can request from the school for any testing the school completed ALONG with ANY testing the school did not complete. If the school says that you cannot request any testing they did not complete that is not true. In the Letter to Carroll (October 22, 2016) clearly states,
” The IDEA affords a parent the right to an IEE at public expense and does not condition that right on a public agency’s ability to cure the defects of the evaluation it conducted prior to granting the parent’s request for an IEE. Therefore, it would be inconsistent with the provisions of 34 CFR §300.502 to allow the public agency to conduct an assessment in an area that was not part of the initial evaluation or reevaluation before either granting the parents’ request for an IEE at public expense or filing a due process complaint to show that its evaluation was appropriate. Under 34 CFR §300.502(b)(5), a parent is entitled to only one IEE at public expense each time the public agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees. “

Once the school conducts its comprehensive testing, and you are unhappy about the evaluation, then you have the right to ask for an IEE. This includes areas NOT tested by the school. Now keep in mind, schools can say NO and then challenge you to Due Process. Don’t let that scare you off if you believe you truly have a good case. During that Due Process hearing, the school has to prove they did adequate evaluations. This could be good if you have a stack of private (medical) evaluations saying one thing and your school evaluations say another thing. Remember, in the end, the MOST important thing is trying to fight for the services your child needs to gain FAPE.

IFSP: This is an Individualized Family Service Plan. An IFSP is developed for children in Early Intervention (EI) from birth to three years old. Also, you may see IFSPs in other forms, like in Arizona, families who qualify for state services from the state’s agency that supplies disability services (DDD) will develop an IFSP for your child.

The list was LONG when I asked my group for terms they were not familiar with concerning special education. I decided to break this post up since it was getting quite long. I hope this has helped provide some clarification. Remember, some of these terms are impacted by specific state laws. To read the next post see Special Education Terms to Know: Part 2.

Please take the time to click on the links in the post to all the reference material. As always, you are welcome to join us for more discussion on the jargon of special education at our FB group,
IEP/504 Assistance for parents of public school students from all over the United States. 

AESA also runs a special needs homeschool group,
Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids, and Educating Gifted Children is where we discuss topics concerning gifted children and those that are twice exceptional (2e).  I hope to see you there!  

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