Special Education » Terms & Definitions

Terms & Definitions

Advocate: someone who takes action to help someone else (as in "education advocate"); also, to take action on someone's behalf.

Amendment: a change, revision, or addition made to a law.

Appeal: a written request for a change in a decision; also, to make such a request.

Appropriate: able to meet a need; suitable or fitting; in special education, it usually means the most normal setting possible.

Assessment: a collecting and bringing together or information about; a child's learning needs, which may include social, psychological, and educational evaluations used to determine assignment to special programs or services; a process using observation, testing, and test analysis to determine an individual's strengths and weaknesses to plan his or her educational services.

Assessment Team: a team of people from different areas of expertise who observe and test a child to find out his or her strengths and weaknesses.

At Risk: a term used with children who have, or could have, problems with their development that may affect later learning.

Case Coordinator: Professional assigned to work with the student and family regarding school issues and special education procedures. After the teacher, the case coordinator would be the person to contact about special education questions. The position is assigned to a school psychologist or school social worker. (The gifted facilitator and speech/language clinician serve as case coordinators for students in their caseload.

Case Manager: someone who acts as a coordinator of an infant's or toddler's service and works in partnership with the family and providers of special programs; case managers are employed by the lead agency.

Child Find: a service directed by each state department of education for identifying and diagnosing unserved children with handicaps; while Child Find looks for all unserved children, it makes a special effort to identify children from birth to six years old.

Cognitive: a term that describes the process people use for remembering reasoning, understanding, and using judgment.

Counseling: advice or help given by someone qualified to give such advice or help (often psychological counseling).

Developmental: having to do with the steps or stages in growth and development before the age of 18.

Developmental History: the developmental progress of a child (ages birth to 18 years) in such skills as sitting, walking, or talking.

Developmental Tests: standardized tests that measure a child's development as it compares to the development of all other children at the same age.

Due Process (procedure): action that protects a person's rights; in special education this applies to action taken to protect the educational rights of students with disabilities, and the rights of the student's parents.

Early Childhood Specialists: someone who specializes in early childhood development, usually having a master's degree or Ph.D. in an area related to early childhood education and/or development.

Early Intervention Policies: see policy/policies.

Early Intervention Services or Programs: programs or service designed to identify and treat developmental problems as early as possible.

Eligible: able to qualify.

Evaluating: (applies to school-age children); a way of collecting information about a student's learning needs, strengths and interests; the evaluation is part of the process of determining whether a student qualifies for special education programs and services.

Free, Appropriate Public Education: (often referred to as FAPE); one of the key requirements of public Law 94-142, which requires that an education program be provided for all school-aged children (regardless of handicap) without cost to families; the exact requirements of "appropriate" are not defined but other references within the law imply the most "normal" setting available.

Handicap: the result of any physical or mental condition that affects or prevents one's ability to develop, achieve, and/or function in the educational setting at a normal rate.

Identification: the process of locating children needing special services.

Individual Education Program (IEP): a written education plan for a school aged child in need of special education developed by a team of professionals (teachers, therapists, etc.) and the child's parents. It is reviewed and updated yearly and describes how the child is presently doing, what the child's learning needs are, and what services the child will need; (for children age 0-2, an IFSP is used).

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP): a written statement for an infant or toddler (ages birth through 2-years-old) developed by a team of people who have worked with the child and the family; the IFSP must contain the child's level of development, strengths and needs, major goals or outcomes expected services needed, date of the next evaluation and the starting date of the present IFSP.

Lead Agency: the agency (office) within a state or territory in charge of overseeing and coordinating early childhood programs and services.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): an educational setting or program that provides a student needing special education the chance to work and learn; it also provides the student with as much contact as possible with non-exceptional children, while meeting the child's learning needs and physical requirements in a regular educational environment as much as is appropriate.

Occupational Therapy: a therapy or treatment provided by an occupational therapist that helps an individual develop mental or physical skills that will aid in daily living, it focuses on the use of hands and fingers, on coordination of movement, and on self-help skills, such as dressing, eating with a fork and spoon, etc.

Parent Training and Information Programs: programs that provide information to parents and children with special needs about acquiring service working with schools and educators to ensure the most effective educational placement for their child, understanding the methods of testing and evaluating a child with special needs, and making informed decisions about their child's special needs.

Physical Therapy: treatment of (physical) disabilities given by a trained physical therapist (under doctor's orders) that includes the use of massages, exercise, etc. to help the person improve the use of bones, muscles, joints, and nerves.

Placement: the process of determining the program, and/or therapy that is selected for a student with special needs.

Policy/policies: rules and regulations, as related to early intervention and special education programs, the rules that a state or local school system has for providing services for and educating its students with special needs.

Private Therapist: any professional (therapists, tutor, psychologist, etc.) not connected with the public school system or with a public agency.

Program(s): in special education, a service, placement, and/or therapy designed to help a child with special needs.

Psycho-social (development): the psychological development of a person in relation to his or her social environment.

Public Agency: an agency, office or organization that is supported by public funds and serves the community at large.

Public Law (P.L.) 94-142: a law passed in 1975 requiring the public schools to provide a "free, appropriate public education" to school-aged children age 3-21 (exact ages depend on your state's mandate), regardless of handicapping conditions; (also called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act).

Public Law (P.L.) 99-457: an amendment to PL 94-142 passed in 1986 which requires states and territories to provide a "free, appropriate public education" to all children ages 3-5 by school year 1991-92 and public funds for states and territories to offer programs and services to infants and children (ages birth through 2 years) with disabilities.

Public Law (P.L.) 105-17: signed by President Clinton on June 4, 1997. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 was assigned Public Law 105-17. P.L. 105-17 continues more than twenty years of America's commitment to providing a free, appropriate public education to all disabled children.

Related Services: transportation and development, corrective, and other support services that a child with disabilities requires in order to benefit from special education; examples of related services include: audiology, speech pathology, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, counseling services, interpreters for the hearing impaired, and medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes.

School Psychological Services: are special services which provide the following:

(1) consultation with other school staff to plan individual programs to meet the special needs of children as indicated by interviews, behavioral evaluations, and tests;(2) administration and interpretation of psychological and educational tests;

(3) consultation with teachers and other staff concerning child behavior, modes of learning, and development of a positive learning climate; and

(4) psychological counseling for children and parents. (Kansas State Regulations for Special Education)

School Social Work: means special services which provide the following:

(1) a liaison between the home, school, and the community to prevent problems in learning and to promote quality education;(2) consultation with teachers or other school staff to provide an understanding of the cultural and social factors related to a child's performance in school;

(3) coordination between the school and other com-munity agencies to mobilize resources to enable the child to profit from the educational experience; and

(4) assistance through group and individual counseling with the child and family to affect the child's adjustment in school. (Kansas State Regulations for Special Education)

Services/Service Delivery: see special education programs and services.

Special Education Coordinator: the person in charge of special education programs at the school, district, or state level.

Special Education Program/Services: programs, services, or specially designed instruction (offered at no cost to families) for children over 3 years old with special needs who are found eligible and in need for services; these include special learning methods or materials in the regular classroom, and special classes and programs if the learning or physical problems are serious.

Special Needs: a term to describe a child who has disabilities or is at risk for developing disabilities who requires special services or treatment in order to process.

Speech/Language: a planned program to improve and correct speech and/or language or communication problems in people who were not thought to be able to improve without such help.