Terms Defined: In the IEP

Terms to help you unlock the mystery language of IEPs (Individualized Education Plan)
Term AKA Meaning
Individualized Education Plan IEP The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is the written program which is developed by the school Special Education team (with you and your child as the most important members of the team!). The IEP presents the current level your student is achieving in all the areas that are assessed, annual goals for your child, and how these goals will be met. An IEP will also outline the services your child will receive, including the amount of time and frequency of the services. It will also include accommodations, modifications for the classroom and for testing. Parent concerns are noted and integrated into the IEP document. A student must be determined to be eligible for Special Education services as assessed by a school psychologist.
Initial IEP A student’s first IEP, no previous IEPs
Annual IEP A yearly review of student’s IEP, present levels of performance is recorded in each area assessed as a need, goal progress is reviewed and new goals are drafted per student need
Reassessment Re-evaluation, Three Year Review Every three years after the initial IEP, each service provider and area of need are retested to either continue, modify or dismiss services as needed. A consent form for testing must be signed by the parent/guardian. Psychologist testing (to determine eligibility) may or may not be required.
Amendment IEP An amendment IEP is held if circumstances require that services or service delivery change before an annual IEP review is due. Changes may include: adding or removing related services, dismissing or adding student goals, correcting mistakes on a signed IEP
Individuals with Disabilities Act IDEA IDEA is the law that set rights and regulations for students with disabilities in the U.S. With IDEA, all children are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment. This law specifies how schools must provide or deny special education services.
Free and Appropriate Public Education FAPE A free and appropriate public education is mandated by IDEA. Although IDEA doesn’t outline what this exactly entails, the concept is that children with special needs get these needs met in order to be able to participate in education as is appropriate for them. The IEP team will collaborate on what is the most appropriate for the student.
Least Restrictive Environment LRE A “least restrictive environment” is a primary provision under IDEA. A least restrictive environment is the idea that the student participate with the most amount of access to education as typical peers. For example, keeping a child in general education with supports vs. a self-contained Special Education classroom. The IEP team collaborates on what is the most appropriate for the student.
General Education GE, Gen Ed, Regular Education General education is the education that typical children receive in school. It is based on state standards and monitored and informed by standardized educational testing.
Special Education SpEd Special Education is defined by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) “Specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.” This may include the services or consultation of a Resource Specialist, Special Education Teacher, Speech and Language Pathologists, etc. It may also include formally written and monitored accommodations, modifications, and specific and individualized goals.
Alternate Curriculum An alternate curriculum is specially designed for students with moderate-severe disabilities who cannot access the general education curriculum without heavy modifications. An alternate curriculum is often not focused on academic skills, but on functional life skills such as dressing, cooking, computer skills, writing job applications, etc.
504 Plan A 504 Plan is a set of accommodations and modifications outlined for students with a disability that do not qualify for an IEP. A 504 plan seeks to give a student the same opportunities as their peers, while an IEP is more focused on providing educational content.
Resource Specialist Resource teacher, Special Education Teacher A resource specialist is a teacher who is credentialed in Special Education. They work with students with mild to moderate learning disabilities who have difficulty with one more more academic or school/based areas. In elementary school, they may leave for a small part of the day to get work 1-1 or in a small group for instruction or practice on a certain subject. In middle and high schools, an RSP teacher may collaborate or co-teach with a general education teacher. The student may also take a one-period class to help them address on-going learning hurdles.
Speech and Language Pathologist SLP An SLP works with students on receptive language (understanding words spoken to you), and expressive language (words you speak to express yourself). It also deals with the mechanics of producing speech including fluency, volume, articulation and pitch. Examples in the school setting include a student who has difficulty coming up with words for class conversations, difficulty with understanding simple idioms, or not being understood because of how they speak/form words. An assessment is required for SLP services.
Occupational Therapist OT An OT can work with your student on areas including fine motor (how to hold a pencil, manipulating small school items), visual motor and perception (referencing models for writing, understanding shapes), and sensory processing skills (seeking or avoiding sensory input, or difficulty registering sensory stimuli in the environment. Examples in the school setting include difficulty with school tool use due to poor coordination or weakness in hands, poor copying of age appropriate shapes, and excessive sensory seeking behavior such as spinning, crashing, pulling, etc.  An assessment is required for OT services.
Physical Therapist PT A physical therapist works with your student on gross motor skills (large muscle groups). In the school setting, a physical therapist focuses on access to the school environment such as difficulty navigating stairs, accessing the cafeteria or classroom, and ambulating between classes. An assessment is required for PT services.
Adapted Physical Education APE Specially designed and implemented physical education for a student with a disability - An APE teacher will work with your child, usually in a group, but may be individually, on PE skills modified for him/him. An assessment is required for APE services.
Recreational Therapist RT A recreation therapist works on social and play skills with your child in the school environment. Examples include learning how to play with peers, play choices, and recreation activities in school. They use a variety of modalities including drama, music, sports and games. An assessment is required for RT services.
Assistive Technology AT Any kind of equipment that assists with ACCESS to the educational material
Educational Technology Any kind of technology that assists with LEARNING content material
Deaf and Hard of Hearing DHH An eligibility given to a student that makes him/her eligible for Special Education services, or an IEP. DHH describes a student with a diagnosed disability resulting in partial or full hearing impairments that affect their ability to participate in the school environment.
Autism AUT An eligibility given to a student that makes him/her eligible for Special Education services, or an IEP. Autism describes a student that meet a certain criteria (as determined by a school psychologist) that suggest Autism-like characteristics. These characteristic must be determined to affect their ability to participate in the school environment. *It should be noted that a school AUT eligibility is not a medical diagnosis of Autism. A child may also have a medical eligibility of Autism, but it is not necessary.
Specific Learning Disability SLD An eligibility given to a student that makes him/her eligible for Special Education services, or an IEP. SLD means that a student has difficulty, due to basic psychological processes, in their ability to listen, think, speak, write, spell and or complete math calculations. This category may include students with disabilities in perception, written language, brain injury, etc.
Developmental Delay DD An eligibility given to a student that makes him/her eligible for Special Education services, or an IEP. DD describes global delays as measured by a preschool assessment team (including a psychologist, and may include specialists such as SLP, OT, and PT). Depending on the school district, the eligibility is only for children under 5 years old. At the 5-year old mark, the student must qualify for another eligibility to continue to receive Special Education services.
Communication Disorder CD, SDI An eligibility given to a student to make him/her eligible for Special Education services, or an IEP. A Speech-Language Pathologist can qualify a student for this eligibility based on language needs, which follow a specific criteria.
Speech-Language Impairment
Other Health Impairment OHI An eligibility given to a student to make him/her eligible for Special Education services, or an IEP. According to 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”. This may include chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, ADHD, diabetes, etc. In addition, these health impairments adversely affect a child’s educational performance.
Accommodations An accommodation is a way to give the student supports so that they can access and participate in the educational lessons and materials. It does not change the content of the work. An accommodation may be low-tech (or no tech), such as use of a pencil grip. It can also be high-tech such as the use of an iPad or PC.
Modifications A modification changes the content of the educational material. Examples include a shorter and/or easier reading and writing assignment. Modifications can be in one area (i.e. math) or multiple areas (i.e. math, reading, writing). The amount that work is modified is decided with you and your school-based team.
Low Incidence LI Low Incidence refers to funds that are set for students with severe hearing, vision, or orthopedic impairments. Low incidence covers items that include specialized equipment, special books, materials, and services ( interpreters, transcribers, etc.) Qualification for this fund is determined by law and your school team will advise you if your student qualifies.
Extended School Year, ESY, ESS, SES ESY is an extension of the school year through the summer for students with Special Education services that qualify for the program. The IEP team will determine if the student qualifies based on whether there will be a significant regression over the summer. In ESY, new skills are not taught, rather, the focus is on retention of skills already learned. In addition, ESY may or may not include related services such as Behavior Support, Physical Therapy, SLP, etc.
Extended School Services,
Supplemental Education Services
Standardized Testing A standardized test is a test that requires all test takers to perform the same tasks (or answer the same questions) in the same way. It is then scored in the same way (same rubric for all). This makes it possible to compare the performance of individual students or groups of students. While standardized testing is a good way to look at a student’s skills compared with their age group, it may not be appropriate for a student with special needs. For the school setting, a score on a standardized test may not necessarily qualify or disqualify a student for services.
Early Intervention EI, Birth - 3, Zero - 3 Refers to services (speech, occupational and physical therapy) given to children between 0 and three years old that are identified as having special needs, either due to a diagnosis or developmental delays. After 3, the government may refer the child to the school district for a special-education preschool. These services come from government programs and your pediatrician will be able to refer you for services in your area.
Push-In When a specialist (Resource, PT, OT, Speech) provides services in the classroom (or playground), in the child’s regular sequence through the day. This is a beneficial approach as it allows the specialist to see how the child is transferring or using their skills in their natural school environment and allows for collaboration with the teacher.
Pull-out When a specialist pulls the child from the classroom for a service. They may pull them out for individual 1-1 sessions, or a group session.

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Terms Defined: OT