Definitions Special Education


ADVOCATE: a person who speaks on behalf on himself/herself or others to protect his/her rights and ensure access to services to which the individual is entitled, or the act of speaking on behalf of yourself or another person to protect your rights or the rights of another and ensure access to services to which the individual is entitled.

AGE OF MAJORITY: the age when the procedural safeguards and other rights afforded to the parent or parents of a student with a disability transfer to the student. In Virginia, the age of majority is 18.

ANNUAL GOAL: a measurable outcome written in the Individualized Education Program (along with related short-term objectives) for each area of identified need. Goals should be developed that the student can reasonably achieve in one year or within the duration of the IEP, by meeting each of the related short-term objectives or benchmarks.

ANNUAL REVIEW: a scheduled meeting of the IEP Team held at least annually to review a child’s progress toward current IEP goals and objectives or benchmarks, revise and develop goals and objectives or benchmarks for the following year, and determine services and placement for the next year.

ASSESSMENT: the process of securing information, which may include results of such tests as medical, educational, psychological, and socio-cultural evaluations, as well as family/teacher input and observations, to determine eligibility for special education services, and, if eligible, to plan for the type and extent of special education to be provided for a child who qualifies for services.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY (AT): any device, product, or piece of equipment that improves functional capabilities (such as walking, hearing, seeing, speaking or learning) of a child or adult with disabilities. AT also includes AT services such as selection of equipment or training for child, parent, and/or school staff.

CHILD FIND: a system of identifying children who may have a disability from birth through 21 years old who may be in need of early intervention or special education services.

DISABILITY: the result of a physical or mental condition that prevents an individual from developing, achieving or functioning within an average range.

DUE PROCESS HEARING: a formal procedure to resolve a dispute between parents and the school system about eligibility, identification, evaluation or educational placement/program of a child.

EARLY INTERVENTION (EI): provides services and programs to infants and toddlers with disabilities, in order to minimize or eliminate the disability as they mature.

ELIGIBILITY: the determination of whether a child has a disability and qualifies for special education services according to the established criteria specified in special education law.

EVALUATION: includes use of existing information, tests and procedures to determine whether a child has a disability; and if the child qualifies, the type and extent of special education services needed by the child.

EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR (ESY): an individualized extension of special education of special education and/or related services beyond the normal school year, provided as a part of a FAPE (free appropriate public education) and outlined in an eligible student’s IEP.

FREE APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE): refers to the right to an appropriate public education at no cost to parents that meets the specific educational needs of a child with a disability as guaranteed by the IDEA.

INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP): a written document, reviewed annually, which includes a child’s current level of performance and needs, measurable goals and short-term objectives or benchmarks, and the special education services (including related services), and supplementary aids and services needed that will be provided for a child who qualifies. The IEP also includes the date services are to begin, the accommodations needed to access the general education curriculum, the duration of services, and the extent to which the child will participate in academic and non-academic general education programs.

Note: The Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team is composed of school staff, parent(s), and student, when appropriate. The IEP Team supervises all phases of the special education process.

INDIVIDUALIZED FAMILY SERVICE PLAN (IFSP): a written statement developed by a team of people who have worked with the child (including the family) for an infant or toddler receiving early intervention services. The plan must include the child’s developmental level, strengths and needs, and may include, with the family’s permission, family-identified concerns and priorities. It also includes resources, specific services, goals and outcomes for the child and family, and a transition plan for the child as they age out of the early intervention program.

INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT (IDEA): a federal law, which was reauthorized in 1997, that guarantees all children who have disabilities a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE), in the least restrictive environment (LRE); it also ensures that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected.

LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT (LRE): requires that a child with a disability must be educated with children who are not disabled to the greatest extent possible. Removal of a child with a disability from the regular education setting can occur only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education of the child in regular classed, even with the use of supplementary aids and services, cannot be satisfactorily achieved.

MEDIATION: the process of having a trained person, or mediator, assist parents and the school system reach an agreement about a child’s special education program and services.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY (OT): a related service required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education and specified, in the student’s IEP, which provides remediation or compensation for areas of identified need such as perceptual, sensory, visual motor, fine motor and activities of daily living (ADL).

PHYSICAL THERAPY (PT): a related service required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education and specified in the student’s IEP, which provides remediation or compensation for areas involving gross motor development such as strength, flexibility, mobility and endurance.

PLACEMENT: where the student’s special education will occur. The decision, made by the IEP team, must be made after the IEP has been completed. The IEP team must consider the placement closest to the student’s home; the school that the child would attend if he or she did not have a disability, unless the IEP indicates that another school is appropriate. In making the placement decision, the IEP team must also consider the least restrictive environment (LRE) in which the student’s IEP can be implemented.

PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS: procedures to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their parents according to the provisions in the IDEA.

REEVALUATION: a process conducted by the IEP team which includes looking at available information to determine what additional tests, observations, etc. are necessary to document continued eligibility for special education and/or related services, and to determine what constitutes an appropriate program for the student.

REFERRAL: a request to determine if a child should be evaluated to find out if there is a need for special education services.

RELATED SERVICES: services that must, if needed, be provided for a child who qualifies for special education in order for that child to benefit from his/her educational program. Examples include transportation, speech, occupational or physical therapy.

SECTION 504: a section of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which addresses civil rights. The law requires “reasonable accommodation” of a disability. Section 504 may be used to access special education/related services that a student may not necessarily qualify for under the IDEA.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: specially designed instruction provided to meet the unique educational needs in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for a child with a disability who qualifies for services under the terms of the IDEA.

SPEECH THERAPY: a related service required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education and specified in the student’s IEP, planned by a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) to provide remediation or compensation in receptive and/or expressive language, communication skills and voice disorders.

SUPPLEMENTARY AIDS AND SERVICES: aids, services and support provided for a child who qualifies for special education services to help him/her to be educated to the maximum extent appropriate in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Examples include personal assistance, adapted curriculum, a behavior modification program assistive technology.

TRANSITION PORTION OF IEP: written as part of the IEP, required to begin planning for transition services at the age of 14. Transition services are a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that is designed within an outcome-oriented process that promotes movement from school to post-school activities. It includes the student’s interests, strengths, and goals in such areas as post-secondary training/education, career, independent living, self-advocacy, and interpersonal and social development. As the student moves closer to graduation, additional information is added to address further education, training or employment plans for after high school and links to adult agencies such as the Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS).