Special Education Definitions, Acronyms, Glossary of Terms

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One who pleads another's cause or in support of an individual.  A special needs advocate primary responsibility is to represent the best interests of the student in the educational process.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder - ADHD or AD/HD, or ADD
Is a neurological condition related, in part, to the brain's chemistry and anatomy. ADHD manifests itself as a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that occurs more frequently and more severely than is typically observed in people at comparable levels of development. ADHD begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood as well. While some children outgrow ADHD, about 60% continue to have symptoms into adulthood.  According to the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), the symptoms of ADHD fall into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and combined.  Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), used to be it's own variety of ADHD, and now we have one diagnose and 3 categories.

Activities of Daily Living - ADL

Activities of daily living are activities related to personal care and include bathing or showering, dressing, getting in or out of bed or a chair, using the toilet, and eating.  Provided by an Occupational Therapist, Registered, Licensed (OT/L) and Certified Behaviorist are assigned to the goals and with the use of Applied Behavior Analysis - ABA.

Auditory Processing Disorder - APD
a term used to describe what happens when your brain recognizes and interprets the sounds around you. We hear when energy that we recognize as sound travels through the ear and is changed into electrical information that can be interpreted by the brain. The “disorder” part of auditory processing disorder means that something is adversely affecting the processing or interpretation of the information.  APD goes by many other names. Sometimes it is referred to as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). Other common names are auditory perception problem, auditory comprehension deficit, central auditory dysfunction, central deafness, and so-called “word deafness.” (See definition below for CAPD)

Applied Behavior Analysis  - ABA

Is the process of systematically applying interventions based on the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968/1987; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991). Specifically, ABA refers to a systematic approach to the assessment and evaluation of behavior, and the application of interventions that alter behavior.  Applied" means practice, rather than research or philosophy. "Behavior analysis" may be read as "learning theory," that is, understanding what leads to new skills. (This is a simplification: ABA is just as much about maintaining and using skills as about learning.).   The word "behavior" when talking about learning to talk, play, and live as a complex social animal, but to a behaviorist all these can be taught, so long as there are intact brain functions to learn and practice the skills. (the deficits of autism result largely from a learning or 'blockage,' which can be overcome by intensive teaching.)

Apraxia - Childhood Apraxia of Speech -CAS or Developmental Apraxia of Speech - DAS

Is a specific motor speech disorder.   Children with apraxia have great difficulty planning and producing the precise, highly refined and specific series of movements of the tongue, lips, jaw and palate that are necessary for intelligible speech.  Apraxia of speech may also be called verbal apraxia, developmental apraxia of speech, or verbal dyspraxia.  "Developmental Apraxia of Speech is a neurological disorder that affects the planning and production of speech (Davis, Jakielski, & Marquardt, 1998).  (Although there is a technical difference between "dyspraxia" and "apraxia", the terms are often used interchangeably.  See Dyspraxia definition).

Comes from the Greek word, “a taxis” meaning “without order or incoordination”. The Medline plus Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines ataxia (a-tak-se-a) as, “An inability to coordinate muscular movements that is symptomatic of some nervous disorders.”   Ataxia is often used to describe a symptom of incoordination which can be associated with infections, injuries, other diseases, or degenerative changes in the central nervous system. Ataxia is also used to denote a group of specific degenerative diseases of the nervous system.

Behavior Intervention Plans - BIP, Behavior Management Invention - BMI or Behavior Management Plan -BMP
Behavior plans and strategies document skills the students need in order to behave in a more appropriate manner, or plans providing motivation to conform to required standards.  The plan should be proactive, positive intervention plans that teach new ways of behaving, and address both the source of the problem, by serving the same function, and the problem itself.

Curriculum Accommodation Plan - CAP
Is a plan for the purpose of assisting teachers and school principles ensuring that all efforts have been made to meet students' needs in regular education. (Concord Public Schools old term was a Regular Education Plan).

Central Auditory Processing Deficit or Central Auditory Processing Dysfunction - CAPD
Central Auditory processing is a term used to describe what happens when your brain recognizes and interprets the sounds around you. Humans hear when energy that we recognize as sound travels through the ear and is changed into electrical information that can be interpreted by the brain. The “disorder” part of auditory processing disorder means that something is adversely affecting the processing or interpretation of the information.  CAPD goes by many other names. Sometimes it is referred to as just auditory processing disorder (APD). Other common names are auditory perception problem, auditory comprehension deficit, central auditory dysfunction, central deafness, and so-called “word deafness.”

Cognitive Disorder - CD or Cognitive Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified - CDNOS
Both terms are used in the DSM IV manual (see DSM).
Cognitive refers to the ability to think and process information. Cognitive disorders are conditions that cause difficulty with this processing, leading to problems with memory, reasoning, judgment, perception or awareness.  Some examples of CD are Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Epilepsy, Parkinson's disease (PD), various dementias, vascular disorders and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).

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Development Disorder or Developmental Disabilities - DD
Children aged 3 through 9 experiencing developmental delays.  Who are experiencing developmental delays, in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social development, emotional development, or adaptive development.

Developmentally Handicapped - DH
(See above definition for DD)

Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified - DD-NOS
Term used in the DSM IV manual (see DSM).

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - DSM
Manual published by The American Psychiatric Association, the latest published was fourth edition, Referred to as DSM-IV approved in 1994.  A manual of classification of psychiatric disorders, often found in Psychiatrist offices.
The DSM IV Manual, does not have a diagnostic category for NLD.  The "official" diagnosis will likely be one of the following, Not Otherwise Specified (NOS): DD-NOS, Developmental Disorder, CD-NOS, Cognitive Disorder, or LD-NOS, Learning Disorder.

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"Dys" like most medical terminology stems from Latin meaning bad or impaired.   Which can be derived from the Greek "dus" meaning bad or trouble or difficult.  Dys, before anything usually means having challenges with some area or with words: dysfunction, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia,  Dyskinesia and Dysthymia. (See the definitions below) 

Causes people to have problems doing arithmetic and grasping mathematical concepts. While many
people have problems with math, a person with dyscalculia has a much more difficult time solving basic math
problems than his or her peers.

A writing disorder that causes people to have difficulty forming letters or writing within a defined space.
People with this disorder need extra time and effort to write neatly. Despite their efforts, their handwriting may be almost illegible.

Dyslexia is an often-misunderstood, confusing term for reading problems. The word dyslexia is made up of two different parts: dys meaning not or difficult, and lexia meaning words, reading, or language. So quite literally, dyslexia means difficulty with words (Catts & Kamhi, 2005).
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. (Lyon, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 2003, p. 2)

Problems with new motor skills and activates.  They are often viewed as clumsy and awkward.  Is a problem with the body's system of motion that interferes with a person's ability to make a controlled or coordinated physical response in a given situation.  Some behaviors that can be observed are: very poor fine motor skills such as handwriting, very poor gross motor skills such as kicking, catching, throwing balls, difficulty imitating movements such as "Simon Says", trouble with balance, sequences of movements and bilateral coordination.  Also see Apraxia, that is also refer to as Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD)

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Difficulty or distortion in performing voluntary movements, as in tic, chorea, spasm, or myoclonus.

Dysthymic Disorder  - DD (DD is also used for Development Delay)
Is chronic low-grade depression.  To qualify for the diagnosis of dysthymic disorder, a person must have been feeling depressed for at least two years.  Dysthymic disorder can be thought of as a paradoxical disorder.  Though its symptoms are fairly mild on a day-to-day basis, over a lifetime DD is actually a severe disorder that can lead to high rates of suicide, work impairment, and social isolation. In fact, the risk of suicide is higher with dysthymia than major depression.  Another aspect of the paradox is that because people think of dysthymia as mild they often do not seek treatment.  Or if they do seek treatment, it is with types of medicine or therapy that are unlikely to help them feel better.  The main symptoms of DD include: depressed mood (lasting 2 or more years); feelings of hopelessness; poor concentration or difficulty making decisions; low self-esteem; low energy or fatigue; poor sleep; and poor appetite or overeating.

Executive functioning - EF
Although the definition of executive function is still evolving, most researchers agree that the term should be used to refer to brain circuits that prioritize, integrate and regulate other cognitive functions. Executive functions, then, manage the brain's cognitive functions; they provide the mechanism for “self-regulation” (Vohs & Baumeister, 2004). 
Two main functions are Task-management skills and Self-regulation.  Task-management  includes the ability to appreciate task demand, organize complex information, inhibit impulsive responses, generate solutions, and think flexibly.   Self-regulation involves the ability to modulate emotional responses, arousal level and attentional focus appropriately (Dr. Anne Helmus, 2005).  Sara Ward, MS, CCC-SLP, breaks the functions into three main areas: Self Regulation, Organization and Integration and Higher Order Reasoning Skills.   

Free Appropriate public education - FAPE
 Special education and related services are provided at public expense in the least restrictive environment, under public supervision and direction and at no cost to a a parent, except for incidental fees which are normally charged to a student without a disability or the parent as a part of the regular education program; meet the standards of the department; include preschool, elementary, or secondary school education; and are provided in conformity with an individualized education program. See IDEA regulation: §300.13 FAPE-Free appropriate public education.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA
Is the Federal regulations published in the "U.S. Department of Education Federal Register "

Individual Education Program - IEP
A written education plan for a school-aged child ages 3 through 21 years) with disabilities.  Your child's IEP is a formal agreement about the services that the school will provide for your child's special education needs. The plan is developed by a team of professionals (teachers, therapists, school administrators, etc.) and the child's parents; (know as Team).  Your child's is reviewed and updated yearly and describes how the child is presently doing, what the child's unique learning needs are, and what services the child will need.  Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document.  Each child who receives special education tutoring, therapy and related services must have an IEP.  The IEP is a contract between you and the school. As with any contract you should make sure you fully understand the terms to which you are agreeing and make certain that everything that was agreed to verbally is written in the contract.  The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.  (for child 2 and under, see IFSP below).

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 describe the child's development levels; family information; major outcomes expected to be achieved for the child and family; the services the child will be receiving; when and where the child will receive these services; and the steps to be taken to support the transition of the child to another program; the IFSP will also list the name of the service coordinator assigned to the child and his/her family.

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Language-Based Learning Disabilities - LBLD
Interfere with age-appropriate
language in these three areas reading, spelling, and writing.  Often related to specific language problems.

Learning Disability - LD

A person with this disability exhibits unexpected discrepancy between potential and actual achievement.  Performs poorly because of difficulty in one or more of the following areas: listening, speaking, reading, written expression, mathematics, or reasoning.  Has an average to above average intelligence.  Learning disabilities are caused by a difference in brain structure that is present at birth, is often hereditary.

Learning Disorder Not Otherwise Specified - LD-NOS
Term used in the DSM IV manual (see DSM).

Local Education Agency - LEA
According to IDEA, U.S. Department of Education Federal Register,  §300.28 Local educational agency: "The public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a State for either administrative control or direction of, or to perform a service function for, public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a State, or for a combination of school districts or counties as are recognized in a State as an administrative agency for its public elementary or secondary schools." Commonly referred to as the school district.  See IDEA regulation: §300.28

Least Restrictive Environment - LRE
According to Mass. Special Education Regulations, 603 CMR 28.06(c): "The school district shall ensure that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who do not have disabilities, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with special needs from the general education program occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in general education classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily." See Mass. Special Education Regulations, 603 CMR 28.06(c).

No Child Left Behind - NCLB
The NCLB Act, of 2001 is a Federal law that incorporates the principles and strategies proposed by President Bush. These include increased accountability for States, school districts, and schools; greater choice for parents and students, particularly those attending low-performing schools; more flexibility for States and local educational agencies (LEAs) in the use of Federal education dollars; and a stronger emphasis on reading, especially for our youngest children.

NonVerbal Learning Disorder - NVLD or  NLD
A person with this disability exhibits unexpected discrepancy between potential and actual achievement. The three primary categories of dysfunction present themselves:

(1) motoric (lack of coordination, severe balance problems and/or difficulties with fine graphomotor skills),
(2) visual-spatial-organizational (lack of image, poor visual recall, faulty spatial perceptions, and/or difficulties with spatial relations), and
(3) social (lack of ability to comprehend nonverbal communication, difficulties adjusting to transitions and novel situations, and/or
significant deficits in social judgment and social interaction). by Sue Thompson, MA, CET

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Occupational Therapist 
- OT/L or OTR/L
Occupational Therapist, Licensed or Registered, Licensed. 
Occupational Therapies help with handwriting issues, and sensory experiences including touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound, and the pull of gravity.

Occupational Therapy - OT

Activities focusing on fine motor skills, visual motor integration, visual processing, visual memory, visual perceptual abilities that assist in improving physical, and social development and Sensory Integration (SI).

Pervasive Developmental Disorders - PDD
All types of PDD are neurological disorders that are usually evident by age 3. In general, children who have a type of PDD have difficulty in talking, playing with other children, and relating to others, including their family.  According to the definition set forth in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), Pervasive Developmental Disorders are characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development: social interaction skills, communication skills, or the presence of stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities. (p. 65) PDD-NOS
Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Not Otherwise Specified (PPDNOS), used in the DSM-IV manual (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
(see DSM).  

Phonemic Awareness - 
Involves the explicit awareness of the individual phonemes (sounds) and the manipulation of these sounds.  It involves such task as rhyming, segmenting sounds, blending sounds, and manipulating sounds (deleting and substituting sounds).  It's meta-linguistic.  Children learn how to think about the sound structure of language and are given strategies to both process and manipulate the sound structure in order to learn to read and spell.  (See definition below for Phonological Awareness )

Are letter or letter commendations of sounds

Phonics worksheets
Worksheets have pictures and vowels, constants and blends, these worksheet can be completed by the student whether or not they have the understanding of the sound relationship to letters.

Phonological Awareness - PA
Involves the explicit awareness of sound structure of language at the word, syllable and sound levels and the ability to manipulate (segment, blend, play with) that sound structure. (See definition above for Phonemic Awareness )

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Processing Disability
Describes problems people have in understanding or remembering words or sounds because their brains fail to understand language correctly. This can often be mistaken by parents and doctors as a hearing problem but, in fact, an individual with this disability is unable to process or memorize information (Auditory Processing or Memory Processing).

Program Quality Assurance - PQA
Is the group within the Massachusetts Department of Education (MASS DOE) that manages the Problem Resolution System. 
PQA is set up to quickly resolve disputes over noncompliance with special education law and to see that schools obey the law.

Section 504
It is a plan designed to accommodate the unique needs of an individual with a disability, as required by the American with Disabilities Act. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the first civil rights law guaranteeing equal opportunity for more than 35 million Americans with disabilities. Children who have disabilities, but whose disabilities do not interfere with their ability to progress in general education are not eligible for special education services, may be entitled to a 504 Accommodation Plan.  School districts must ensure that students with disabilities have meaning full opportunities to participate in all aspects of school on an equal basis with students without disabilities.

Sensory Avoiding
Children who are overly responsive to sensation.  They have nervous systems that feel sensation too easily or too much.  Some behaviors that can be observed are: responding to being touched with aggression or withdrawal,  Afraid of, or becomes sick with movement and heights, very cautious and unwilling to take risks or try new things, uncomfortable in loud or busy environments such as sports, events, malls or very picky eater and/or overly sensitive to food smells.

Sensory Integration - SI
Sensory Integration develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor planning ability is a natural outcome of the process, as is the ability to adapt to incoming sensations. But for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. When the process is disordered, a number of problems in learning, development, or behavior may become evident.

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Sensory Integration Dysfunction - SID
Is a problem in processing sensations which causes difficulties in daily life.  It is a neurological disorder, manifested by difficulty detecting, modulating, discriminating or integrating sensation adaptively.  Children with this issue can be seen two ways, either process sensation from the environment or from their bodies in an inaccurate way, resulting in "sensory seeking" or "sensory avoiding" patterns or 'dyspraxia," a motor planning problem.

Sensory Seeking
Children who seek out more intense or longer duration sensory experiences.  They have nervous systems that do not always process that sensory input is "coming in" to the brain. They are under-responsive to sensation.  Some behaviors that can be observed are: Hyper-activity as they seek more and more movement input,  Unawareness of touch or pain, or touching others too often or  too hard (may seem aggressive), engaging in unsafe behaviors, such as climbing too high, enjoying sounds that are too loud, such as TV or radio volume.

Sensory Integration and Praxis Test - SIPT
Was published in 1989 author is A.J. Ayres, Ph.D., OTR.  The test measures the sensory integration processes, helps pinpoint specific problems associated with learning, functional disabilities and behavioral problems.   It shows how children organize and respond to sensory input, visual, tactile, kinesthetic perception and motor performance.  The test takes approximate 2 hours (often over two sessions).  It is distributed by Western Psychological Services.
If used after someone name, as a certification means; Certified for the Administration of the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests.  The SIPT test is for children ages 4yrs to 8yrs 11 months (may be used with the older child to describe difficulties).

Team or IEP Team - Individual Education Plan Team is a group of people, that include school staff, parents, and others that either the school staff or parents choose to include, who have knowledge about the child. 
See IDEA regulation: §Sec. 300.321 IEP Team.

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Additional references:
Wrightslaw Definitions, Glossary of Special Education and Legal Terms