The special education landscape is full of terms and acronyms that many school employees will assume you know. When you work with the Learning Link, we consider it our job to make sure you understand any terms that are relevant to accommodations that are appropriate for your child. We will continually add to the list below as we know it’s not nearly exhaustive. We are also more than happy to add terms at your request.
504 – A learning plan as provided for by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
A plan (not mandated to be written) that defines accommodations based on section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – the first disabilities civil rights law in the US . In order to be eligible for a 504 plan, students must (1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or (2) have a record of such an impairment or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment. The kinds of accommodations that are available on a 504 plan are limited and do not include specialized instruction or require yearly charting of progress. Common 504 accommodations include extended time, preferential seating and technological aides. Section 504 does not provide any funding for accommodations.
ADA – The Americans with Disabilities Act
ADA is broad legislation that makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone with a disability in any public sphere; it applies just about anywhere outside of places of worship and protects anyone with “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more life activities”. This law is meant to be very broad and protects many children including those with ADHD, allergies, executive functioning deficits, diabetes, anxiety, depression, or any physical disabilities. ADA protects children outside of school by requiring private entities to provide “reasonable” accommodations.
CSE – Committee on Special Education
This is the group that will meet to formalize an IEP. Some states simply refer to this group as the IEP Team. At a minimum, those members of the team that are required by law are the parent, a general education teacher, a special education teacher, a district representative, an expert who can interpret evaluation results and a translator if relevant. You may also choose to invite the following participants: an advocate, a friend, and additional specialists or service providers. Children are also expected to participate in their own IEP meetings once they are old enough to do so.
ED – Emotional Distrubance
IDEA includes ED as one of the 13 disability categories that make a child eligible for an IEP. You can read the specific language from that law here. Children with diagnosis of anxiety, OCD, depression and schizophrenia are widely provided with IEPs under the “ED” designation.
FBA – Functional Behavioral Assessment
Special education law requires schools to proactively and positively respond to any behavior by a student that interferes with their own or anyone else’s learning. An FBA is step one in doing just that. It is the process in which a specialist objectively observes a student’s behavior in an attempt to recognize patterns of either triggers or outcomes so that a positive behavior intervention plan (PBIP) can be established.
ICT – Integrated Co-Teaching
ICT classrooms place a special education and general education teacher in the same room where they work together to support a neurodiverse class group. Typically the special education teacher in an ICT classroom can focus on providing accommodations and differentiation while the general education teacher focusing on general lesson planning and curricular pacing.
IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IDEA is a federal law which established in 1975 that all students are entitled to a free and appropriate education (FAPE). Prior to IDEA many children with disabilities were segregated or denied entry to public schools all together. It applies to students ages 3-21 and does not govern college or private schools. It establishes the rights to an evaluation, due process, and multi-disciplinary services as needed among others. IDEA is also the law that sets up the parameters and requirements of IEPs. District compliance with IDEA is directly tied to federal funding.
IEP – Individualized Education Plan
In explaining the purpose of an IEP, the federal government says “Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document…The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability”. It is worth noting that one requirement of the IEP is that it includes the parent’s ideas for enhancing their child’s education. The IEP, once written, is effectively a contract between the school and the student with clearly defined goals and mechanisms to achieve those goals. IEPs are reviewed annually and parents can request adjustments to them at any time if new information comes to light. Between formal reviews, the school reports progress toward IEP goals – most often on a quarterly basis.
LD – Learning Disability
This umbrella term refers to disorders of basic psychological processes that involve understanding and using language and is one of the 13 disability categories covered by IDEA. LD diagnoses include dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, all specific learning disabilities (SLD), sensory-motor disorders, and audio and visual processing disorders.
LEA – Local Educational Agency
This usually means the local district. This acronym is used in the context of an IEP meeting where the local district must be represented. Often principals serve as LEA at an IEP meeting. Depending on what you are going to ask for at the IEP meeting, you might want to request someone else – someone who is able to make big decisions like paying for out-of-district placement.
OHI – Other Health Impairment
OHI is one of the eligibility categories defined in IDEA; you can see the specific language from that law here. It’s worth noting that IDEA includes the language “such as…” indicating that the list in the law is not exhaustive. This category focuses on “limited strength, vitality or alertness – including heightened alertness” which many parents and educators clearly connect to diagnosis such as diabetes or Tourette Syndrome. However, it’s important to note that ADHD is also listed under OHI thereby making it clear that students whose learning is impacted by an ADHD diagnosis are meant to be eligible for an IEP under the OHI classification.
RtI – Response to Intervention
RtI represents a set of services and interventions that proceed a referral from a school for an IEP; typically 10-15% of students receive services within RtI structures. Most commonly we think of RtI occurring at the elementary level as additional support for emerging readers or mathematicians. Within RtI educators monitor progress frequently and are usually deeply involved with a school’s compliance related to the child find requirements of IDEA.
SETSS – Special Education Teacher Supports Services
SETSS stands for Special Education Teacher Support Services and most often refers to the service provided by a Special Education teacher when they join a general education classroom to offer targeted supports for children with disabilities or when they provide supports in what is commonly referred to as the resource room. IEPs typically refer to a number of periods a week that a student receives SETSS; occasionally an IEP will specify a specific subject area for SETSS support. These are also referred to as pull-out or push-in supports.
SLD: Specific Learning Disability
SLD is an umbrella term for a set of disorders of basic psychological functions that involve the understanding and use of language. Examples of SLDs include dyslexia (also called SLD with impairment in reading), dyscalculia (SLD with impairment in math, and dysgraphia (SLD with impairment in written expression) as well as several processing disorders and nonverbal learning disabilities. SLD is one of the 13 categories of IDEA eligibility.