Frequently used Special Education terms

ACCES-VR (Adult Career and Continuing Education Services - Vocational Rehabilitation): New York State (NYS) office that offers access to a full range of employment and independent living services that may be needed by persons with disabilities through their lives.  Through its administration or vocational rehabilitation and independent living programs, ACCES-VR coordinates policy and services relating to:

  • Transition Services for students with disabilities from school to adult services;
  • Vocational Rehabilitation services for working-age individuals with disabilities;
  • Independent Living Services for people with disabilities of all ages; and
  • Business Services for hiring a qualified diverse workforce.

Alternate Assessments: Ways, other than standardized tests, to get information about what students know and where they may need help (e.g., oral reports, projects, portfolios or collections of works, demonstrations, performances and experiments).

Annual goals: A required component of an IEP.  Goals are written for an individual student with the expectation that the goal will be achieved by the end of the school year.

Annual review: An meeting conducted at least annually by the Committee on Special Education, that reviews the progress of each student with a disability for the purpose of recommending continuation, modification or termination of the provision of special education programs and services for the student to the Board of Education.  At the annual review, the IEP for the coming year is prepared.

Assistive technology: Device or equipment that is recommended by the CSE in order for a student with a disability to assess their curriculum and Specially Designed Instruction. 

Assistive technology service: Any service that directly assists a student with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device.  The term includes evaluation; purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by students with disabilities; selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices; coordinating and using other therapies, interventions or services with assistive technology devices; training or technical assistance for a student with a disability; and training or other technical assistance for professionals who provide services to the student.

Audiology: Related services, includes identification and determination of hearing loss, and referral for rehabilitation of hearing.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP): An individualized plan of positive behavioral interventions in the IEP of a child whose behaviors interfere with his/her learning or that of others.

Consent: An acknowledgement that you have been informed, in the language you speak or other kind of communication that you understand, of all the information about the activity for which your permission is asked; that you understand and agree in writing to the activity for which your permission is needed; that your permission if given freely and may be withdrawn at any time.  However, if you withdraw your consent, it is not retroactive (i.e.,  it will not apply to actions already taken by the district).

Committee on Special Education (CSE): A multi-disciplinary team appointed by the Board of Education to determine eligibility and appropriate services for students with disabilities.

Diagnostic test: Test that diagnoses or locates the areas of weaknesses or strengths.

Direct instruction: Explicit teaching of a skill set in a structured, sequential order. Students practice the content and skill in class exercises and homework and are evaluated using various methods to determine if the learning objective has been achieved. 

Disability: A physical, sensory, cognitive or affective impairment that causes the student to need special education.

English as a New Language (ENL): Programs to help children whose first language is not English study English.

Extended school year services (ESY): Special education and related services that are provided during the summer based on significant regression (see definition).

Free appropriate public education (FAPE): Provision required under IDEA.

Functional behavior assessment (FBA): An assessment that may be recommended or may have been completed for a student who has behaviors that interfere with his/her learning or the learning of others.  The assessment looks at the behavior and tries to determine the cause of the behavior.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): A federal law that regulates the management of student records and disclosure of information from those records.  The act has its own administrative enforcement mechanism. 

Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE): A procedure, test or assessment conducted by a qualified examiner who does not work for the school district or other public agency responsible for the child’s education.  A parent/guardian may request an IEE at district expense if you disagree with the evaluation arranged for by the school district in accordance with Board of Education policy for conducting an IEE.  “At district expense” means that the school district pays for the full cost of the test.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A document developed at an IEP meeting that sets the standard by which subsequent special education services are usually determined appropriate. 

IEP team: Develops the IEP.  By law, the team should include parent(s), regular teacher, special education teacher, special service providers, school district representative, person knowledgeable in evaluating the child’s disability, others invited by the parent or school district and, in some cases, the student.

Individual evaluation: Any procedures, tests or assessments used selectively with an individual student to determine whether a student has a disability and the extent of his/her special education needs.  This includes a physical examination, and individual psychological evaluation (except where a school psychologist has determined that a psychologist determined that a psychological evaluation is unnecessary to evaluate a student of school age), a social history and other appropriate assessments or evaluations as may be necessary but does not include basic tests administered to, or procedures used with, all students in a school grade or class.

Initial evaluation: Determine whether a student is eligible to receive special education services or needs an IEP.

Least restrictive environment (LRE): The placement of an individual student with a disability in the least restrictive environment that shall; provide the special education needed by the student; provide for education of the student to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the student with other students who do not have disabilities; and be as close as possible to the student’s home.

Limited English Proficiency (LEP): Refers to students who are not at grade-level in reading and writing English and for whom English is second language.

Manifestation determination review: A meeting of the IEP team to determine whether or not the behavior is related to the child's disability. The behavior is a manifestation if there is a direct and substantial relationship to the child’s disability. The meeting must be held if the student is suspended 10 or more days in a school year.

Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD): The NYS OPWDD is responsible for coordinating services for individuals with a range of developmental disabilities. Services provided through OPWDD include family support, case management, respite, housing, supported employment, recreation, and more.

Parent counseling training: Assisting parents in understanding the special needs of their child, providing parents with information about child development and helping parents to acquire the necessary skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child’s individualized education program.

Prior written notice: Written notice that is given to you a reasonable time before the school district proposes to or refuses to start or change the identification, evaluation or educational placement or the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to your child.  It must be provided to you in the language you speak or other kind of communication you understand unless it is clearly not possible to do so.  

Procedural safeguard notice: The rights provided to parents and school districts in the special education process, including prior written notice, mediation and due process.  Procedural Safeguards Notice is provided upon the initial referral evaluation of your child; with each notice of a CSE or CPSE meeting; upon reevaluation of your child; when the district receives a letter from you requesting an impartial hearing; and when a decision is made to suspend or remove your child for discipline reasons that would result in a disciplinary change in placement.  

Reevaluation: (Formerly called triennial evaluation) A review conducted by the Committee on Special Education to determine whether your child continues to be eligible as a student with a disability and whether the special education services provided to your child are appropriate and helping your child meet the NYS learning standards. A re-evaluation is conducted at least once every three years or earlier if conditions warrant one (for example, when a functional behavioral assessment is needed as a result of disciplinary action) or if either you or your child’s teacher requests a re-evaluation.

Referral: Notice to a school district that a child may be in need of special education.

Related services: Developmental, corrective and other supportive services as are required to assist a student with a disability, including but not limited to speech-language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling services, assistive technology, etc. 

Social history: A report gathered and prepared by qualified school district personnel pertaining to the interpersonal, familial and environmental variables that influence a student’s general adaptation to school, including but not limited to data on family composition, family history, developmental history of the student, family interaction and school adjustment of the student.

Special class: A class consisting of students with disabilities who have been grouped together because of similar individual needs for the purpose of being provided specially designed instruction.

Specially-designed instruction: Adapting, as appropriate to the needs of a student with a disability, the content, methodology or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs that result from the student’s disability and to ensure access of the student to the general curriculum so that he or she can meet the educational standards that apply to all students.. 

Substantial regression: A student’s inability to maintain developmental levels, due to a loss of skill or knowledge during July and August of such severity as to require an inordinate period of review at the beginning of the school year to reestablish and maintain IEP goals and objectives mastered at the end of the previous school year.  A period of more than 8-10 weeks of review at the beginning of the school year would be considered inordinate.  A student qualifies for Extended School Year (see definition) if he or she experiences substantial regression.

Supplementary aids and services: Accommodations that may permit a student to benefit from instruction in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

Surrogate parent: A person appointed to act in place of parents or guardians when a student’s parents or guardians are not known or, after reasonable efforts by the Board of Education, their whereabouts cannot be determined; when the student is an unaccompanied homeless youth or a ward of the state and does not have a parent who meets the definition in state regulations; or when the rights of the parent to make educational decisions have been subrogated by a judge in accordance with state law.

Student with a disability: A student with a disability is defined in regulation, who has not attained the age of 21 prior to September 1st and who, because of mental, physical, or emotional reasons, has been identified as having a disability and requires special services and programs approved by the department.  The categories defined in regulation include:  Autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, learning disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury and visual impairment including blindness.  

Test accommodations: Changes in how a test is administered that do not substantially alter what the test measures, including changes in presenting format, response format, test setting or test timing.

Transition services: A coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability, designed within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the student with a disability to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post-school activities, including but not limited to post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated competitive employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living or community participation.  The coordinated set of activities must be based on the individual student’s needs taking into account the student’s strengths, preferences and interests and shall include needed activities in the following areas:  Instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.

Transitional support services: Those temporary services, specified in a student’s IEP, provided to a regular or special education teacher to aid in the provision of appropriate services to a student with a disability who is transferring to a regular program or to a program or service in a less restrictive environment.

Travel training: A special education service that provides instruction, as appropriate, to students with significant cognitive disabilities, as well as any other students with disabilities who require this instruction, to enable them to develop awareness of the environment in which they live and learn the skills to move effectively and safely from place to place within that environment (e.g., in school, in the home, at work and in the community).