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SPED Definitions

Definitions of frequently used special education terms:


“Accommodations” refer to the actual teaching supports and services that the student may require to successfully demonstrate learning. Accommodations should not change expectations to the curriculum grade levels.


“Act” The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (also known as “IDEA”), as amended P.L. 105-17.


ADD/ADHD”  Attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are medical conditions characterized by a child's inability to focus while possessing impulsivity, fidgeting and inattention.


“Adult Student” A student who has reached 18 years of age (unless under court-ordered guardianship) acting in the place of a parent.


“Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)” (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. Protection is extended to the community and employment areas.


Asperger's Syndrome” A type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) that involved delays in the development of basic skills, including socializing, coordination and the ability to communicate.


“Assistive technology device” Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.


“Assistive technology service” Any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device.


“At no cost” All specially designed instruction is provided without charge, but does not preclude incidental fees that are normally charged to non-disabled students or their parents as a part of the regular education program.


Autism” A brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, communication and by restricted and repetitive behavior.


Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)” Special education term used to describe the written plan used to address problem behavior that includes positive behavioral interventions, strategies and support. May include program modifications and supplementary aids and services.


Blindness” Condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.


“Cerebral Palsy” A series of motor problems and physical disorders related to brain injury. CP causes uncontrollable reflex movements and muscle tightness and may cause problems in balance and depth perception. Severe cases can result in cognitive delays, seizures or vision and hearing problems.


“Child with a disability” A child evaluated as having autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, developmental delay, emotional disability, hard of hearing, learning disability, cognitive disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, or visual impairment including blindness, and who by reason thereof, needs special education and related services. If it is determined, through an appropriate evaluation, that a child has one of the disabilities above, but only needs a related service and not special education, the child is not a child with a disability under these rules unless the related service required by the child is considered special education rather than a related service under State standards.


“Comparable services” Those services that are comparable in quality, scope and opportunity to learn as services received by public school children with disabilities.


Consent” means the following:

(i) the parent has been fully informed of all information relevant to the activity for which consent is sought, in his or her native language, or other mode of communication;

(ii) the parent understands and agrees in writing to the carrying out of the activity for which his or her consent is sought, and the consent describes that activity and lists the records (if any) that will be released and to whom; and

(iii) the parent understands that the granting of consent is voluntary on the part of the parent and may be revoked at anytime.  If a parent revokes consent, that revocation is not retroactive (i.e., it does not negate an action that has occurred after the consent was given and before the consent was revoked).


Cumulative File” The records maintained by the local school district for any child enrolled in school. The file may contain evaluations and information about a child’s disability and placement. It also contains grades and results of standardized assessments. Parents have the right to inspect these files at any time.


“Developmental Delay” A child with a disability ages three (3) through nine (9) who is determined, through appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, to be experiencing delays in the following areas; physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.


“Directory Information” Personally identifiable information that would not generally be considered private, such as: the student's name, address, telephone listing, email address, photograph, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, and the most recent previous school attended


Disability” Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.


Due Process” Special education term used to describe the process where parents may disagree with the program recommendations of the school district. The notice must be given in writing within 30 days. IDEA provides two methods for resolving disputes, mediation or fair hearing.


Disclosure” Permit access to or the release, transfer, or other communication of personally identifiable information contained in education records by any means, including oral, written, or electronic means, to any party except the party identified as the party that provided or created the record.


“Educational performance” What must be adversely affected to establish eligibility for special education and related services, and may encompass all areas of educational development.


Educational records” Those records that are: Directly related to a student; and maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.


The term does not include any of the following:

  1. Records that are kept in the sole possession of the maker, are used only as a personal memory aid, and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record.
  2. Records of the law enforcement unit of an educational agency or institution.
  3. Grades on peer-graded papers before they are collected and recorded by a teacher.

“Educational surrogate parent” An individual appointed to protect the rights of the child who may represent the child in all matters relating to a free appropriate public education including identification, evaluation, eligibility, individualized education program (IEP) and educational placement. A foster parent can serve as an education surrogate if there is no conflict of interest.


Evaluation” Procedures used to determine whether a child has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services that the child needs.  The term means procedures used selectively with an individual child and does not include basic tests/screeners administered to or procedures used with all children in a school, grade, or class.


Extended School Year (ESY)” Any extension of the school year beyond the traditional length of the school year for non-disabled children; during which services are provided for children with disabilities as required on their IEP.  ESY may also include extension of the traditional school day or week. Justification for ESY services must be indicated on the student’s IEP.


"Family Education Rights privacy Act (FERPA)" 20 U.S.C. §.1232g  a federal law that covers confidentiality and education records.


“Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)” Special education and related services that are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction and without charge; meet the standards of the State of Wyoming, including the requirements of IDEA; include preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the state; and are provided in conformity with an IEP that meets the state requirements.


“Home-based educational program” A program of educational instruction provided to a child by the child’s parent or legal guardian or by a person designated by the parent or legal guardian. An instructional program provided to more than one family unit does not constitute a home-based educational program (see W.S. 21-4-101 (a) (v).)


Inclusion” Term used to describe service that places students with disabilities in general education classrooms with appropriate support services.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004)” The original legislation was written in 1975 guaranteeing students with disabilities a free and appropriate public education and the right to be educated with their non-disabled peers. Congress reauthorizes this federal law. The most recent revision occurred in 2004.


Individualized Education Plan (IEP)” Special education term used by IDEA to define the written document that states goals, objectives and services for students receiving special education.


Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)” A school district is required by law to conduct assessments for students who may be eligible for special education. If the parent disagrees with the results of a school district's evaluation conducted on their child, they have the right to request an independent educational evaluation. The district must provide you with information about how to obtain an IEE. An independent educational evaluation means an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district. Public expense means the school district pays for the full cost of the evaluation and that it is provided at no cost to you.


“Individualized Family Service Plan: (IFSP)” A process of providing early intervention services for children ages 0-3 with special needs. Family based needs are identified and a written plan is developed and reviewed periodically.


Interventions” Interventions are designed to help student(s) improve performance relative to specific, realistic and measurable goals. Interventions are based on data collected on current student(s) performance, and may include modifications and accommodations. Interventions are multi-tiered, research based, prescriptive, time limited, and parent inclusive. Intensive academic and/or behavioral interventions are characterized by their increased focus for students who fail to respond to less intensive forms of instruction. Intensity can be increased through many.


“Least restrictive environment (LRE)” To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children without disabilities, and that special classes, separate schooling or other removal from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disabilities is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.


“Local Education Agency (LEA)” Term used to describe a school district participating in a SELPA.


Mainstreaming” Term used to describe the integration of children with special needs into regular classrooms for part of the school day. The remainder of the day is in a special education classroom.


Manifestation Determination” Within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement of a child with a disability because of violation of school code, the IEP team must review all relevant information in the student's file to determine if the conduct in question was caused by the child's disability or if the conduct was a direct result of the school district's failure to implement the child's IEP.


Modification” refers to changes made to curriculum expectations in order to meet the needs of the student. Modifications are made when the expectations are beyond the student’s level of ability. Modifications may be minimal or very complex depending on the student performance. Modifications must be clearly acknowledged in the IEP.


“Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder(OCD)” OCD is an anxiety disorder that presents itself as recurrent, persistent obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive ideas, thoughts or images while compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the child feels they must perform.


Occupational Therapists” Provide consultation and support to staff to improve a student’s educational performance related to fine motor, gross motor and sensory integration development.


“Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)” A child who defies authority by disobeying, talking back, arguing or being hostile in a way that is excessive compared to other children and this pattern continues for more than six months may be determined to have ODD. ODD often occurs with other behavioral problems such as ADHD, learning disabilities and anxiety disorders. ODD must be diagnosed by a licensed professional.


Orthopedic Impairment” Term used to define impairments caused by congenital anomaly, impairments by diseases and impairments by other causes.


Other Health Impaired” Term used to describe limited strength, vitality and alertness that results in limited ability in the educational environment. Impairment could be a result of chronic health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder, epilepsy, heart condition, hemophilia, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever and sickle cell anemia.


Parent” A natural or adoptive parent of a child; a guardian or foster parent, but not the state if the child is a ward of the state; a person acting in the place of a parent (such as a grandparent or stepparent with whom the child lives, or a person who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare.) or any individual meeting the definition of 34 C.F.R. 300.30


Personally identifiable” The term includes, but is not limited to: name of the child, the child’s parent(s) or other family member; the address of the child; a personal identifier, such as the child’s social security number or student number; or a list of personal characteristics or other information that would make it possible to identify the child with reasonable certainty, Other indirect identifiers, such as the student's date of birth, place of birth, and mother's maiden name.


Physical education” The development of physical and motor fitness; fundamental motor skills and patterns; skills in aquatics, dance and individual and group games and sports (including intramural and lifetime sports); and includes special physical education, adapted physical education, movement education and motor development.


Physical Therapists” Provide consultation and support to staff to improve a student’s educational performance related to functional gross motor development.


“Private school” is any nonpublic, elementary or secondary school providing basic academic education programs for children and may include parochial and church or religious schools and home-based educational programs.


Record” Any information recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, video or audiotape, film, microfilm, and microfiche.


Related services” means transportation and such developmental, corrective and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education; and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes.  The term also includes school health services, social work services in schools and parent counseling and training.


“Residential and Private Placements” Part B of IDEA does not require a school district to pay for the cost of education for your disabled child at a private school or facility if the school district made free appropriate public education available to your child and you chose to place your child in private placement.


“Resource Specialists” Provide instructional planning and support and direct services to students who needs have been identified in and IEP and are assigned to general education classrooms for the majority of their school day.


“Response to Intervention (RtI): Response to intervention integrates assessment and intervention within a multi-level prevention system to maximize student achievement and reduce behavior problems. With RtI, schools identify students at risk for poor learning outcomes, monitor student progress, provide evidence-based interventions and adjust the intensity and nature of those interventions depending on a student’s responsiveness, and identify students with learning disabilities.


“School Psychologist” Assist in the identification of intellectual, social and emotional needs of students. They provide consultation and support to families and staff regarding behavior and conditions related to learning. They plan programs to meet the special needs of children and often serve as a facilitator during an IEP meeting.


“Screening or Universal Screening” Universal screening is conducted, usually as a first stage within a screening process, to identify or predict students who may be at risk for poor learning outcomes. Universal screening tests are typically brief; conducted with all students at a grade level; and followed by additional testing or short-term progress monitoring to corroborate students’ risk status. Universal screening is an easy to administer school-wide assessment consisting of probes that are aligned to the curriculum and state academic standards.


“Sensory Processing Disorder” A complex brain disorder that causes a child to misinterpret everyday sensory information like movement, sound and touch. Children with SPD may seek out intense sensory experiences or feel overwhelmed with information.


Special education” Specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.  The term includes speech pathology, vocational education or any related service, if the service consists of specially designed instruction at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of the child with disabilities.


Specially-designed instruction” Adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child under these rules, the content, methodology or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability; and to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that he or she can meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the school district or agency that apply to all children.


Specific Learning Disability” Special education term used to define a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language spoken or written that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical equations.


Speech and Language Impairments” Communication disorders such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment or voice impairment.


“Speech and Language Specialists” Assesses students for possible delayed speech and language skills and provides direct services in the area of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics.


SSDI” Social security disability insurance benefits are provided to qualified individuals who cannot engage in substantial gainful work activity because of a disability and who have paid into the system or has a parent who has paid into the Social Security system.


SSI” Supplemental Security Income benefits are provided to qualified individuals who cannot engage in substantial gainful work activity because of a disability and who fall below certain assets and income levels.


Summer school” A program during summer, which provides supplementary services not required on the child’s IEP.  (This is not the same as extended school year (ESY) services.)


“Supplementary aids and services” Aids, services and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate.


“Tourette's syndrome” Disorder that includes multiple motor and one or more vocal tics, which occur many times per day, nearly daily. If a child has Tourette's syndrome, symptoms tend to appear between the ages of 3-10 years old.


Transition IEP” IDEA mandates that at age 16, the IEP must include a statement about transition including goals for post-secondary activities and the services needed to achieve these goals. This is referred to an Individual Transition Plan or (ITP).


“Transition services” A coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that: is designed within an outcome-oriented process, that promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living or community participation; is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s preferences and interests; includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation; and; transition services for children with disabilities may be special education, if provided as specially designed instruction, or related services, if required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.


“Travel training” Providing instruction, as appropriate, to children with significant cognitive disabilities, and any other children with disabilities who require this instruction, to enable them to develop an awareness of the environment in which they live; and learn the skills necessary 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).


“Traumatic Brain Injury” An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment. Applies to open or closed head injuries.


“Turner's Syndrome” This rare genetic disorder affects females and is characterized by the absence of an X chromosome. Characteristics include small stature, limited development of sexual characteristics, low hairline and abnormal eye and bone development.


“Visual Impairment” Impairment in vision that even with correction adversely affects a child’s educational performance.


"Vision Specialists” Provide consultation and support to staff and direct instructional support to students with visual impairments. They provide functional vision assessments and curriculum modifications including Braille, large type and aural media.


“Vocational education” Organized educational programs that are directly related to the preparation of individuals for paid or unpaid employment, or for additional preparation for a career requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree.