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Special Education Dictionary

An IEP is a legal document. As such, it must be written in clear, precise language. The following terms are defined by IDEA to help you write your students’ goals and needed services:


Academic Achievement – the improvement of essential academic skills through school programs.

Addressable – individualized for a particular student.


Alteration – any adjustment that you make to the regular education curriculum or environment for a child with a disability that is necessary in order for the student to receive FAPE (free and appropriate public education) as determined by an IEP team. The term also includes adjustments to examinations, instructions, and/or course materials. The term does not include the regular education curriculum or testing modifications.


Assistive Technology (AT) – any item, piece of equipment, or product system— (I that) is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability; (ii) that is required to provide FAPE to the child; (iii ) that is selected by an IEP team for a child with a disability, including— (I) communications devices and systems;

  • (II) assistive technology devices;

  • (III) assistive technology services;

  • (IV) related services where necessary to enable the child to benefit from special education services, among other things.


Attitude – the will to succeed.



Behavior – a general description of an individual student’s observed actions and behaviors over a specific period of time, including strengths and weaknesses. It may be documented by direct observation or teacher-student conference.



Collaboration – discussion or dialogue involving teachers, parents, related services personnel, and special educators.



Direct Observation – a method of documenting behaviors in which the teacher–student ratio is 1:1 and the teacher makes notes about what happened and records observations, comments, and behavior interventions that were used.


Disability – any condition identified as a disability by school districts under IDEA or any condition that may require special education.


Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) – free public education that is provided at no cost to the child or the parents, consistent with the child’s IEP, including specially designed instruction based on scientifically valid research to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities.



Gross Motor – large movements that involve the large muscles of the body.



IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; refers to Title 34, Part 300 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).


Individualized Education Program (IEP) – a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed and revised in an IEP meeting in which certain rights apply. The IEP includes information about the child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance, measurable annual goals, including short-term objectives, related services to be provided, an explanation of the extent that the child will not participate in regular education classes or activities, a statement of any individual modifications that are needed to ensure FAPE, and a statement of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured.


Include – state that specific information is required for IEPs to be legally valid.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) – written plan developed by a group including parents, service providers, teachers, etc., to meet the unique needs of an infant or toddler with disabilities and the family.


Math – one of the areas in which students with LD/ADHD often struggle.


Modification (M) – any adjustment that is made to the regular education curriculum, testing administration conditions, or placement in order to provide FAPE for a child with a disability; or, if necessary for the child to receive FAPE, the creation of a new curriculum or development of an instructional strategy.

Movement – one of five sensory systems, involving messages from receptors in muscles and tendons that are sent to the brain.



Plan – written document that provides information regarding services to be provided by school personnel that is developed by an IEP team for a student receiving special education.

Primary Learning Activity – activities that are designed to teach or strengthen skills in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.


Program Planning – the process of developing goals and objectives related to specific behaviors identified as patterns of expected behavior; examples may include work completion tasks, classroom participation, and waiting in line.



Reading – one of the four major content areas that students with LD/ADHD often have problems with.

Resource Teacher – teacher who is responsible for assisting students during math or reading instruction by using a resource room approach.



Secondary Learning Activity (SLA) – activities designed to teach or strengthen skills in one of the four primary content areas; examples may include writing research reports, reading chapters in textbooks, or science labs.


Social Interaction – occurs when two or more people interact to share information and emotions with each other.


SST (Standard School Time) – a time in which a student is provided with instruction in all areas of the school day; this time is divided into units and scheduled daily.


Time – one of the five sensory systems, involving messages from receptors in muscles and tendons that are sent to the brain’s cerebral cortex.



Visual Perceptual Skills – skills used when recognizing shapes, patterns or objects; may include such things as color, line orientation, depth, and shape differentiation.


Visual-Motor Integration – refers to the ability of the eyes to work with the brain to control fine motor movements.


Working Memory – a type of memory that contains information in consciousness for brief periods of time; allows individuals to manipulate this information in order to complete a task or problem.


Writing – one of the four major content areas that students with LD/ADHD often have problems with.

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