Definitions & Terms

Adapted Physical Education (APE) - Specially designed physical education program, using accommodations designed to fit the needs of students who require developmental or corrective instruction in PE.
Accommodations - Changes that allow a person with a disability to participate fully in an activity. Examples include extended time, different test format, and alterations to a classroom.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - This legislation prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It also mandates establishment of TDD/telephone relay services. See: ADA Home Page.
Assessment or Evaluation - Term used to describe the testing and diagnostic processes leading up to the development of an appropriate IEP for a student with special education needs.
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.
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 the results of standardized assessments. Parents have the right to inspect these files at any time.
Designated Instruction Services (DIS) - Instruction and services not normally provided by regular classes, resource specialist programs or special day classes. They include speech therapy and adaptive physical education.
Differential Standards for Graduation - Standards for graduation that may be modified for students with exceptional needs.
Disability - A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual and adversely affects educational performance. See: IDEA Definitions.
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.
Early Intervention (EI) - Programs for developmentally delayed infants and toddlers through 35 months of age; designed to help prevent problems as the child matures.
Extended School Year Services (ESY) - An extended school year is a component of special education services for students with unique needs who require services in excess of the regular academic year. Extended year often refers to summer school.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy ACT (FERPA) - The Federal law that applies to schools and protects the privacy of student records including health and educational information. See Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and HIPAA and FERPA (scroll down the document more than half way to "The FERPA/HIPAA Interface").
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) - The U.S. Department of Education has established Section 504, which is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal funds from ED. Section 504 requires a school district to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district's jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or the severity of the disability. The statute that pays for these special education programs is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). (See below for details about IDEA.) See: IDEA Definitions.
Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) - A problem solving process for addressing inappropriate behavior.
Home/Hospital Instruction - Students with verified medical conditions, which prevent them from attending school, may receive services on a temporary basis in the home or hospital with a physician’s referral.
Inclusion - Term used to describe services that place students with disabilities in general education classrooms with appropriate support services. Student may receive instruction from both a general education teacher and a special education teacher.
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 parents 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 the parent.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) - Once a child is considered eligible for Special Education, several things happen. First, parents and educators work together to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the student. In the team meeting, the student's educational needs are discussed and measurable annual goals and short-term objectives are agreed upon. Based on the goals, decisions are made about how to meet the child's educational needs, including what special education and related services and supplementary aids and services are to be provided.

The resulting Individualized Education Program sets forth in writing a commitment of the resources necessary to serve the child. The IEP also provides a basis for subsequent evaluation. It can be modified at any time, or the team can reconvene at any time. Part of this plan is setting a date for re-evaluation. See: IDEA Definitions and U.S. Department of Education Guide to Writing an IEP.
Individualized Education Program Team (IEP Team) - Term used to describe the committee of parents, teachers, administrators and school personnel that provides services to the student. The committee may also include medical professional and other relevant parties. The team reviews assessment results, determines goals and objectives and program placement for the child needing services.
Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) - This plan, for children in Early Intervention, is designed to improve the development of the child and includes goals for the child, outcomes for the family, and service providers that will be involved in implementing the plan. See: What is the dfference between an IFSP and an IEP?
Individual Health Plan (IHP) - This plan helps to ensure that the student’s health needs are met whether or not the student qualifies for special education services. The plan, developed by a nurse in partnership with the student’s family and school team, may address medications, allergies, chronic conditions, medical procedures, and other medical needs. [Janz: 1993]
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - This legislation focuses on going beyond merely providing disabled children access to an education, by improving results for all children in our education system. It also strengthens the role of parents in educational planning and decision making on behalf of their children. Part B applies to students ages 3-21 and Part C applies to children 0-3. See: IDEA.
Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) - This plan starts at age 14 and addresses areas of post-school activities, post-secondary education, employment, community experiences and daily living skills.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) - The environment where the student can receive an appropriate education designed to meet his or her special education needs, while still being educated with non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate. See: IDEA State Eligibility.
Local Education Agency (LEA) - The local school system, usually a school district. See: IDEA Definitions.
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.
Multiple Disabilities - An IEP term used to define a combination of disabilities that causes severe educational needs that require multiple special education programs such as mental retardation with blindness.
Non-public School (NPS) - Districts contract with non-public schools when an appropriate placement cannot be found within the scope of the public education setting. Non-public school placement is sought only after efforts to find appropriate placement in public schools have been exhausted.
Occupational Therapist (OT) - Provides consultation and support to staff to improve a student’s educational performance related to fine motor, gross motor and sensory integration development.
Other Health Impaired (OHI) - 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 Consent - Special education term used by IDEA that states you have been fully informed in your native language or other mode of communication of all the information about the action for which you are giving consent and that you understand and agree in writing to that action.
Physical Therapist (PT) - Provides consultation and support to staff to improve a student’s educational performance related to functional gross motor development.
Private Placement - Part B of IDEA does not require a school district to pay for the cost of education for your 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 Specialist - Provides instructional planning and support and direct services to students who needs have been identified in an IEP and are assigned to general education classrooms for the majority of their school day.
School Psychologist - Assists 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.
Section 504 - This part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was implemented by Congress in 1977. With passage of this legislation, Congress required that school districts go above and beyond the previous requirements that ensured physical access to public buildings (ramps, curbs, elevators and restroom stalls), and also make their programs and activities accessible and usable to all individuals with disabilities. This often covers special accommodations for disabled students, such as modified assignments in order to benefit from his/her education. These students do not qualify for Special Education.

Section 504 protects persons from discrimination based on their disability status. A person is disabled within the definition of Section 504 if he/she has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities such as: caring for one's self, performing manual tasks. See: Office for Civil Rights answers questions about Section 504 and A parent's guide to Section 504 in public schools.
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.
Special Education - Specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a student with a disability, including instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and instruction in physical education. The term includes speech/language pathology services and may include other related services, travel training, and applied technical education, if they meet the definition of Special Education. See: IDEA Definitions.
Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) - Assesses students for possible delayed speech and language skills and provides direct services in the area of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. They are also available regarding hearing impairments and amplification.
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).
Vision Specialist: Provides 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.
Workability Program - These programs focus on preparing high school students with disabilities for successful transition to employment, continuing education and quality adult life with an emphasis on work based learning opportunities.


Authors: Janet Gibbs - 11/2008
Christine Timothy - 11/2008
Barbara Ward, RN BS - 11/2008
Contributing Authors: Tina Persels - 9/2013
Alfred Romeo, RN, PhD - 10/2008
Content Last Updated: 10/2013


This section was developed in collaboration with the Utah State Office of Education, Special Education and Utah Family Voices. The goal is to assist families in the process of caring for their children with disabilities by providing information about the most common issues and questions parents confront. The other pages of this section will help you locate more information about resources for you and your child.

Page Bibliography

Janz J, Harrison J, Caldwell T.
Children with Special Health Needs in School: Developing an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) and an Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP).
Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, 71st, 1993; San Antonio, TX. /
Information about the IHCP and how it helps when there is a lack of necessary health information in school documents; includes information about the role of the school nurse in the IEP and IHCP, case examples, and example forms.