20 Common Special Education Terms You need to know!

Are you new to special education? Completely lost in all of the abbreviations and struggling to keep up in the meetings? These certainly aren’t all of the terms you’ll need, but it’s a quick reference for some of the most common! 


Accommodation- a change in how the material is being taught but does not substantially change what is being measured.

Modifcation- Significant changes in what the child is expected to demonstrate. ( can include format, testing, level, alternative assignments)

MD- Multiple Disabilities, a way to categorize a student who has multiple disabilities for special education

DD- Developmental Delay, when a child is behind same-age peers in development.

FAPE- Free and Appropriate Public Education, the basis of the IDEA Act, and your child’s legal right to an education.

ETR- Evaluating Team Report, usually completed after your child has been evaulated by several members of the special education team, for example ( not all may be a part of your child’s educational needs)  school psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, behaviorist, general education teacher. This meeting is to go over everyone’s findings and to typically determine if the team found the child eligible for special education services.

IEP- Individualized Education Program

FBA- Functional Behavior Assesment(Analysis), a process to identify specific behaviors, the purpose of the behavior, and how it is interfering with the student’s educational progress.

BIP- Behavior Intervention Plan – A plan usually developed after an FBA, to replace negative behaviors with positive ones. It can also spell out specific guidelines for the team to follow while your child is making progress, remember that it might have to be adjusted and should change as your child progresses!

APE- Adapted Physical Education,  physical education which has been adapted or modified, so that it is as appropriate for the person with a disability as it is for a person without a disability.

ADL’s- Activities of Daily Living – refers to the basic self-care tasks an individual does on a day-to-day basis.

AYP- Adequate Yearly Progress , a measurement defined by the United States federal No Child Left Behind Act that allows the U.S. Department of Education to determine how every public school and school district in the country is performing academically according to results on standardized tests.

ED- Emotional Disturbance, A category that can define behavioral health concerns in the educational setting.

FERPA | Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) is federal legislation in the United States that protects the privacy of students’ personally identifiable information (PII). The act applies to all educational institutions that receive federal funds.

HQT | Highly Qualified Teacher, in Ohio we define this as meeting the 3 requirements: 1. Teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree; 2. Teachers must have a certificate/license that is appropriate to the grade and subject they are teaching; AND 3. Teachers must be able to demonstrate their subject area expertise in the core academic subject(s) they teach. If any part is missing, the teacher is not considered a HQT.

MTTS- Multi-tiered system of support, the practice of providing high-quality instruction and interventions matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about changes in instruction or goals, and applying child response data to important educational decisions .( Ohio Department of Education)

VR- Vocational Rehabilitation, a program to help people with disabilities find a meaningful career.

TBI- Traumatic Brain Injury

TOD- Teacher of the Deaf, qualified teacher who has the skills required to teach mainstream learners who are hearing impaired, the teacher must be certified to work with students who are deaf or have hearing loss.

AT- Assistive Technology, 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 functional capabilities of a child with a disability.