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Individualized Education Plan (IEP): Plan including goals, services and accommodations for child once eligibility for special education is determined. This is reviewed at least annually.  

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): National law (first passed in 1975) that states that schools must find and evaluate students thought to have disabilities and to provide a “free and appropriate” public education to those who have disabilities (birth -21 years old). Legal guardians are given a voice and included in the decisions the school makes about their child.

Specific Learning Disability (SLD): A neurological disorder that impacts academic performance and is discrepant from cognitive ability to a significant level. Common types include: dyslexia (reading), dyscalculia (mathematics), dysgraphia (writing), auditory/visual processing (difficulty understanding language), nonverbal learning disability (visual-spatial, organizational, executive functioning difficulties).

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD (without hyperactivity): A chronic condition that impacts attention, impulse control, and sometimes hyperactivity. The result can be low self-esteem, troubled relationships and difficulty completing schoolwork. 

Autism: A neurological and developmental disorder that impacts a person’s life in the area of communication and behavior. It includes what used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS). It is a broad range of conditions that frequently impairs social skills significantly.

Other Health Impairment: Students who have limited strength, vitality or alertness and/or a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli within the educational environment that is due to a chronic health problem. 

Speech Impairment: Students who are unable to produce sounds correctly or have a hard time speaking fluently may have a communication disorder.

Language Impairment: A communication disorder that interferes with language development. This can impact expressive (speaking) or receptive (understanding).

Section 504 (504 or 504 Plan): A plan that is less formal and more general than an IEP but supports a child and helps to remove barriers to learning.  This is covered under the Rehabilitation Act, which is a civil rights law.  Schools write 504 plans and they include accommodations which don’t change what students learn but addresses how they learn it.

Response to Intervention (RTI) and/or Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS): A process used by educators to help students who are struggling with academic or behavior skills. Interventions are put into place and monitored to determine whether or not they are successful. Students are screened to determine which tier they need before strategies are developed. The goal of these supports is to avoid a “wait and fail” approach. Data is collected and analyzed by a school-based team to determine the effectiveness and adjusted as needed for the individual student. 

Facilitated IEP: A process in which a student’s IEP is developed by a collaborative team in a structured meeting. IEP facilitation is a student-focused process in which a trained facilitator assists the IEP team in developing an IEP that provides a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the student. Parents/Families/Caretakers can request a Facilitated IEP meeting through your school district or state department of education. 

Due Process: Due process is a formal way to resolve disputes with a school about a child’s education. Parents/Families/Caretakers can file a due process complaint only for special education disputes, not for general education issues. Parents/Families/Caretakers have the right to an impartial hearing officer and to present evidence and witnesses at the due process hearing.

Mediation: (or IEP mediation) is the first official step in due process. It is designed to not be confrontational with the goal being to assist both parents and the school district in reaching a compromise. A mediator serves as a neutral party. Mediators do not work for the school district and they do not have any authority that allows them to force settling for anything that parents/families/caretakers do not agree with. Mediation sessions must be made available at no cost to the parents/families/caretakers and are voluntary.  If they are not successfully the due process continues.