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Special education has its own specialized language. It might serve you well to look over these terms and acronyms before heading into your first ARD meeting.


504 - Passed in 1973 as part of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, 504 is for students with medical impairments or learning disabilities that do not fall under Special Education.  Through a 504 plan, these students can also receive the accommodations and support they need to be academically successful.


Accommodations & Modifications - These terms are used regarding Special Education, 504, and ESL students, but they are not interchangeable. Accommodations are changes in how students are taught and assessed. They are still responsible for learning the same material as their general education peers; this just provides them with the assistance they need to meet the same educational standards. 

Modifications are changes in what the students are taught. Students receiving modifications are unable to meet the same goals/standards and are being taught and assessed at a reduced level than their peers.


Anecdotal Records - These are narrative descriptions of student actions, behaviors, and skills that can help paint a better picture of a student than just data.


ARD (Admission, Review, and Dismissal) - An ARD is an annual meeting to determine exactly what services and accommodations students identified as needing Special Education services need in order to be successful. All decisions are made by a committee made up of a parent or guardian, the student, a general education teacher, a special education teacher, a school administrator, a diagnostician, and a school counselor.


BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan) - While teachers may develop behavior plans for individual students, a BIP is a formal, legal document that is created in conjunction with a student’s IEP after a Functional Assessment has been completed. A BIP falls under the jurisdiction of Special Education and must be approved and reviewed annually by an ARD committee.


CM (Content Mastery) - Special Education students who are receiving instruction in a general education classroom can receive additional support or accommodations in a Content Mastery room that is staffed by Special Education personnel if it is stipulated in the student’s IEP.


Co-Teacher - An inclusion classroom can be structured in several different ways. In the co-teach model, a general education teacher and a special education teacher plan and teach together, equally sharing the responsibilities of the classroom.


Differentiation - This is intentionally planning and tailoring instruction to meet the individual needs of students with different abilities, learning levels, and learning styles.


FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) -  Federal law mandates that districts are obligated to provide all students with a free and appropriate education regardless of their disability


FERPA & HIPAA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act & Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) - FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records that contain personally identifiable information at all schools that receive federal funds. 

HIPAA protects personally identifiable medical information.


IEP (Individualized Education Program) - This document is created by an ARD committee for students who qualify for special education services. The IEP is a legally binding document that identifies the services and accommodations Special Education students need to be successful. It is reviewed and updated annually by the committee.


Inclusion - In an inclusion classroom, students receiving special education services are enrolled and learn alongside general-education students in a traditional setting, but accommodations and services are by provided special education personnel in the classroom.


Life Skills - Generally speaking, a life skills class is targeted to special education students who need to be taught functional academic skills along with the very basic, essential skills necessary for every day living such as personal hygiene, safety, appropriately-leveled vocational skills, money-management, and self-advocacy.


LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) -  This is the educational setting in which students can receive an education that is equitable to nondisabled peers in a setting that is most appropriate to their needs with as few restrictions, accommodations, or modifications as possible.


OHI (Other Health Impairment) - This team is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to qualify students for special education services outside of a learning disability, cognitive impairment, or emotional disturbance.


OT & PT (Occupational Therapy & Physical Therapy) - Two types of services provided to special education students who require it. This is mandated as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


RTI (Response to Intervention) - This is the systematic approach to identifying, documenting, and determining the needs of each student along with determining which students may need additional support from special education or dyslexia services or behavior intervention.


SPED (Special education) - The abbreviation “Sped” is often used when referring to special education programs or students who qualify for such services.

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