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Special Education Basics

A Tutorial on Special Education Terminology


If you're baffled by all the terminology thrown around in meetings and paperwork regarding your child's special education, these 16 "lessons" will teach you what all those words and acronyms mean. Follow the links and read the articles, then take the quizzes to test your knowledge. Study up!

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Lesson 1: The IEP

Illustration © Terri Mauro

The IEP is the master document for determining your child's special education program. Learning all you can about what it does and how it's created can help you be a better advocate for your child. Visit the IEP FAQ to get all your questions answered.

Lesson 2: The 504 Plan

Illustration © Terri Mauro

IEPs aren't the be-all and end-all of school accommodations and modifications. Though they're concerned more with civil rights than educational ones, 504 plans outline assistance to be provided to let students with disabilities fully participate in the classroom. Find out more in the 504 FAQ.

Lesson 3: OT

Illustration © Terri Mauro

Occupational Therapy is a service often provided to special education students, but do you know what it is? Check this definition to make sure.

Lesson 4: PT

Illustration © Terri Mauro

If you've only heard of Physical Therapy in the context of injuries or strokes, it may seem odd to see it on your child's school plan. Find out what those school PTs are up to. Then take a quick quiz to see how much you've learned from Lessons 1-4.

Lesson 5: Speech Therapy

Illustration © Terri Mauro

If your child has a hard-to-understand way of talking or a limited vocabulary, chances are speech therapy is in his or her IEP. Open your Web browser to a definition of speech therapy to find out who's doing it and what's happening.

Lesson 6: Adaptive Physical Education

Illustration © Terri Mauro

Along with OT and PT, Adaptive Physical Education (APE) helps kids with motor skill problems work on developmental goals in a safe and fun environment -- or at least, not get creamed by the other kids in dodgeball. Read the definition to learn more about it.

Lesson 7: IDEA

Illustration © Terri Mauro

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act is the law from which all special education blessings flow. What's this bright IDEA? Read the definition, then follow the links to learn more about two of its most essential and slippery concepts, FAPE and LRE.

Lesson 8: ESY and EI

Illustration © Terri Mauro

Extended School Year turns summertime into learning time. Learn what it is, and why you may have a hard time getting it. Then study up on another way to extend IDEA rights beyond the normal school boundaries: Early Intervention, which serves children younger than three. Finally, take a quick quiz to find out how much you've learned from Lessons 5-8.

Lesson 9: The FBA

Illustration © Terri Mauro

A Functional Behavioral Assessment requires school personnel to actually think about your child's behavior instead of knee-jerk handling it the same way they've handled it since schools were held in caves. Read more about this important safeguard.

Lesson 10: The BIP

Illustration © Terri Mauro

A Behavior Intervention Plan takes all those ideas developed in the Functional Behavioral Assessment and turns them into a course of action for improving behavior and classroom calm. Read a definition and view some samples.

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