Resources‎ > ‎

Definitions and Acronyms

Note:  This page will be updated on an ongoing basis. 
504 Plan: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including federal funds.


Ability to Learn:


Academic Achievement Standards: Academic achievement standards refer to the expected performance of students on measures of academic achievement; for instance, "all students will score at least 76% correct on the district-developed performance-based assessment." Also known as performance standards.


Achievement Test: a standardized test used to measure acquired learning, in a specific subject area such as reading or arithmetic, in contrast to an intelligence test, which measures potential ability or learning capacity


Accommodations: Techniques and materials that allow individuals with LD to complete school or work tasks with greater ease and effectiveness. Examples include spellcheckers, tape recorders, and expanded time for completing assignments.


Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP): An individual state's measure of yearly progress toward achieving state academic standards. "Adequate Yearly Progress" is the minimum level of improvement that states, school districts and schools must achieve each year.

Age Equivalent Score: In a norm-referenced assessment, individual student's scores are reported relative to those of the norming population. This can be done in a variety of ways, but one way is to report the average age of people who received the same score as the individual child. Thus, an individual child's score is described as being the same as students that are younger, the same age, or older than that student (e.g. a 9 year old student my receive the same score that an average 13 year old student does, suggesting that this student is quite advanced).




American with Disabilities Act (ADA): A federal law that gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.


Annual Goals:


Annual Review (AR):


Assessment: Assessment is a broad term used to describe the gathering of information about student performance in a particular area. See also formative assessment and summative assessment.


Assistive Technology and Services: equipment and services that are approved to be used to improve or maintain the abilities of a child to function including such activities as playing, communicating, or eating.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity  Disorder (ADHD): Any of a range of behavioral disorders in children characterized by symptoms that include poor concentration, an inability to focus on tasks, difficulty in paying attention, and impulsivity. A person can be predominantly inattentive (often referred to as ADD), predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, or a combination of these two.



Auditory Discrimination: Ability to detect differences in sounds; may be gross ability, such as detecting the differences between the noises made by a cat and dog, or fine ability, such as detecting the differences made by the sounds of letters "m" and "n."



Auditory Memory: Ability to retain information which has been presented orally; may be short term memory, such as recalling information presented several seconds before; long term memory, such as recalling information presented more than a minute before; or sequential memory, such as recalling a series of information in proper order



Auditory Processes Disorder: An inability to accurately process and interpret sound information. Students with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words.



Authentic Assessment: Authentic assessment uses multiple forms of evaluation that reflect student learning, achievement, motivation, and attitudes on classroom activities. Examples of authentic assessment include performance assessment, portfolios, and student self-assessment.



Autism: a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three


Behavior Intervention/Modification Plan: A plan that includes positive strategies, program modifications, and supplementary aids and supports that address a student's disruptive behaviors and allows the child to be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE



Benchmark: a standard by which something can be measured or judged



Bilingual Education: An educational program in which two languages are used to provide content matter instruction. Bilingual education programs vary in their length of time, and in the amount each language is used.


Bilingual Education, Transitional: An educational program in which two languages are used to provide content matter instruction. Over time, the use of the native language is decreased and the use of English is increased until only English is used.


Central Auditory Processing Disorder: A disorder that occurs when the ear and the brain do not coordinate fully. A CAPD is a physical hearing impairment, but one which does not show up as a hearing loss on routine screenings or an audiogram. Instead, it affects the hearing system beyond the ear, whose job it is to separate a meaningful message from non-essential background sound and deliver that information with good clarity to the intellectual centers of the brain (the central nervous system).


Cognitive Disability (CI): Limitation of the ability to perceive, recognize, understand, interpret, and/or respond to information


Co-Morbidity: The presence of one or more disorders (or diseases) in addition to a primary disease or disorder


Confidentiality: the right that personal information about a child and family is not released without parent consent or only when permitted or required by law.

Consent: the written approval a parent gives to have their child evaluated and receive services. Consent is always voluntary and a parent may revoke it at any time.

Content Area: Content areas are academic subjects like math, science, English/language arts, reading, and social sciences. Language proficiency may affect these areas, but is not included as a content area. Assessments of language proficiency differ from those of language arts.


Continuous Assessment:  An element of responsive instruction in which the teacher regularly monitors student performance to determine how closely it matches the instructional goal.


Curriculum Based Assessment: A type of informal assessment in which the procedures directly assess student performance in learning-targeted content in order to make decisions about how to better address a student's instructional needs


Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM): a method teachers use to find out how students are progressing in basic academic areas such as math, reading, writing, and spelling. CBM also monitors the success of the instruction your child is receiving


Deaf-Blindness (D-B): concomitant [simultaneous] hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs


Deafness (D): a hearing impairment so severe that a child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification


Developmental Delay (DD): A delay in the acquiring of abilities and skills typically reached by children of similar ages


Differential Instruction:  An approach to teaching that includes planning out and executing various approaches to content, process, and product. Differentiated instruction is used to meet the needs of student differences in readiness, interests, and learning needs.


Direct Instruction:  An instructional approach to academic subjects that emphasizes the use of carefully sequenced steps that include demonstration, modeling, guided practice, and independent application.


Discrepancy Model: it is determined if there is a significant discrepancy between a child's potential (usually measured by an intelligence, or IQ, test) and achievement (as measured by an achievement test)


Domain Meeting:


Due Process Hearing: the parent/guardian and the school present evidence before an impartial third person called a hearing officer. The hearing officer then decides how to resolve the problem


Early Childhood Education (ECE):




Early Detection:




Educational Benefit:








Eligibility Determination Conference (EDC):




Emotional Disability (ED):


ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act): In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as a part of the "War on Poverty." ESEA emphasizes equal access to education and establishes high standards and accountability. The law authorizes federally funded education programs that are administered by the states. In 2002, Congress amended ESEA and reauthorized it as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).




Executive Function: The ability to organize cognitive processes. This includes the ability to plan ahead, prioritize, stop and start activities, shift from one activity to another activity, and to monitor one's own behavior.


Exit Criteria: Exit criteria are a set of guidelines for ending special services for English language learners and placing them in mainstream, English-only classes as fluent English speakers. This is usually based on a combination of performance on an English language proficiency test, grades, standardized test scores, and teacher recommendations. In some cases, this redesignation of students may be based on the amount of time they have been in special programs.


Expressive Language: The aspect of spoken language that includes speaking and the aspect of written language that includes composing or writing.


Extended School Year (ESY):


Family Educational Right to Privacy (FERPA): A federal law that protects the privacy of student education records


Fluency: The ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with proper expression and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on what the text means.

Formal Assessment: The process of gathering information using standardized, published tests or instruments in conjunction with specific administration and interpretation procedures, and used to make general instructional decisions.


Formative Assessment: Formative assessments are designed to evaluate students on a frequent basis so that adjustments can be made in instruction to help them reach target achievement goals.


Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): The Section 504 regulation requires a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s disability.


General Education Program:


Grade Equivalent Scores: In a norm-referenced assessment, individual student's scores are reported relative to those of the norming population. This can be done in a variety of ways, but one way is to report the average grade of students who received the same score as the individual child. Thus, an individual child's score is described as being the same as students that are in higher, the same, or lower grades than that student (e.g. a student in 2nd grade my earn the same score that an average fourth grade student does, suggesting that this student is quite advanced).


Hearing Impairment (HI): impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance but is not included under the definition of "deafness."


Inclusion: Is an approach to educating students with special educational needs. Under the inclusion model, students with special needs spend most or all of their time with non-disabled students. Implementation of these practices varies. Schools most frequently use them for selected students with mild to severe special needs.


Independent Educational Evaluation: An evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner, who is not employed by the school district at the public's expense


Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A plan outlining special education and related services specifically designed to meet the unique educational needs of a student with a disability.


Individualized Transition Plan:  A plan developed by the IEP team to help accomplish the goals for the transition from high school into adulthood.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is the law that guarantees all children with disabilities access to a free and appropriate public education.


Informal Assessment: The process of collecting information to make specific instructional decisions, using procedures largely designed by teachers and based on the current instructional situation



Intelligence Quotient (IQ): A measure of someone's intelligence as indicated by an intelligence test, where an average score is 100. An IQ score is the ratio of a person's mental age to his chronological age multiplied by 100.


Intervention Plan:



Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT): The Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) measures individual student achievement relative to the Illinois Learning Standards. The results give parents, teachers, and schools one measure of student learning and school performance.

Language Learning Disability (LLD): A language learning disability is a disorder that may affect the comprehension and use of spoken or written language as well as nonverbal language, such as eye contact and tone of speech, in both adults and children.


Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE): The State Education Agency (SEA) for Illinois.  The ISBE is responsible for the state supervision of public elementary and secondary schools.

La Grange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE): LADSE is a special education cooperative that collaborates with its member districts to provide high-quality, evidence-based programs and services that result in positive outcomes for students.

Local Educational Agency (LEA): A public board of education or other public authority within a state that maintains administrative control of public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district or other political subdivision of a state.

Learning Disability (LD): A disorder that affects people's ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. It may also be referred to as a learning disorder or a learning difference.

Learning Styles: an individual’s preferred mode for gaining knowledge especially a preferred or best method.  The term refers to the way an individual interacts with, takes in, and processes information related to these types of learning: cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor skills and affective (attitude).  There are four generally recognized learning styles:  visual (learn by seeing), aural (learn by hearing), read/write (learn by processing text), and kinesthetic (learn by doing).  Some individuals do not exhibit a strong preference for one learning style and are referred to as multi-nodal learners.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): The assurance that handicapped children will be educated with non-handicapped children to the maximum extent appropriate.

Limited English Proficient (LEP): Limited English Proficient is the term used by the federal government, most states, and local school districts to identify those students who have insufficient English to succeed in English-only classrooms. Increasingly, English Language Learner (ELL) or English Learner (EL) are used in place of LEP.

Low Incidence Disability: a severe disabling condition with an expected incidence rate of less than one percent of the total statewide enrollment in Kindergarten through twelfth grade.  Examples are: Hearing Impairments (HI), Visual Impairments (VI), and severe Orthopedic Impairments (OI).

Mainstream: a term that refers to the ordinary classroom that almost all children attend. Accommodations may be made for children with disabilities or who are English language learners, as part of the general educational program.

Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Test:



Mediation:  a flexible way to resolve disagreements between school or early intervention (EI) systems and parents of children with disabilities. An impartial person, called a mediator, helps parents, educators and service providers to communicate more effectively and develop a written document that contains the details of their agreement. Participation in mediation is voluntary and confidential.

Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Test: This is a computer based test that is designed to assess academic progress in the following areas: reading, language and math.  The district administers the tests in the fall and spring to assess a student’s knowledge and understanding of these areas as well as to measure the student’s growth over time.

Mediation:  a method for solving a problem that uses persons trained in helping people resolve their own problems. In mediation, the school district and parent will try to reach an agreement with which both parties are satisfied.

Mental Retardation: significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently [at the same time] with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period. 

Modification: a change in what is being taught to or expected from the student. Making an assignment easier so the student is not doing the same level of work as other students is an example of a modification.

Multiple Disabilities (MD): concomitant [simultaneous] impairments (such as mental retardation-blindness, mental retardation-orthopedic impairment, etc.), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in a special education program solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness.

Multi-Disciplinary Team: A team consisting of the student's parents, educational specialists, and medical specialists in the areas in which the individual demonstrates problems will work together to plan and coordinate necessary services.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB):  The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965. The act contains President George W. Bush's four basic education reform principles: stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on teaching methods based on scientifically-based research.

Norm-Referenced Tests (NRTs): tests that are designed to discriminate among groups of students, and allow comparisons across years, grade levels, schools, and other variables. They are nationally, commercially available.

Occupational Therapy (OT):  services delivered by an Occupational Therapist that relate to self-help skills, adaptive behavior and play, and sensory and motor and postural development.

Orthopedic Impairment (PI): a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g. cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures).

Other Health Impaired (OHI): A category of special education services for students with limited strength, vitality or alertness, due to chronic or acute health problems (such as asthma, ADHD, diabetes, or a heart condition).

Out of District Placement: An out-of-district placement places a child in a specialized school specifically designed to address special learning or behavioral needs. These schools have the benefit of providing the highest degree of structure, routine, and consistency throughout the school day. However, they remove any possibility of interacting with regular education students, and they are extremely costly for school districts.

Para-educator: Also known as instructional aides and teachers’ aides, these individuals provide assistance to teachers in the classroom. They do not provide primary direct instruction, but may help clarify material to students through home language or other supports. In classrooms funded through Title I, instructional paraprofessionals must have at least an Associates' degree or its equivalent, or have passed a test

Physical Therapy (PT): Instructional support and treatment of physical disabilities, under a doctor's prescription, that helps a person improve the use of bones, muscles, joints and nerves.

Present Level of Performance: A written description of the student's strengths, weakness, and learning styles based upon information from a comprehensive evaluation. This document identifies student's needs. Because the annual goals and short term instructional objectives are based on the information contained in the present level of educational performance, it is the foundation of the IEP.

Placement/Private Placement: where the child’s IEP is carried out (i.e. where services are provided) is called placement.  Placement is usually determined on an annual basis by the child’s IEP team (the group making the placement decision must include the child’s parents).  In deciding the child’s placement, the group must make sure that the child has the maximum opportunity appropriate to learn with children who do not have disabilities—in academic, nonacademic, and extracurricular activities. This part of IDEA is called Least Restrictive Environment or LRE.  Placement options include: a general education class, a special education class, a special education school, home, a hospital or other public or private institution.

Processing Disorders: differences in how a brain recognizes and interprets information that impairs a person’s ability to successfully read and write. Some students may have difficulty with auditory, phonological, and/or language processing. Processing difficulties may co-exist with other difficulties, such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorders.


Psychological Evaluation: a process by which a school psychologist or licensed psychologist uses, to the extent deemed necessary for purposes of educational planning, a variety of psychological and educational techniques and examinations in the student’s dominant language, to study and describe a student’s developmental, learning, behavioral, and other personality characteristics.


Psychometric Testing: Any test used to quantify a particular aspect of a person's mental abilities or mindset–e.g., aptitude, intelligence, mental abilities and personality.

Receptive Language: The aspect of spoken language that includes listening, and the aspect of written language that includes reading.

Re-evaluation: If your child already receives special education, he or she must have a re-evaluation at least every three years or more often if needed. The purpose of re-evaluation is to: see if your child still has a disability and needs special education and related services; identify how your child is doing in school and identify any educational needs; determine if any changes need to be made in the child's IEP to help your child to meet the annual goals and objectives that are in the IEP and to participate, as appropriate, in the general curriculum.

Referral Process: When a child is suspected of having a disability, a referral is made to evaluate the child for special education services.  Once parents give permission for testing (sign a form), the school has 65 business days to complete the assessments and hold an eligibility meeting.  During these 65 days, several testing components will be completed with you and your child. The evaluators will write reports and a copy will be given to parents at the eligibility meeting. The school is also required to have a copy available for parents to pick up two days before the eligibility meeting.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first “ rights” legislation to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. This law applies to programs conducted by Federal agencies, those receiving federal funds, such as colleges participating in federal student loan programs, Federal employment, and employment practices of businesses with federal contracts. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Related Services: Services that help children with disabilities benefit from special education by providing extra help and support in needed areas, such as speaking or moving. Related services can include, but are not limited to, any of the following:

·         speech-language pathology and audiology services

·         interpreting services

·         psychological services

·         physical and occupational therapy

·         recreation, including therapeutic recreation

·         early identification and assessment of disabilities in children

·         counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling

·         orientation and mobility services

·         medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes

·         school health services and school nurse services

·         social work services in schools

·         parent counseling and training

Resource Room: Students who need intensive help to keep up with grade-level work in a particular subject may be placed in the Resource Room, where a special-education teacher works with a small group of students, using techniques that work more efficiently with a special-needs population. Resource Room placements have the benefit of providing help where needed while letting the student remain generally with the mainstream, but they lack the structure and routine of a self-contained classroom.

Response to Intervention (RtI): Response to Intervention is a process whereby local education agencies (LEAs) document a child's response to scientific, research-based intervention using a tiered approach. In contrast to the discrepancy criterion model, RTI provides early intervention for students experiencing difficulty learning to read. RTI was authorized for use in December 2004 as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Self-Contained Classroom: Placement in a self-contained classroom means that your child will be removed from the general school population for all academic subjects to work in a small controlled setting with a special-education teacher. Students in a self-contained class may be working at all different academic levels, with different textbooks and different curricula. Self-contained classes offer structure, routine, and appropriate expectations, but some students may require a higher level of specialization.

Social History – preparing an assessment of the social and emotional strengths and needs of the child

Special Education: Services offered to children who possess one or more of the following disabilities: specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism, combined deafness and blindness, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments.

Specially Designed Instruction: This is part of the definition of special education, which is defined as “specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability...” [§300.39(a)(1)].  Thus, IDEA specifies that every IEP team include a member of the “public agency” (i.e. school or LADSE) who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities.

Specific Learning Disability (SLD): The official term used in federal legislation to refer to difficulty in certain areas of learning, rather than in all areas of learning. This term is synonymous with learning disabilities.

Speech Impaired (SI): A category of special education services for students who have difficulty with speech sounds in their native language.  This includes communication disorders such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Speech Language Pathologist (SLP): An expert who can help children and adolescents who have language disorders to understand and give directions, ask and answer questions, convey ideas, and improve the language skills that lead to better academic performance. An SLP can also counsel individuals and families to understand and deal with speech and language disorders.

State Education Agency (SEA): A state education agency is the agency primarily responsible for the state supervision of public elementary and secondary schools.

Standardized Testing: a test that is administered and scored in a consistent, or "standard", manner. Standardized tests are designed in such a way that the questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and are administered and scored in a predetermined, standard manner.

Student Support Team (SST): The school employees who identify and plan the alternative instructional strategies for a student experiencing academic or behavioral problems.

Transportation: The IDEA includes transportation within its definition of related services.  This means that students with IEP’s have the right to receive special transportation services if needed.  Transportation and assistance may be provided to a child whose disability requires the child to: go to and from school; travel between schools; move around school buildings or around school grounds.  Some students with disabilities need special equipment separate or adapted buses, lifts and ramps.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech.  The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

Visual Impairment (VI): an impairment of vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.