Special Services Terms & Definitions

Explanations of commonly used words and phrases in the special education program.

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A change in procedures or materials that does not substantially modify the requirements of the class or alter the content standards or benchmarks. With state and district testing accommodations changes in how test is administered that do not substantially alter what the test measures; includes changes in presentation format, response format, test setting or test timing. Appropriate accommodations are made to level the playing field, i.e., to provide equal opportunity to demonstrate knowledge.

Achievement test

Test that measures competency in a particular area of knowledge or skill; measures mastery or acquisition of skills.

Adapted Physical

Education (APE)

Specially designed physical education program, using accommodations designed to fit the needs of students who require developmental or corrective instruction in PE. Adaptive PE can consist of diversified programs of developmental activities, games, sports, and rhythms suited to the interests, capabilities and needs of students with disabilities who may not successfully engage in a regular physical education program.

Adaptive Behavior

The ability of an individual to meet the standards of personal independence as well as social responsibility appropriate for his or her chronological age and cultural group.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

Judges employed by the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) who conduct special education due process hearings. They are neutral fact-finders, independent of the agencies whose attorneys appear before them.


A person who represents and provides support to children with disabilities and/or their parents.

Age of Majority

Age 18, the age at which special education parental rights and procedural safeguards transfer from the parent to their child with a disability unless conservatorship is made. This must be addressed by the IEP team prior to age 18.

Alternate Assessment

A test designed for the small number of students with severe disabilities who cannot participate in the regular state standardized testing and reporting system. It is a means of including students with the most significant disabilities in the state’s assessment and accountability program (i.e. WA-AIM).


The art of walking without assistance from others. It may include the use of crutches, canes and other mechanical aids.


Able to walk independently.


A change, revision or addition. Typically in reference to an IEP.

American Sign Language (ASL)

American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual/gestural language used by people who are deaf in the United States and Canada. It uses semantic, syntactic, morphological, and phonological rules that are distinct from English.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990

In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people who have disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life. This law addresses access to public and private buildings and programs.

Annual Goals


Statements describing the anticipated growth of a student’s skill and knowledge written into a student’s yearly Individualized Education Program (IEP). Annual goals are a required component of an IEP. Goals are written for the individual student and can be for a maximum of one year.


A condition, event, or object that precedes a behavior.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Application of learning principles derived from operant conditioning used to increase or decrease specific behaviors.


Systematic method of obtaining information from tests or other sources. Assessment procedures are used to determine a child’s eligibility and identify the child’s strengths and needed services. Assessments are also used in classroom instruction to monitor progress.

Assistive Technology

Any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

A disorder characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.


A related service that includes identification, determination of hearing loss, and referral for habilitation of hearing.


A professional who studies the science of hearing and provides education and treatment for persons with hearing loss.


A special education eligibility category defined as a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engaging in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

A developmental disorder characterized by abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication; restricted repertoire of activities and interests; and/or repetitive patterns of behavior.

Basic skills

Skills in subjects like reading, writing, spelling, and mathematics.

Behavior Disorder (BD) See emotional behavioral disability, below.
Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP)

A plan incorporated into a student’s IEP that describes the pattern of behavior that impedes the student’s learning or that of others; the conditions or circumstances that contribute to that pattern of behavior; consistent positive behavioral interventions and supports to reduce the pattern of behavior; and the skills that will be taught and monitored as alternatives to the challenging pattern of behavior.

Behavior Modification

Techniques used to change behavior by applying both educational and psychological interventions.


An impairment in which an individual may have some light or form perception or be totally without sight when a child relies basically on senses other than vision as a major channel for learning.

Child Find

This provision of the IDEA requires school districts to identify, locate, and evaluate children who have a disability, regardless of severity, and are in need of special education.

Cognitive Skills

Processes involved in thinking, knowing; analytical or logical:

  • Cognition – Comprehension
  • Memory – Retention and recall of information
  • Convergent thinking – Bringing together of known facts
  • Divergent thinking – Use of knowledge in new ways (creative thinking)
  • Evaluation – Critical thinking

Assurance that no information contained in school records be released without parental permission, except as provided by law.



Permission from the parent/student or a student 18 or older as required by law for assessment, release of records, and implementation of a special education program developed by an IEP team.

Common Core State Standards

A shared set of evidence-based national K-12 learning standards developed through a state-led initiative. Common Core is designed to have fewer, simplified standards. They were created by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Loss of hearing due to failure of sounds waves to reach the inner ear through the normal air conduction channels of the outer and middle ear.

Continuum of services

The range of services which must be available to the students of a school district so that they may be served in the least restrictive environment.

Continuous Reinforcement

A schedule by which reinforcement is given after each response; a 1:1 relationship between response and reinforcement.

Counseling Services

A related service that can includes services provided by social workers, psychologists, student counselors, or other qualified personnel.

Criterion-Referenced Testing (or measurements)

Measures individual performance compared to an acceptable standard (criterion) – such as "can correctly name letters of the alphabet" – not to the performance of others as in norm-referenced testing.


The subject matter that is to be learned, usually described in terms of scope and sequence.

Curriculum Based Assessment (CBA)

A method of evaluating student performance by directly and frequently collecting data on the stdent’s academic progress.

Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM)

A type of progress monitoring conducted on a regular basis to assess student performance throughout an entire year's curriculum; teachers can use CBM to evaluate not only student progress but also the effectiveness of their instructional methods.



A special education eligibility category that means concomitant
[simultaneous] hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.



A special education eligibility category that means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the student is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects a student's educational performance.

Department of Vocational Rehabilitation

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) provides employment services and counseling to individuals with disabilities who want to work but experience barriers to work because of a physical, sensory, and/or mental disability. A DVR counselor works with each person to develop a customized plan of services designed to help them reach their employment goal. Learn more about the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Developmental Delay

A special education eligibility category for children from ages three through nine who are experiencing a delay in one or more of the following areas: physical development; cognitive development; communication development; social or emotional development; or adaptive [behavioral] development.

The term is also applied to children from birth to three years who meet the eligibility criteria established by the state under IDEA Part C and are in need of early intervention services.

Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) The Developmental Disabilities Administration strives to develop and implement public policies that will promote individual worth, self-respect, and dignity such that each individual is valued as a contributing member of the community.
Differential Reinforcement

A procedure in which any behavior except the targeted inappropriate response is reinforced; typically, this results in a reduction of the inappropriate behavior.

Differentiated Curriculum

The flexible application of curriculum targets to ensure content mastery, in-depth and independent learning, and the exploration of issues and themes.

Differentiated Instruction An approach whereby teachers adjust their curriculum and instruction to maximize the learning of all students: average learners, English Language Learners, struggling students, students with learning disabilities, and gifted and talented students; not a single strategy

but rather a framework that teachers can use to implement a variety of strategies, many of which are evidence-based.

Disability Under Section 504 and the ADA, a person with a disability is defined as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially impacts one or more major life activities; an individual who has a record of having such impairment; or an individual who is regarded as having such an impairment.

Under the IDEA, a child with a disability is a student who has been evaluated and determined to need special education because of having a disability in one of the IDEA’s defined eligibility categories.

NOTE: There are significant differences in the definitions of disability between IDEA and Section 504.


Refers to being out of proportion. Disproportionate representation is the determination that students in special education are over – or under-represented based on race/ethnicity overall or by disability.

Due Process Hearing

A due process hearing is a formal, legal proceeding conducted by an administrative law judge (ALJ). Parents and districts have a right to present and question witnesses, and to submit or challenge documents regarding the issues.

A written request for a due process hearing is made by a parent or district relating to issues about the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or provision of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to a student. Requests must be made within—and allege violations that occurred not more than—two years before the date you knew or should have known about the allegation. Only an administrative law judge may allow an exception to the two-year timeframe. See OSPI Link Request a Due Process Hearing.


Dysarthria is a term used to describe muscle weakness affecting speech production.


Dyscalculia is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty in mathematical performance, without a concurrent impairment in general mental function. It is a specific learning disability. Individuals with this type of Learning Disability may have poor comprehension of math symbols, struggle with memorizing and organizing numbers, have difficulty telling time, or have trouble with counting.


Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by an inability to write coherently. It is a specific learning disability. Specifically, the disorder causes a person's writing to be distorted or incorrect. In children, the disorder generally emerges when they are first introduced to writing. They make inappropriately sized and spaced letters, or write incorrect or misspelled words, despite thorough instruction. Children with the disorder may have other learning disabilities.


Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by challenges in spelling and decoding. These challenges typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language, and are often unanticipated in relation to other cognitive abilities.


Dyspraxia is a condition characterized by a difficulty with planning and performing coordinated movements although there is no apparent damage to muscles.

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Early identification and special education services provided to children ages three to five.

Early Intervention

Programs for developmentally delayed infants and toddlers through age 5.

Education Records

All records that are directly related to a student and maintained by an educational agency or institution.

Emotional Behavioral Disability

A special education eligibility category that means a condition where a student exhibits one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:

(a) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.

(b) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

(c) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

(d) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

(e) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.

Environmental Factors

Variables that affect how children learn in school such as poverty, racial discrimination, lead exposure, lack of access to health care, and family stress.


Procedures under the IDEA and Section 504 to determine whether a student has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education, related services, or accommodations that the student needs.

Executive Functions

The mental processes that control and coordinate activities related to learning, including processing information, retaining and recalling information, organizing materials and time, and using effective learning and study strategies.

Expressive Language

Ability to use language to communicate and express oneself.

Extended School Year

ESY is special education and related services provided to students beyond the regular 180 day school year to maintain a student's learned skills / behavior. It does not include the teaching of new skills / behaviors. The IEP team decides whether or not the student requires ESY services and the location of these services.


A procedure in which reinforcement for a previously reinforced behavior is withheld; if the actual reinforcers that are maintaining the behavior are identified and withheld, the behavior will gradually decrease in frequency until it no longer, or seldom, occurs.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Federal law that protects the privacy of education records. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student, or former student, who has reached the age of 18 or is attending any school beyond the high school level. Students and former students to whom the rights have transferred are called eligible students.

Fine-Motor Coordination Pertains to usage of small muscle groups (writing, cutting).
Flexible Grouping

A fluid or dynamic method of grouping students. Rather than being set, group membership changes to meet the different needs of the students.

Fluctuating Hearing Loss

Hearing loss that varies from day to day.


The ability to read a text accurately with appropriate rate, expression, and phrasing.

FM System

An assistive listening device that brings sound to a student's ears so that he or she can hear better. An FM system allows teachers to talk into a microphone and transmit the sound of their voices to a student. An FM system consists of three parts: a microphone, a receiver, and a transmitter

Formal Assessment

Using published, standardized tests usually for measuring characteristics, such as "intelligence" or "achievement;" tests which have a standard set of directions for their use and interpretation.

Formative Assessment

A system of providing continual feedback about students' preconceptions and performances to both learners and instructors; an ongoing evaluation of student learning.

Free Appropriate Public Education

Under the IDEA, FAPE means special education and related services that are provided to students with disabilities at public expense and under public supervision and direction at no cost to the student’s parents; meet the standards of the IDEA and OSPI; include an appropriate preschool, elementary, or secondary education; and are provided in conformity with a procedurally compliant IEP.

Under Section 504, FAPE means regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet the needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met, and are developed in accordance with Section 504’s procedures.

Full Inclusion

An interpretation of the least-restrictive environment concept that all students with disabilities should receive their instruction in the general education classroom; the act of facilitating the full participation of an individual in an activity, lesson, of course of study.

Functional Academics

The application of life skills as a means for teaching academic tasks; this is the core of many instructional programs for students with more significant disabilities.

Functional Assessment

An assessment method that may be used to determine special education eligibility, the nature of the needed instructional program, and long-term goals for individuals with severe disabilities; functional assessments focus on independent living and are conducted in natural settings.

Functional Behavioral Analysis

An evaluation process to understand the purpose, motivation, and correlates of challenging behavior(s) in order to develop a positive and appropriate Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP), instructional supports and services.

Functional Curriculum

A curriculum focused on practical life skills and usually taught in community-based settings with concrete materials that are a regular part of everyday life. The purpose of this type of instruction is to maximize the student's generalization to real life use of his/her skills.

General Curriculum

Curriculum adopted by LEA for all children from preschool through high school.

General Education

The setting where instruction in the general curriculum routinely takes place for students without disabilities.


The transfer of learned information from particular instances to other environments, people, times, and events.


Used to describe individuals with high levels of intelligence, outstanding abilities, and the capacity for high performance.

Goals and Objectives

Statements describing the anticipated growth of a student’s skill and knowledge written into a student’s yearly Individualized Education Program (IEP). Annual goals are a required component of an IEP. Goals are written for the individual student and can be for a maximum of one year. Objectives have a shorter term and are intended to assist parents in monitoring progress toward an annual goal.

Gross motor

Functions which require large muscle movements. For example, walking or jumping are gross motor skills.

Gross-Motor Coordination

Pertains to usage of large muscle groups (jumping, running).

  • Bilateral – Ability to move both sides of the body at the same time (jumping).
  • Unilateral – Ability to move one side of the body without moving the other (hopping).
  • Cross lateral (cross pattern) – Ability to move different parts of the opposite sides of the body together or in different sequences (e.g., skipping, which is a highly integrated movement).
Guardian ad litem

A person appointed by a court to represent the rights of a minor.


The legal authority for one person to make decisions for another.

Guidance Team (GT)

The Guidance Team is a multidisciplinary team consisting of a group of educational professionals and the parent or guardian of the student. The Guidance Team reviews students of concern and determines if a student should be evaluated and/or determines possible strategies and interventions to meet the student’s individual needs.

Who attends Guidance Team? The team generally consists of the principal, speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, school psychologist, special education teacher, school counselor, Safety Net teacher, general education teacher, and the student’s parents. This may seem like a lot of people, but it is important that the student’s needs and strengths are looked at from all different angles and given consideration from all areas of expertise in order to come up with the best plan moving forward.

Teachers, parents, and other staff members can bring a student of concern to Guidance Team. The goal of Guidance Team is to come up with a plan on how to best support the student moving forward. Depending on the child, this may mean monitoring the student and following up as needed, recommending further intervention, or seeking parent permission for a Section 504 or Special Education evaluation.

The Guidance Team process is part of the district’s federally mandated “Child Find” activities. Child Find is the district’s responsibility to locate, identify, and evaluate children with disabilities to ensure that they receive services to which they are entitled. Children and youth, ages birth to 21, living in the Lake Washington School District, who are suspected of having a disability may be referred for a possible evaluation to determine if they are eligible for special education services. A written referral to the Guidance team may come from the child’s parents, teachers, any school personnel, private evaluators, pediatrician or anyone who has knowledge about the child’s suspected disability or needs.


Hearing loss significant enough to adversely affect education and communication but sufficient, with the assistance of a hearing aid, to comprehend others' speech and oral communication.

Hearing Aid

An electronic device worn by those with hearing loss to amplify received sounds.

Hearing Impairment

An eligibility category under the IDEA that means permanent or fluctuating impairment in hearing that adversely affects educational performance but is not included in the eligibility category of deafness. The term also refers to any degree of hearing loss—either permanent of fluctuating, mild or profound—that adversely affects an individual's education and that requires special training or adaptations.

Home/Hospital Instruction

Services provided on a temporary basis in the home or hospital, based on a physician’s referral, for students with verified medical conditions which prevent them from attending school.


Term used to describe instruction delivered primarily in a student's home rather than in a school or center.

Homogenous Grouping

To place students of similar abilities together into groups; can be used by teachers to provide more intensive instruction to students who are working at a similar level and who can benefit from instruction that is designed for their specific learning needs.

IEP Meeting

A gathering required at least annually under IDEA in which an IEP is developed for a student receiving special education.

IEP Team

The individuals who attend IEP meetings and develop the IEP for a student. The legally required members of the IEP are: parents; student, when appropriate; general education teacher and special education teacher both responsible for implementing the IEP; school district representative who is qualified to provide/supervise provision of specially designed instruction, and knowledgeable about the general curriculum and the resources of the district; individual who is qualified to interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results; other individuals with specific expertise or knowledge of the student.


Practice of educating children with special needs in regular education classrooms in neighborhood schools. It is a term used to describe services that place students with disabilities in general education classrooms with appropriate support services. Students may receive instruction from both a general education teacher and a special education teacher.

Independent Educational Evaluation

An evaluation of a student by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district. Parents have the right to obtain an IEE at public expense if they disagree with the results of an evaluation conducted by the school district. Public expense means the school district pays for the full cost of the evaluation or provides it at no cost to the parent. If parents request an IEE at public expense, the district must provide parents with information about how to obtain an IEE and the criteria applicable to IEEs. The district must provide the requested IEE without unnecessary delay, or request a due process hearing to show that the district’s evaluation is appropriate. Any IEE obtained by the parents, whether or not at public expense, must be considered by the IEP team.

Individualized Education Program

The annual written statement of an educational program developed for a student eligible for special education, describing the unique educational needs of the student and the manner in which those educational needs will be met.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)

A written plan for providing early intervention services to an eligible child from birth to three years of age. The plan must be developed jointly by the family and appropriately qualified personnel involved in the early intervention. The plan must be based on the multidisciplinary evaluation and assessment of the child and include the services necessary to enhance the development of the child and family’s capacity to meet the child’s special needs.

Individualized Services Plan (ISP)

Plan that describes the special education and/or related services that an LEA will provide to an eligible student who is voluntarily enrolled by his/her parent(s) in a private school setting. 

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Federal funding law governing how states and public agencies provide education to students eligible for special education. IDEA was first enacted in 1975 as the Education for all Handicapped Children Act, and has been periodically reauthorized.

Informal Assessment

Using procedures such as classroom observations, interviewing or teacher-made tests which have not usually been tried out with large groups of people, and which do not necessarily have a standard set of instructions for their use and interpretation.

Informed Consent

In accordance with 34 Code of Federal Regulations and Education Code, informed consent occurs when:

  1. The parent has been fully informed of all information relevant to the activity for which consent is sought, in his/her primary language or other mode of communication;
  2. The parent understands and agrees in writing to the carrying out of the activity for which his/her part and may be revoked at any time.
Instructional Support

Element added to an instructional routine in order to accommodate the different learning needs of students.

Instructional Technology

Any device or instrument that exists in a classroom and that teachers use for the purpose of day-to-day instruction. When necessary for the provision of FAPE, such devices may be included in an individual student’s IEP as assistive technology.

Intellectual Disability

A student who has significantly below average general intellectual functioning and deficits in adaptive behavior, which manifested during the developmental period, and adversely affects the student’s educational performance.

Intelligence Test

A standardized series of questions and/or tasks designed to measure mental abilities – how a person thinks, reasons, solves problems, remembers and learns new information. Many intelligence tests rely heavily on the understanding of spoken language. Intelligence tests are given under controlled conditions involving standard instructions and time limits.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

The score obtained on a test of mental ability; it is usually found by relating a person's test score to his or her age.

Intensive Intervention

Additional small-group instruction designed to support and reinforce classroom skills that is characterized by increased intensity and individualization of instruction based on data.

Interim Alternative Educational Setting

A educational setting, other than the student's current placement, to which a student may be removed as a result of certain behaviors. The services offered in an IAES are selected by the IEP team.


A professional who signs, gestures and/or fingerspells a speaker’s message as it is spoken to enable individuals who are hearing impaired to understand spoken language, and who speaks for a person using sign language to be heard.


Action taken to correct, remediate, or prevent identified or potential educational, medical, or developmental problems.

Joint Attention Deficit

A deficiency or inability to mutually interact or to share interest in events or objects.

Learning Disability

See Specific Learning Disability, below.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The concept that each child with a disability is to be provided opportunities to be educated with nondisabled peers and in a setting which promotes interaction with the general school population and classmates who are typically developing to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of both. LRE is determined by the IEP team on an individual student basis.

Limited English Proficiency (LEP)

Children whose primary language is other than English.

Local Educational Agency

A local public school district.

Low Incidence Disability

A severe disability with an expected incidence rate of less than 1 percent of the total K-12 statewide enrollment; includes hearing impairments, visual impairments and severe orthopedic impairments (EC 56026.5).


A lay term that does not appear in the IDEA but is commonly used to refer to the practice of placing special needs children in regular classrooms for at least a part of the children’s educational program. See Least Restrictive Environment and Inclusion, above.

Manifestation Determination Review

Meeting held to determine whether behavior that prompted the removal of a student from his or her placement is a manifestation of the student’s disability. A manifestation determination review must be held within 10 school days of any removal that constitutes a change in placement. The IEP team must review all relevant information in the student's file to determine if the conduct in question was caused by or directly and substantially related to the child's disability or if the conduct was a direct result of the school district's failure to implement the child's IEP.

Mastery Criteria/Mastery Level

The cutoff score on a criterion-referenced test; the condition for mastery of an IEP goal.


A conflict resolution process that can be used to resolve special education issues. Mediation is entered into prior to holding a due process hearing as an intervening, informal process conducted in a non-adversarial atmosphere that allows the parties to create their own solutions rather than having one imposed upon them through the judicial process.

Medical Services

Medical services for diagnostic and evaluative purposes may be a related service under the IDEA.


The ability to travel safely and efficiently from one location to another, independently or with the use of assistive devices due to visual or motor impairments; a topic of instruction for students with severe visual problem.

Modality A way of acquiring sensation; visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory are the commonsense modalities.

A service or support that allows a student to access the general education curriculum by fundamentally altering the content or curricular expectations; a change in curriculum or instruction that substantially alters the requirements of the class or its content standards or benchmarks. May include changes in instructional level, content, performance criteria, changes in test form or format, or alternate assessments.

Multidisciplinary Team

A group including parents and professionals with different areas of expertise who come together for the purpose of discussing an individual child's educational program.

Multiple Disabilities

A special education eligibility category that means concomitant [simultaneous] impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-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-Tiered System of Supports

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is defined as a whole-school, data-driven, prevention-based framework for improving learning outcomes for EVERY student through a layered continuum of evidence-based practices and systems.

Native Language

The language a person has spoken from birth or speaks the best.

Non-Public Agency

A private elementary or secondary school approved by OSPI where students eligible for special education may be placed if an appropriate placement is not available within the district’s schools.

Non-Public School

Public schools are required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to eligible special education students, age 3–21. If a student’s special education needs cannot be met by their resident district, the district may contract with an approved Non-Public Agency (NPA). The NPA provides the student’s special education and related services that are determined through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process.

Nonverbal Learning Disorder

Nonverbal learning disorder is a neurologically based developmental disability. Characterized by a significant discrepancy between strong verbal skills and weaker motor, visual-spatial, and social skills.


An average, common, or standard performance under specified conditions, e.g., the average achievement test score of nine-year-old children or the average birth weight of male children.

Occupational Therapist

A professional who provides therapy services to support engagement in meaningful activities of daily life such as self-care skills, education, recreation, work or social interaction.

Occupational Therapy

A therapy or treatment provided by an occupational therapist that helps an individual develop mental or physical skills that will aid in daily living; it focuses on the use of hands and fingers, coordination of movement, sensory integration, and self-help skills such as dressing, eating with a fork and spoon, etc. May be provided as a special education related service.

Office for Civil Rights

An agency of the federal government's executive branch within the Department of Education. The Office for Civil Rights enforces several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, including Section 504.

Office of Administrative Hearings

The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) is a Washington state agency that conducts administrative hearings for many state agencies, including OSPI. Once OAH receives your request they assign it to an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will send written confirmation of receipt of the request to both parties. The ALJ is in charge of the hearing process.

Once OAH receives your request they assign it to an ALJ. The ALJ will send written confirmation of receipt of the request to both parties. The ALJ is in charge of the hearing process.

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)

An agency of the federal government’s executive branch within the Department of Education (DOE).

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

A component of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) in the U.S. Department of Education. OSEP focuses on the free appropriate public education of children and youth with disabilities from birth through age 21.

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

Washington State government agency that oversees public education.

Oral Motor

Movement involving the mouth.


Individuals’ use of their senses to establish their position and relationship to objects in the environment.

Orientation and Mobility

Services provided by qualified personnel to teach students with a visual impairment systematic techniques for planning routes and movements from place to place in the school, home and/or community.

Orthopedic Impairment

A special education eligibility category that means 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 Impairment

A special education eligibility category that means having limited strength, vitality and alertness, resulting in limited alertness that is due to chronic or acute health problems (such as asthma, attention deficit disorder, epilepsy, heart condition, hemophilia, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever or sickle cell anemia) and adversely affects a student’s educational performance.


Paralysis of the legs and lower part of the body.


Classified employee who assists in the delivery of special education and related services under the supervision of a certificated teacher who is responsible for the overall management of the program area, including the design, implementation, and evaluation of instructional programs and the individual’s progress, or who delivers other direct services to individuals and/or their parents.


Means a biological or adoptive parent unless the biological or adoptive parent does not have legal authority to make educational decisions for the child, a guardian generally authorized to act as the child’s parent or authorized to make educational decisions for the child, an individual acting in the place of a biological or adoptive parent, including a grandparent, stepparent, or other relative with whom the child lives, or an individual who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare, a surrogate parent, a foster parent if the authority of the biological or adoptive parent to make educational decisions on the child’s behalf has been specifically limited by court order.

Parent Advisory Committee

Group of parents and district staff who work on special needs issues and projects.

Parent Teacher Student Association/Parent Teacher Association

Advocacy organization that promotes the improvement of health, welfare and education of children.


Pedagogy describes activities that impart knowledge. The word is sometimes used to describe the profession of teaching.

Perceptual Motor Development

Development of children’s ability to move different parts of their bodies as they get involved with objects and people they perceive through visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic channels. Requires a combination of motor and cognitive skills.

Performance Deficit

Occurs when an individual has the ability to engage in a desired behavior, but fails to do so when specific conditions are present.


The tendency for one to persist in a specific act or behavior after it is no longer appropriate.

Person-First Language

Person first language refers to a manner of speaking which refers to the individual or person first, then the disability. For instance, “child with autism” instead of “autistic child.”


The smallest unit of sound that still conveys meaning, such as the m of mat and the b of bat.

Phonemic Awareness

An understanding of phonemes.


A method of teaching reading and spelling that trains beginners to associate letters with their sound values—the way words sound when spoken.

Physical Therapy

Therapy or treatment provided by a physical therapist that helps improve the use of bones, muscles, joints, and/or nerves. May be a related service for students who qualify for special education services.

Picture Exchange Communication System

A technique used to communicate with individuals who are nonverbal, particularly children with autism, in which pictures are used to make requests. Children with autism often handle visual/graphic information more easily than auditory/ verbal information, although many children with autism may prefer use of peripheral vision to central vision.


The educational program and services provided to a student eligible for special education.

Positive Behavioral Interventions

Strategies and instruction that can be implemented in a systematic manner in order to provide alternatives for challenging behaviors, reinforce desired behaviors, and eliminate or reduce the frequency of challenging behaviors.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

A three-tiered framework (i.e., primary, secondary, tertiary) that provides a continuum of supports and services designed to promote appropriate behaviors and to prevent and address challenging behaviors.

Positive Reinforcement

Means by which teachers can increase the probability that a behavior will reoccur in the future; positive reinforcement provides something that is pleasant.


The study within psycholinguistics of how people employ language in social situations; emphasizes the functional use of language, rather than its mechanics.

Preschool Special Education

An educational program that is designed to meet the unique developmental needs of an individual child with a disability who is three, four, or five years of age. It is a child-focused educational effort.

Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance

A statement in the IEP of the child's current baseline of strengths and needs as measured by formal and informal evaluations.

Pre-teaching Vocabulary Terms

A method of preparing students for unfamiliar words they will encounter in text by providing them with the pronunciation, definition, and examples of the words' use.

Prior Written Notice (PWN)

A written notice that must be given to the parents of a child with a disability a reasonable time before a LEA (a) Proposes to initiate or change the identification, evaluation or educational placement of the child or the provision of FAPE to the child; or (b) Refuses to initiate or change the identification, evaluation or educational placement of a child or the provision of FAPE to the child.

Private School

A nonpublic, nonprofit school approved by the state conducting a program of kindergarten and at least grade 1, or any combination of grades 1-12.

Procedural Safeguards

Document containing a full explanation of the rights available to parents/students under the IDEA that must be provided to parents:

• At least once every school year.
• When a student is referred for evaluation.
• The first time a parent files a citizen complaint in a school year.
• The first time a parent requests a due process hearing in a school year.
• When a decision is made to remove a student for more than ten school days in a year as part of a disciplinary action, and that removal constitutes a change of placement.
• Upon request

Progress Monitoring

A scientifically based practice used to assess students' academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction; can be implemented with individual students or an entire class.


An artificial body part (e.g., teeth, an arm) designed to replace, either partially or completely, a part of the body.

Proximity Control

In classroom behavior management, a strategy on the part of an instructor to reduce the distance between herself and a student to help the student improve behavior and focus.

Psychological Services

Related service; includes administering psychological and educational tests, interpreting test results, interpreting child behavior related to learning.


A specialist in the field of psychology who usually has a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in psychology.


Pertaining to the motor effects of psychological processes. Psychomotor tests are tests of motor skill which depend upon sensory or perceptual motor coordination.

Psychosocial Development

The psychological development of a person in relation to his or her social environment.

Public Law 94-142

The first federal special education law, passed by Congress in 1975 as the Education of All Handicapped Children Act and later updated as IDEA.

Pull-out Program

Educational program in which instruction and related services are delivered to students with disabilities outside the general education classroom.

Push-in Program

Educational program in which instruction and related services are delivered to students with disabilities within the general education classroom.

Reading Comprehension

The ability to understand written text.

Receptive Language Receiving and understanding spoken or written communication. The receptive language skills are listening and reading.

Related service; includes therapeutic recreation services, recreation programs, and leisure education.


Notice to a school district that a child may be in need of special education.


The amount of loss of skills a child experiences over an instructional break (primarily summer vacation) and the amount of time it takes him/her to recover the lost skills. Relevant to the determination of whether a student needs ESY services.

Rehabilitation Counseling Services

Related service; includes career development, preparation for employment, and vocational rehabilitation services.


Applying consequences designed to strengthen a particular behavior.


Any stimulus event that can be used to strengthen a behavior it follows.

Related Services

Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.


The extent to which a test provides precise or accurate measures.


Process by which an individual receives instruction and practice in skills that are weak or nonexistent in an effort to develop/strengthen these skills.

Replacement Behavior

The behavior a student is taught to replace a problem or target behavior.

Resolution Meeting

A meeting between parents and a school district where parties attempt to resolve a dispute prior to proceeding to a due process hearing.


A temporary break from providing care for a child with a disability.


An observable action resulting from a stimulus.

Response to Intervention

A multi-tiered method for delivering instruction to learners through increasingly intensive and individualized interventions.


A framework that students can follow to guide them through a process. For example, a set of questions that can be generalized to activities that reflect similar processes.

Scaffolding Questions

The questions that make the learner think critically about the means to solve a problem used in inquiry-based instruction.

School Day

A day when children attend school for instructional purposes.

School Health Services

Services provided by a qualified school nurse or other qualified person; can be a related service under the IDEA.

School Psychologist A person trained to give psychological tests, interpret results and suggest appropriate educational approaches to learning or behavioral problems.

Procedure in which groups of children are examined or tested in an effort to identify those most likely to have a disability; the first step in the assessment process that helps identify the need for further testing; the process of looking at a child’s development to determine if there are any areas of concern and whether the student should be referred for in-depth evaluation.

Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights statute designed to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in programs that receive federal funding. Specific to education, Section 504 provides for accommodations and related services for students with disabilities.


Signing Exact English


Occurs when there are excessive electrical discharges released in some nerve cells of the brain. The brain loses control over muscles, consciousness, senses, and thoughts.

Selective Mutism

A form of communication disorder in which an individual, usually a child, is unable to speak in certain situations despite the ability to do so in others.


The act of promoting or speaking up for oneself and one's own best interests.

Self-Contained Class

A classroom, usually located within a regular public school building, that exists only for students with exceptional learning needs.


A set of behaviors that includes decision-making, self-regulation, goal setting, problem-solving, and self-advocacy; a curriculum target for many students with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual disabilities.

Self-Injurious Behavior

Behavior that results in self-inflicted injuries (e.g., intentionally hitting one's head with or against an object, poking oneself in the eye).


A person's ability to regulate his or her own behavior.

Self-Regulation Strategy

An instructional strategy designed to help students to select, monitor, and use learning strategies.


In self-regulation strategy, a method by which students reinforce their own behavior by giving themselves a reward upon the completion of a task or assignment.


Pertaining to the meaning and interpretation of words and phrases.

Sensory Integration Disorder

An inability to process information received through the senses, which can cause problems with learning, development, and behavior. Also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction or Sensory Processing Disorder.

Sensory Integration Treatment

A technique of occupational therapy that provides playful, meaningful activities that enhance an individual’s sensory intake and lead to increased adaptive functioning in daily life.

Sensory Perception

The direct awareness or acquaintance through the senses.

Sensory Processing

The ability to take in information through the senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing), to put it together with information, memories, and knowledge stored in the brain, and to make a meaningful response.


A term applied to the combination of the input of sensations and the output of motor activity.

Sensory-Motor Stage

First stage in Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, in which children use physical senses and motor capacities to interact with and learn about the environment.


Mentally categorizing and arranging items, facts, or ideas according to various dimensions; a thinking skill.

Setting Demands

The behavioral requirements, both obvious and subtle, that characterize a given environment.

Setting Events

Environmental events that set the occasion for the performance of an action. Examples are the seating arrangement of a classroom, prior social interactions such as fighting on the bus on the way to school, and physical conditions of the student such as illness, fatigue, or allergies.

Short-Term Objectives

See Goals and Objectives, above. IEP goals must have at least one short-term objective if the student is participating in an alternative state assessment.

Sign-Language Transliterators

Trained professionals who facilitate voice-to-sign and sign-to-voice communication for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Significant Disproportionality

Is the determination that a LEA has significant over-representation based on race and ethnicity overall, by disability, by placement in particular educational settings or by disciplinary actions.

Skill Deficit

Skill Deficit refers to a lack of skills needed to successfully perform an action. When referring to a social skill deficit, it refers to a lack of skills needed to interact with others in a socially acceptable manner.


An instructional approach that focuses on the development of the student’s specific skills in an area of study.

Social Skills Training

Using direct instruction to teach students appropriate social behaviors that increase the individual's social competency and acceptance.


A condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted.

Special Education

Specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of an eligible student, including instruction conducted in schools, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings.

Specially Designed Instruction

Appropriate instructional adaptations that meet the needs of eligible students.

Specific Learning Disability

Means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may have manifested itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. The basic psychological processes include attention, visual processing, auditory processing, sensory-motor skills, cognitive abilities including association, conceptualization and expression.

Speech Language Impairment

When a student has a language or speech disorder that meets one or more of the following: articulation disorder, abnormal voice, fluency disorder, language disorder (receptive or expressive) that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.

Speech Language Pathologist

A trained therapist who provides treatment to help a person develop or improve articulation, communication skills, and oral-motor skills. A Speech Language Pathologist also helps children with speech errors and/or those with difficulties in language patterns.

Speech Pathology

The study and treatment of all aspects of functional and organic speech defects and disorders.

Speech/language Therapy

Therapy or treatment by a speech therapist to improve speech and/or language, communication, or oral-motor skills.

Speech-Language Pathology Services

Therapy that includes identification and diagnosis of speech or language impairments, speech or language therapy, counseling and guidance.

Standard Deviation

A quantity calculated to show the level of variation from the average within a group.

Standard scores

In connection with norm-referenced tests, scores resulting from statistical operations on raw scores; converted test scores that equalize those from different tests as a means of comparison.

Standardized Test

Norm-referenced test that compares child’s performance with the performance of a large group of similar children (usually children who are the same age or grade).

State Education Agency

State agency with oversight of public education. In Washington State, this is the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Statewide and Districtwide Assessments

Part of the national education reform movement that includes the annual achievement testing of all schoolchildren for the purpose of increasing school accountability.

Stay Put

The IDEA provision that permits a student to remain in his or her current placement while a request for due process hearing is being resolved.

Stereotypic Behaviors

Nonproductive motor behaviors (such as twirling, flapping hands, rocking) that an individual repeats at a high rate; commonly observed in youngsters with autistic spectrum disorders.


Any condition or input that evokes a response from an individual.

Stimulus Control

Occurs when a student behaves one way in the presence of a specific stimuli, and another way in its absence.

Successive Approximation

A procedure used to teach a behavior. The target behavior is reinforced for successively closer approximations to the desired behavior.

Summative Assessment

An evaluation administered to measure student learning outcomes, typically at the end of a unit or chapter. Often used to evaluate whether a student has mastered the content or skill.


The position of lying on one’s back.

Supplementary Aids and Services

Aids, services and other supports that are provided in general education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with typically developing peers to the maximum extent appropriate. These aids and services must be noted on the IEP.

Supported Employment

An approach to job training whereby students with disabilities are placed in paying jobs for which they receive significant assistance and support.

Surrogate Parent

An individual trained and appointed to exercise special education rights on behalf of children with disabilities when no parent can be identified.

Tactile Defensiveness

An abnormal sensitivity to touch indicated by avoidance or rejection of touching and handling. A child who has tactile defensiveness may resist touching or being touched by something that is wet, that has an unusual texture, or that has an unfamiliar temperature or pressure.

Target Behavior

A behavior identified for change that is observable and measurable, defined so that two persons can agree as to its occurrence. This behavior has been identified by professionals and family as being in need of instruction.

Target Objective

The educational goal a teacher has set for the students to work toward. What a teacher intends the students to learn by the end of the instructional period.

Targeted Instruction

Instructional strategy in which a teacher offers a standard, validated instructional program to students in a group, typically consisting of no more than five students; may be implemented by general education teachers, paraprofessionals, reading specialists, or other qualified individuals.

Task Analysis

Process of breaking down problems and tasks into smaller, sequenced components. That includes the technique of carefully examining a particular task to discover the elements that comprise it and the processes required to perform it.

Three-year Reevaluation

Triennial process, conducted by a group of qualified professionals to reassess the needs of students with disabilities.

Time Delay

An instructional procedure in which a student is given a set period of time (e.g., 20 seconds) in which to answer to a question, read a sight word, or spell a word, after which the correct answer is given.

Time of Onset

The moment in time during which a disability first occurs.

Token economy

In behavior management, a commonly used method whereby students earn tokens or points for appropriate behavior, which they can exchange for a tangible item or a special activity.

Token Reinforcement

Behavioral intervention that uses a token or tangible item as a reward.

Tonic-Clonic Seizures

Seizures characterized by a stiff (tonic) phase in which the muscles become rigid, followed by a jerking (clonic) phase in which the arms and legs snap; formerly referred to as grand mal seizures.

Total Immersion

A method of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) students in the regular classroom while modifying assignments to help foster language acquisition.


A technique used by individuals with visual impairments in which one hand maintains contact with the environment in order to establish a straight line of travel or to locate specific objectives along an environmental line.


The movement from one service, location or program to another. Young children with disabilities transition at age three from early intervention to preschool special education services or to other community settings and services (early intervention and special education). Adolescents transition from school to adult services.

Transition Services

Transition services are a coordinated set of activities for a student, designed within an outcome-oriented process, which promotes movement from school to post-school activities. The coordinated set of activities is based upon the individual student’s needs, preference, and interests. The process begins at 16 years or younger and includes the student, family, education personnel, and vocational and adult service providers.


A related service included in a student’s IEP when it is necessary to enable the student to benefit from special education.

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. Traumatic brain injury 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. Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children

The Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) model is a specially designed, highly structured, classroom program that specifically adapts the activities and environment of the classroom to mitigate those factors that interfere with learning. It supports the development of appropriate behavior and communication patterns and teaches basic academic skills.

Twice-Exceptional Student

Term used to describe a student who both has a disability and who is gifted.

Universal Design

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, without the need for additional adaptation or specialized design. This includes environmental and equipment changes that allow access to space and material.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL

UDL focuses on planning instruction in such a way to meet the varied needs of students at the point of first best instruction, thereby reducing the amount of follow-up and alternative instruction necessary.

Universal Infant Screening

The process of testing all newborns to determine whether they have or are at risk for a disability; specific term associated with newborn screening for hearing loss.

Validity The extent to which a test really measures what it is intended to measure.
Verbal Expression

Ability to communicate orally. Typically referred to as oral expression.

Vision Specialist

Professional whose major role is in the special education assessment and education intervention of students with visual impairments.

Visual Accommodation

Any of a variety of modifications made to printed materials (e.g., enlarged print, increased contrast) that render them easier to read.

Visual Acuity

Sharpness of vision, measured as the eye’s ability to distinguish the details and shapes of objects at a designated distance.

Visual Cortex

Part of the brain that functions to process electrical signals from the optic nerve into visual images.

Visual Efficiency

Extent to which a person uses his or her available vision.

Visual Field

The range at which an individual can see objects centrally or peripherally; the total area that a person is able to see without moving his or her eyes or head.

Visual Functions

The abilities of the visual system, such as visual acuity, visual field, color discrimination, dark adaptation, and contrast sensitivity, as measured by performance on standardized tests of sight; a reference to the extent to which vision is used.

Visual Impairment

Any level of vision loss that affects an individual's ability to complete daily tasks; term often used to describe both blindness and low vision.

Visual Perception

The identification, organization, and interpretation of sensory data received through the eye.

Visual-Motor Coordination

The ability to coordinate vision with the movements of the body or parts of the body.

Visually Impaired (VI)

Students who are blind or who have partial sight and who, as a result, experience lowered educational performance.

Vocational Education

Organized educational programs that are directly related to the preparation of individuals for paid or unpaid employment, or for additional preparation for a career requiring other than a college or advanced degree. This can include Job training or employment counseling offered to students who wish to enter the work force after high school.

Vocational Rehabilitation

A program of rehabilitation through job training focusing on the participant moving toward gainful employment.

Voice Disorder

Any of a number of disorders that negatively affect an individual's ability to produce speech.

Voice Recognition Software

Computer software that allows a user to issue spoken commands to his or her computer; particularly useful to those whose disabilities prevent them from manipulating other forms of computer interface, such as a keyboard or mouse.

Working Memory

A memory system with limited capacity to hold information while a task--such as following directions, comprehending text or solving a multi-step mathematics problem--is accomplished.

Wraparound Service

A service delivery model whereby all of the student's needs are met through the coordination of the education system, mental health agencies, social services, and community agencies.