Glossary of Special Education Terminology

"A Child with a Disability"

A student who has been properly evaluated in accordance with regulations who is found to have a disability which results in the need for special education and related services.

Accommodations in State-Wide Assessment

Changes in format, response, setting, timing or scheduling that do not alter in any significant way what the test measures or the comparability of scores.

Age of Majority

Rights are transferred from the parent to the student on the student's 18th birthday. This must be addressed by the IEP team prior to the student reaching age 18.

American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

This act prohibits discrimination of individuals based on disability. It requires public transportation services to be accessible to individuals with disabilities and prohibits discrimination in employment of qualified individuals with disabilities.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

ADR is an informal process for resolving conflicts between districts and parents of students with disabilities. San Mateo County SELPA's model consists of the following components: (a) Expanded IEP (b) Facilitated IEP, and (c) Solutions Conference.

Adapted Physical Education (APE)

This related service is for students with disabilities who require developmental or corrective instruction. 

Administrative Unit (AU)  (same as Responsible Local Agency)

District, county office, or agency identified in the Local Plan having, among other duties, the responsibility to receive and distribute funds in support of the Local Plan.

Alternate Assessment

The alternate assessment is designed for the small number of students with disabilities who cannot participate in STAR. It is a means of including students with the most severe disabilities in the State's assessment and accountability program. The alternate assessment is an annual reporting to the CDE on the progress made on the goals and objectives as specified on the student's IEP.

Alternate Curriculum

The alternate curriculum is used for students with moderate to severe disabilities to access the seven core areas of the California State Frameworks

Assistive Technology Device

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.

Behavior Intervention Case Manager (BICM)

A certificated person who has been trained in behavior analysis with an emphasis on positive behavior interventions.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

Systematic implementation of procedures that result in lasting positive changes in a student's behavior. 

Community Advisory Committee (CAC)

A committee composed of parents of students with disabilities appointed by each district board. The CAC serves in an advisory capacity to the SELPA Governing Board.

California Alternate Performance Based Assessment (CAPA)

This the alternate assessment for students who cannot participate on the CAT-6. This is for students with the most severe disabilities.

California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT)

Is a special project of the California Department of Education, Special Education Division that provides training on “Improving Outcomes for Children with Disabilities.”

California Special Education Management Information System (CASEMIS)

This is an information and retrieval system in special education, developed by the CDE Special Education Division. The system provides the LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY a statewide standard for maintaining a common core of special education data at the local level. The SELPA assists districts with the collection of this data.

California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS)

Count required by the State of California each October of all school children and staff.

California Code of Regulations (CFR)

Contains administrative regulations for the application of Education Code sections dealing with special education.

California Children Services (CCS)

Agency which provides medically necessary physical and occupational therapy for students eligible under CCS criteria.

Compliance Complaint

Complaint filed with the California Department of Education by a person who feels that a special education law has been violated. Most common would be a service as specified in an IEP that is not being implemented.

Designated Instructional Service (DIS)

The federal term is related services. Transportation and such developmental, corrective and other supportive services as are required to assist the child with a disability to benefit from special education, and to include and not limited to: speech/language therapy and audiological services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation including therapeutic recreation, counseling services, orientation and mobility services. 

Due Process

Procedural safeguards to ensure the protection of the rights of the parent/guardian and the student under IDEA and related state and federal laws and regulations.

Early Childhood Education (ECE)

Early identification and special education and related services that are provided to children ages 0-5.


Procedures used by qualified personnel to determine whether a child has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services that the child needs.

Expedited Due Process Hearing

Hearing that results in a written decision being mailed to the parties within 45 days of the request for the hearing, without exceptions or extensions.

Extended School Year (ESY)

Special education and related services that (a) Are provided to a child with a disability; (b) Beyond the normal school year; (c) In accordance with the child's IEP; and, (d) Meets the standard of the State Educational Agency.

Facilitated IEP

A facilitated IEP is a component of the SELPA ADR process. District or parents may request to have a facilitated IEP by contacting the SELPA. A facilitated IEP is developed by a collaborative team whose members share responsibility for the meeting process and results. Decision making is managed through the use of essential facilitation skills.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The purpose of this Act is to set out requirements for the protection of privacy of parents and students.

Foster Family Home (FFH)

A family residence that is licensed by the state to provide for 24 hour non-medical care and supervision of not more than six foster children, including, but not limited to students with disabilities.

Focused Monitoring  (FM)

Focused monitoring is an essential component of the Quality Assurance Process (QAP) developed by the CDE. It monitors the practices, in educational agencies, that relate to effective learning for students with disabilities and ensures the enforcement of the protections guaranteed under state and federal law to them and their families.

Focused Monitoring Technical Assistance (FMTA)

The FMTA Consultants from the CDE are assigned geographically and are responsible for coordinating all monitoring and technical assistance activities for their assigned counties, districts and Special Education Local Plan Areas. They provide information and facilitate access to technical assistance related to program monitoring and program implementation.

Functional Analysis Assessment (FAA)

Is a comprehensive assessment of behavior done by a SELPA certified behavior intervention case manager (BICM) when an IEP team finds that instructional behavioral approaches specified in the student's IEP have been ineffective.

Golden Gate Regional Center (GGRC)

Regional centers are nonprofit private corporations that have offices throughout California to provide a local resource to help find and access the many services available to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Golden Gate Regional Center serves San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties.

Individualized with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Federal law that ensures that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet the unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living. The Act was last reauthorized in 1997 and is up for reauthorization again in 2002.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

Measures of educational benefit developed by the CDE Special Education Division for students with disabilities enrolled in California public schools.


Inclusion is educating each child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school and classroom he or she would otherwise attend. It involves bringing the support services to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than having to keep up with the other students.

Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)

An evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the district responsible for the education of the child.

Individualized Educational Program (IEP)

Plan which describes the child's present level of educational performance, sets annual goals and instructional objectives, and describes the special education program and related services needed to meet those goals and objectives.

Individual Services Plan (ISP)

The plan that is used for students who are enrolled in private schools by their parents that describes the specific special education and related services that the LEA will provide to the child.

Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP)

Each eligible infant or toddler has an IFSP. The individual family service plan is in place of the IEP.

Individual Transition Plan (ITP)

Plan that is included in the student's IEP beginning at age 16 or younger that addresses transition needs and interagency responsibilities or linkages that are needed for the student to successfully transition from school to adult life.

Informed Consent

In accordance with 34 Code of Federal Regulations and Education Code: (1) 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 consent is sought, and the consent describes the activity and lists the record (if any) which will be released and to whom, and (3) The parent understands that the granting of consent is voluntary on his/her part and may be revoked at any time.

Licensed Children's Institutions (LCI)

A residential facility that is licensed by the state, or other public agency to provide non-medical care to children including but not limited to students with disabilities.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

In accordance with State and Federal law students with disabilities will be provided special education and related services in a setting which promotes interaction with the general school population, to a degree appropriate to the needs of both. The concept of LRE includes a variety of options designed and available to meet the diverse and changing needs of students. The least restrictive environment is determined by the IEP team on an individual student basis. The principle of LRE is intended to ensure that child with a disability is served in a setting where the child can be educated successfully.

Local Educational Agency (LEA)

Local school district or County Office of Education which has responsibility to provide special education services to eligible students.

Low Incidence Disability

Severe disability with an expected incidence of less than one percent of the total statewide enrollment. The conditions are hearing impairment, vision impairment, severe orthopedic impairment, or any combination thereof.


Refers to the selective placement of students with disabilities in one or more general education classes and or extra-curricular activities.

Manifestation Determination

If a disciplinary action is taken that involves a removal of student with a disability that constitutes a change in placement then a review must be conducted of the relationship between the child's disability and the behavior subject to the action.

Medical Therapy Unit (MTU)

Space provided by local educational agencies for the provision of medically necessary occupational and physical therapy provided by CCS therapists.

Modifications of State-Wide Assessment

Changes that alter what the test is supposed to measure or the comparability of scores.

Non-Public Agencies (NPA)

A private, nonsectarian establishment certified by the CDE that provides contracted, related services to students with disabilities.

Non-Public Schools (NPS)

A private, nonsectarian school certified by the CDE that enrolls students with disabilities pursuant to an IEP.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Services provided by a qualified occupational therapist that includes improving ability to perform tasks for independent functioning.

Office of Civil Rights (OCR)

Agency that ensures equal opportunity and accessibility for users of programs and services that receive federal funding.

Orientation and Mobility

Services provided by qualified personnel to students who are blind or have a visual impairment to enable those students to attain systematic orientation to and safe movement within their environments in school, home and community.

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is a component of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), which is one of the principal components of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). OSEP's mission and organization focus on the free appropriate public education of children and youth with disabilities from birth through age 21.

Prior Written Notice

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

Procedural Safeguards

This is also known as Parent Rights. Procedural Safeguards must be given to the parents of child with a disability at a minimum (a) Upon initial referral for evaluation; (b) Upon each notification of an IEP meeting; (c) Upon reevaluation of a child; and (d) Upon receipt of a request for due process.

Quality Assurance Process (QAP)

Quality Assurance Process as developed by the CDE Special Education Division, specifically the Focused Monitoring (FM) component, is designed to monitor the practices, in an educational agency, that relate to effective learning for students with disabilities and to ensure the enforcement of the protections guaranteed under the law to them and their families. Evidence of learning needs are tied to high standards and measured by key performance indicators (KPI's).


Written request that a student be assessed to determine whether he/she has a disability who may require special education and/or related services to benefit from his/her educational program.

Related Services

See Designated Instructional Services.

Responsible Local Agency (RLA)(same as Administrative Unit)

District, county office, or agency identified in the Local Plan having, among other duties, the responsibility to receive and distribute funds in support of the Local Plan.

Resource Specialist Program (RSP)

Instruction and services provided by a resource specialist or special education specialist for students with disabilities who are assigned to general education classroom teachers for a majority of the school day.

Program Specialist (PS)

A specialist who holds a valid special education credential and has advanced training and related experience in the education of students with disabilities.

Section 504

Section 504 is a component of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities, public and private, that receive federal financial assistance. Any person is protected who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks.

Search and Serve

Active and systematic involvement by the educational community to locate children who may need special education services beyond the regular curriculum and program options.

Solutions Conference

This is a component of the SELPA Alternative Dispute Resolution Process. The solutions conference involves both a parent and a district representative utilizing a structured discussion approach with two trained mediators. The goal is to have the parties work together to come to mutually acceptable agreement that will best meet the needs of the child. The solutions panel consists of a parent of a special needs child and an educator outside of your district.

Special Day Class (SDC)

Intensive instruction for students with disabilities who require special education instruction for more than 50% of the school day.

Special Education

Specifically designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.

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.

Surrogate Parent

Individual who is assigned by the SELPA to act as a surrogate for the parents, when no parent can be identified and the district, after reasonable efforts, cannot discover the whereabouts of a parent, or the child is a ward of the state under the laws of that state. The surrogate may represent the child in all matters relating to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement and the provision of a free appropriate public education to the child.

Special Education Hearing Office (SEHO)

McGeorge School of Law is the designated agency that handles due process hearings and conducts mediations when there is a dispute between districts and parents.

Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA)

Individual district, group of districts, or districts and County Office of Education which forms a consortium to ensure that a full continuum of special education services is available to all eligible students within its boundaries.

Specialized Physical Health Care Services

Health services prescribed by the child's licensed physician and/or surgeon which are necessary during the school day to enable the child to attend school and are written into the IEP. Designated providers are appropriately trained and supervised as defined in EC.

State Operated Programs (SOP)

Special schools operated by the California Department of Education for the education of students with disabilities including individual assessment services and the development of individualized education programs for students who are deaf and/or blind.

"Stay Put"

During the pendency of a hearing a child with a disability must remain in his or her current educational placement unless the parents of the child agree otherwise.

Therapeutic Day School (TDS)

A special day class for students with emotional disturbance where county mental health provides intensive counseling services.


Process of preparing a student to function in future environments and emphasizing movement from one educational program to another (e.g., infant program to preschool) or from school to work.

Transition Services

A coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that (1) Is designed with outcome-oriented process, that promotes movement from school to post-school activities. (2) Is based on the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's preferences, and interests.

Unilateral Placement

When a parent removes their child from a public educational placement into a private placement outside the IEP process.