Words and terms – a whole new world


The early intervention and special education world is filled with its own language – words and terms that are probably unknown to you. In a prior post, I gave you a list of acronyms to begin learning some of the abbreviations for certain terms. In this post, I am pointing you to a wonderful resource on CPIR’s website (the Center for Parent Information and Resources) that will help make sense of all these terms.  It will help you to understand IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), which is the law that applies to the world of early intervention and special education. For those of you who feel you are drowning in a sea of unfamiliar words, here is your lifeline.

Early intervention terms

First up are the key terms and phrases common in Part C of IDEA. This is the part of the law that applies specifically to babies and toddlers up to age 3. Go to CPIR’s page on Early intervention Key Words  and scroll down the page for easy-to-read definitions and examples of each of the following terms. (The terms in bold will take you to my prior blog posts for additional reading.)

·         Consent

·         Developmental delay

·         Early intervention services 

·         Health services

·         Infant or toddler with a disability

·         Multidisciplinary

·         Native language

·         Natural environments

·         Prior written notice

·         Service coordination services

Special education terms

Likewise, for parents of children ages 3 – 21, CPIR offers great explanations of many terms that you will hear and need to know that are in Part B of IDEA. (This is the part of the law that applies specifically to school aged children.)  Key Terms to Know in Special Education provides easy-to-understand explanations on the following topics (some of which I have already written about in a prior blog post, but this page from NICHCY’s legacy resources is too good not to mention again, here). Each category is explained and written about in detail and offers examples so that you have a full understanding of the meaning.

·         Point of Reference: IDEA

·         Child with a disability

·         FAPE (Free appropriate public education)

·         IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education act)

·         IEP (Individualized Education Program)

·         LRE (Least restrictive environment)

·         Related services

·         Special education

·         Supplementary aids and services

·         Transition Services

·         TA&D (Technical Assistance and Dissemination)

You should note that states interpret and base their own policies based on IDEA. So, there may be variations from state to state as to how IDEA is interpreted or implemented. First learn what IDEA says about a particular word, term or topic; then see if your state’s definition is the same or somewhat different.  NICHCY (on CPIR) says “States develop their own special education policies and procedures based on what IDEA requires. They are allowed to go beyond what IDEA requires–and frequently do, because the law leaves a great many things to state and local discretion–but they are not permitted to have policies or procedures that are not consistent with IDEA’s provisions.”

Bottom line

Learning a little bit about IDEA and your state’s interpretations can go a long way in helping you know what services your child is eligible to receive. It will also help you to become a better advocate for your child. Understanding the system helps to eliminate confusion, frustration and unnecessary anxiety.


Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It appears every Wednesday, and was started on January 16, 2013. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself.  As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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