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IDEA Words and Terms to Know

IDEA Terms - Special Education Terms


Tools and procedures that provide equal access to instruction and assessment for students with disabilities. Designed to "level the playing field" for students with disabilities, accommodations are generally grouped into the following categories:

  • Presentation (e.g., repeat directions, read aloud, use of larger bubbles on answer sheets, etc.)
  • Response (e.g., mark answers in book, use reference aids, point, use of computer, etc.)
  • Timing/Scheduling (e.g., extended time, frequent breaks, etc.)
  • Setting (e.g., study carrel, special lighting, separate room, etc.).


Americans with Disabilities Act

Federal law that protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in the operations of public businesses and governments.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

A plan to address problem behavior that includes, as appropriate, positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports; program modifications; and supplementary aids and services that may be required to address the problem behavior.

Child with a disability

A child who has a disability as defined in one of the 13 disability categories in IDEA and who needs special education and related services because of the disability; or a child aged 3 through 9 who is experiencing developmental delay.

Child find

Ongoing activities undertaken by states and local school districts to locate, identify, and evaluate all children residing in the state who are suspected of having disabilities so that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) can be made available to all eligible children, including all children in public and private schools, including religious schools.

Courses of study

Middle and high school course work (or classes) that lead to a certain type of diploma and/or are required for post-secondary education.

Curriculum based measurement (CBM)

Tools for measuring student competency and progress in the basic skill areas of reading fluency, spelling, mathematics and written language.

Developmental Delay

A disability category states may use for certain students aged three through nine as a way to provide early services for students suspected of having a disability. If used, the definition of developmental delay is determined by the state and may include a child whose development, as measured by appropriate diagnostic tests and procedures, lags behind peers in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development, and who, because of such delays, needs special education and related services.

Disability categories

IDEA disability categories include autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment (e.g., asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia and Tourette syndrome), specific learning disability, (e.g., Perceptual Disabilities, Brain Injury, Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Dyslexia, Developmental Aphasia), speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment (including blindness), and developmental delay.

Due Process Complaint

A written complaint filed by a parent or a school district involving any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, educational placement or provision of a free, appropriate, public education to a student with a disability. Due process complaints must be filed within two years of the matter in dispute.

Due Process Hearing

A formal, quasi-legal procedure before an impartial hearing officer or administrative law judge (or panel of judges) who is not an employee of the state educational agency or school district. Both the parents and the school district present arguments and evidence.

Early intervention services

Services to infants and toddlers provided under Part C of IDEA. Part C established the Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, a federal grant program that assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, aged birth through age 2 years, and their families. Early intervention services include multidisciplinary evaluation of needs of children and family-directed identification of the needs of each family as set out in an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).


The determination that a student is a child with a disability.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

Special education and related services that are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge to the parent, and that meet the standards of the state education department. Special education and related services must be provided in conformity with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) as required by IDEA.