Do you know what the word ‘mainstreaming’ refers to when used within an educational environment? Do you know what the letters IDEA, LRE or IEP stand for? Can you fully define Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
If you do not have a career in special education, you may not know the answers to these questions.
As in most any area, such as medicine, law or engineering, special education has its own terms and phrases. Teachers, psychologists, school administrators and educational policymakers need to be familiar with special education terminology if they are to effectively communicate with parents, the community and other professionals.
Coming to Terms with Special Education Language
Teachers and school administrators are not the only professionals who use and need to be familiar with special education language. Special education terminology is found within educational, legal and psychological contexts.
Some terms refer to special education laws, some to specific disabilities and still others to practices and procedures in educational institutions. Some are general terms with which anyone would be familiar, such as “learning disability”, “cognitive development” or “behavioral disorder”.
Others are fairly specific to the special education field. Following are a few terms and their meanings:
- Inclusion: the placement of special needs students in classes with the general student population
- Mainstreaming: integrating special needs children into general classrooms for only some but not all classes
- Early intervention: providing special needs services to young children, typically aged three and under, who display signs of developmental disabilities
- Individualized Education Plan (IEP): a written plan developed by committee (teachers, administrators, therapists and parents) outlining how a special needs student’s learning goals and objectives will be met
- Designated Instruction Services (DIS): special needs services provided outside the scope of the regular classroom; these would include but not be limited to speech or physical therapy, behavioral training, assistance with medical devices or nursing services
Spelling It Out
Special education terminology is filled with letters and acronyms, many which would be unfamiliar to those not involved in this field.
IEP and DIS have already been identified and defined. Here are a few more unique to special education:
- IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
- IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation)
- LRE (Least Restrictive Environment)
- DAPE (Developmental Adaptive Physical Education)
- TEACHH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children)
These do not include the letters that represent medical conditions and disorders, such as ADD/ADHD (attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), PDDs (pervasive development disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome) and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), to name a few.
Terms of Endearment
What might be the most powerful terminology in special education are words we are all familiar with and that are not applicable only to this field.
Words like patience, understanding, tolerance, dedication, support and acceptance go a long way when working with or for special needs children. These words are just as important, if not more so, than all the terms and acronyms associated with this field.
For special education programs and policies to work, they need strong-willed, compassionate and determined individuals who not only know the laws and terminology, but have the desire to see that every special needs child receives the education he or she deserves. These children need supportive parents and a supportive community, patient teachers and dedicated lawmakers, not to mention the understanding and acceptance of their peers.
Those are terms we can all agree to.