Share this article:

Special education students in classroom
July 08, 2019  

20 Acronyms Every Parent Of A Special Education Student Should Know

Parenting a child with special needs may sometimes feel like swimming in a sea of information, legal terminology, rules and of course, acronyms. There are so many special education acronyms in fact that it’s practically like learning a new language.

It doesn’t help that special education teams often assume parents know these terms, leading to some frustrating meetings.

Here are the top 20 acronyms we encounter when representing students with disabilities. Consider it a cheat-sheet to this new language.

APS stands for “Approved Private School”.

Your state may refer to it as OOD or Out of District Placement. Either way, it is typically a more restrictive environment, like a school that focuses solely on special needs students.

AAC stands for “Augmentative Alternative Communication”.

These devices are used to help a student communicate better, beyond just talking. This could be as simple as incorporating gestures, facial expressions and sign language, or as complex as communication boards and recorded speech devices.

AT stands for “Assistive Technology”.

These devices (or software) help students with learning differences work around their challenges. Examples of Assistive Technology Tools for reading include text-to-speech (TTS) software, audiobooks and display controls.

BCBA stands for “Board Certified Behavior Analyst”.

These are graduate-level specialists who conduct behavioral assessments. They are often thought of working with students of Autism because they are trained in Applied Behavior Analysis. However, the BCBA credential is not specific to Autism.

BIP / PBSP / BSP stands for “Behavior Improvement Plan”, “Positive Behavior Support Plan” and “Behavior Support Plan”.

It may sometimes be referred to as just Behavior Plan. Each of these refer to plans that teach, and reward, positive behaviors. The goal of these plans is to minimize class disruptions and are based on the results of the Functional Behavior Analysis (see below).

DIBELS stands for “Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills”.

This early reading assessment is typically given several times in the school year. It measures letter naming, sound fluency, oral reading fluency, and more.

FAPE stands for “Free and Public Appropriate Education”.

This is the bedrock of special education in the United States, and a legal term every parent should know. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) said that each child with a disability has the right to an education that provides for her needs, free of charge. If you believe FAPE is not being provided to your child, schedule a free consultation with an education lawyer.

FBA stands for “Functional Behavior Assessment”.

It describes behaviors of students that are disruptive to a classroom, identifies possible reasons behind it and tries to replace these behaviors with positive ones. FBAs are typically reserved for behaviors that impact learning. The results of this process make up a student’s Positive Behavior Support Plan (see above).

IEE stands for “Independent Education Evaluation” and is sometimes just called “Independent Evaluation”.

An IEE evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district responsible for the student’s education and may include evaluation of any skill related to the student’s educational needs. An IEE may be obtained by parents at their own expense or at public expense in certain situations. Contact an education attorney for help in getting your school district to pay for an IEE.

If you don’t agree with the evaluation of your child, you still have options.

LEA stands for “Local Education Agency”.

It refers to a representative from the school district or the entity that runs a school. Parents should have one person designated as the LEA at their Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. This person should have the power to make important placement and financial decisions.

LRE stands for “Least Restrictive Environment”.

A core principle of special education in the United States, LRE refers to the right of a student to be placed in a learning environment, alongside peers without disabilities, whenever appropriate. It is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

NOREP stands for “Notice of Recommended Educational Placement”.

It may be referred to as Prior Written Notice (PWN) in some states or another state-specific term altogether. This essential form is completed at the end of the IEP development process. It formalizes the school district’s educational program offer for a student – the plan, placement and all of its services.

OCR stands for “Office of Civil Rights”.

This federal agency investigates complaints of discrimination. If you disagree with your child’s 504 plan or IEP, you have many options including due process, administrative complaints, mediation and resolution meetings. You can also file a complaint with the OCR.

PLOP stands for “Present Levels of Performance”.

It may also be referred to as PLAAFP, PLAAP or PLP. This is the section of your child’s IEP that details how he is performing academically. It’s one of the most important parts of the IEP because it drives the IEP services offered to your child.

Parent involvement in the IEP process has never been more important. Our series of articles on IEP progress monitoring walks parents through the process of evaluating educational progress.

PTE stands for “Permission to Evaluate” form.

The school district will send parents this form when it wants to evaluate a student. It will explain: 1) the reasons for the evaluation; 2) when the evaluation will be done; 3) any records or reports the school will use; and 4) the specific types of tests that the school district will do.

PWN stands for “Prior Written Notice”.

This refers to the legal requirement of schools to provide a written explanation of any proposed changes to a student’s educational plan. Schools must also provide written notice when denying a parent request. This was added to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004.

RR stands for “Re-Evaluation Report”.

The RR documents the results of a reevaluation of a student and the team decision regarding the student continued eligibility for special education. Reevaluations are conducted when the student’s performance indicates a need, the student’s initial evaluation or reevaluation anniversary date is approaching, and when requested by parents or the school district.

SDI stands for “Specially Designed Instruction”.

This the ‘guts’ of your child’s IEP. It specifies the type of instruction a student with disabilities should receive — instructional content, methods and delivery.

SLP stands for “Speech and Language Pathologist”.

This specialist is often called a speech therapist. Learn more about the speech pathologist’s role in special education.

SLD stands for “Specific Learning Disability” and refers to a set of disorders affecting psychological processes.

These affect the student’s ability to “listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations”, according to the IDEA.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it represents the most often heard terms in special education meetings and hearings. Have questions about your child’s rights, a special education evaluation or due process hearing? Schedule a free consultation with a caring, experienced education lawyer at Students’ Rights.

Related articles:

You disagree with the results of your school’s evaluation of your child. What now?

Is Your Child Making Progress On The IEP? Part One

More resources

U.S. Department of Education

Return to Students' Rights Blog


Call us with questions about our education law services or for a free initial consultation, fill out the form below. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Is an IEP currently in place for your child?

215.540.2656 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

400 Maryland Drive
Fort Washington, PA 19034