Q & A

There are so many acronyms in special education and it is important for speech-language pathologists, special educators, and parents of children and adolescents with special needs to understand what they mean. Learn how to name and understand special education acronyms from A to Z.

Attention Deficit Disorder. This is characterized by difficulty focusing during tasks and controlling behavior.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. This is characterized by difficulty attending to tasks, controlling behavior, and over activity.
Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is a disorder that involves persistent deficits in social communication/interaction, repetitive behavior/interests, and symptoms emerging in early developmental period. ASD may occur with language impairment or intellectual disability. Read more here.
Deaf or Hard of Hearing. A person who is Deaf has little to no hearing as measured by an audiologist. A person who is Hard of Hearing may have mild, moderate, or severe unilateral hearing loss (in one ear) or bilateral hearing loss (in both ears).
Emotional Behavioral Disorder. This is characterized by excessive behavior and/or emotional disturbances that is not due to cultural, intellectual, or general health factors and interferes significantly with education performance and daily functioning. What is ESY? Extended School Year. This is special education services that go beyond the regular calendar days each school year.
Free Appropriate Public Education. This is a guarantee for all students with disabilities as mandated under federal law in the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.
Functional Behavioral Analysis. This is an assessment completed by special education teachers or behavior specialists to determine the reason for a child’s behavior for the purpose of selecting appropriate interventions to eliminate the challenging behavior.
Individualized Education Program. This is a written document developed and implemented for children who qualify for special education services in the public school system.
Individual Family Service Plan. This is a special service plan for children 0-3 years of age with developmental delays.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.” Read more here.
Mild Intellectual Disability
Moderate Intellectual Disability
Other Health Impairment
occupational therapist
physical therapist
response to intervention
severe/profound intellectual disabilit
specific learning disability. This is characterized by difficulty learning and using academic skills. This involves primarily reading, writing, and math skills. Disorders of listening and speaking are not a part of this disability area per the latest diagnostic criteria.
speech language impairment This is due to a speech sound disorder such as difficulty pronouncing sounds (articulation disorder), patterns of speech sound errors (phonological disorder), speech fluency (stuttering disorder). This impairment may also be due to a receptive language or comprehension disorder or expressive language (spoken) disorder. Read more here.
speech-language pathologist. This is a professional who evaluates, identifies, and provides therapeutic intervention for people with speech, language, voice, feeding, and cognitive challenges.
Vision Impairment. This occurs when a person’s corrected vision is worse than 20/40 or 20/60 and there is a negative impact during daily activities.