By Jan Baumel, M.S.
As you address your child's learning or attention problems with teachers and other professionals, you will probably hear many terms that are new or confusing to you. Following is a guide to terms frequently used in educational settings.
Accommodations: Techniques and materials that don't change the basic curriculum but do make learning a little easier or help kids communicate what they know
Achievement Tests: Measures of acquired knowledge in academic skills, such as reading, math, writing and science
Advocacy: Recognizing and communicating needs, rights and interests on behalf of a child; making informed choices
Asperger's Syndrome (AS): An Autism Spectrum Disorder that is milder than autism but shares some symptoms. Common features include obsessive interest in a single subject, difficulty with social interactions and strange movements or mannerisms. Treatments aim to help improve communication skills and modify repetitive routines. Find out more about AS
Assessment: Process of identifying strengths and needs to assist in educational planning; includes observation, record review, interviews, and tests
Assistive Technology (AT): Any item, piece of equipment or system that helps kids with disabilities bypass, work around or compensate for specific learning deficits
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD): A neurobehavioral disorder that causes an individual to be inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive or to display a combination of those symptoms
Auditory Discrimination: Ability to identify differences between words and sounds that are similar
Auditory Processing: Among kids with normal hearing, the ability to understand spoken language
Autism (AU): A disorder that usually arises in early childhood. Symptoms include major problems with communication, social interactions and repetitive behaviors. Autism, sometimes referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), is considered a "spectrum disorder" because the symptoms and features range widely. Current treatments for autism include behavior and communication therapies and medications that may help control symptoms. Find out more about autism
Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP): A set of strategies designed to encourage appropriate classroom behavior and social skills. It may be necessary to develop a BIP as part of your child's IEP (Individualized Education Program, see below) if teachers find that her behavior interferes significantly with learning. Depending on the circumstances, a BIP may specifically aim to teach your child new skills, reinforce positive behaviors or increase motivation. The plan should be based on positive feedback rather than punishment and must be reevaluated regularly.
Collaboration: Working in partnership on behalf of a child; e.g., parent and teacher, or special education teacher and general education teacher
Compliance Complaint: Complaint filed with the state department of education or local school district by a person who feels that an educational law has been broken
Designated Instruction and Services (DIS): Sometimes called related services; specialized instructional, and/or support services identified through an assessment and written on an IEP as necessary for a child to benefit from special education (e.g., speech/language therapy, vision services, etc.)
Discrepancy: Difference between two tests, such as between measures of a child's intellectual ability and his academic achievement
Due Process: Procedural safeguards to protect the rights of the parent/guardian and the child under federal and state laws and regulations for special education; includes voluntary mediation or a due process hearing to resolve differences with the school
Dysarthria: Disorder of fine motor muscles involved in speech; affects ability to pronounce sounds correctly
Dyscalculia: Problems with basic math skills; trouble calculating
Dysgraphia: Difficulty writing legibly with age-appropriate speed
Dyslexia: A language-based learning disability. In addition to reading problems, dyslexia can also involve difficulty with writing, spelling, listening, speaking and math
Dysnomia: Difficulty remembering names or recalling specific words; word-finding problems
Dyspraxia: Difficulty performing and sequencing fine motor movements such as buttoning
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