TERMS AND DEFINITIONS

Individualized Education Program (Plan) - IEP

This is a written document that is designed to meet the unique needs of each student receiving special education services and related services. There are several steps to determine eligibility.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act guaranteed every child a free and appropriate education. Prior to the enactment of this law, many children with disabilities were denied an education and often lived in state institutions. This law initiated federal funding for special education and has resulted in progress towards designing effective programming to educate children with disabilities.

Accommodations

Involve changes in instructional methods, including alterations in the format of assignments or tests, without changing content, that allow students with disabilities to do the same work as their typical peers in the classroom. Accommodations and modifications are used in 504 Plans.

Advocate

Is an individual or organization that actively offers support, acts on behalf of individuals with disabilities, and helps individuals and their families understand their rights. See Advocacy and Support Section for information regarding specific advocacy groups.

APE

See DAPE

Assessment Plan

is part of the process in determining if a student qualifies for special education and related services. Information is gathered from a variety of sources in the areas of development that are of concern.

Assistive Technology (AT)

Is a piece of equipment, a tool, or system purchased or modified, that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  a range of pervasive developmental disorders, with onset in childhood, that adversely affect a pupil's functioning and result in the need for special education instruction and related services. ASD is a disability category characterized by an uneven developmental profile and a pattern of qualitative impairments in several areas of development, including social interaction, communication, or the presence of restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. These core features may present themselves in a wide variety of combinations that range from mild to severe, and the number of behavioral indicators present may vary. ASD may include Autistic Disorder, Childhood Autism, Atypical Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Asperger's Disorder, or other related pervasive developmental disorders.

Case Manager

Is the person who is in charge of overseeing a special education student’s education, coordinates services on the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and ensures that services are delivered.

Child Find

Is the process used by a school district to locate, identify, and evaluate all children with disabilities in their districts who need special education and related services. Child Find is mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Cumulative File

Are records, maintained by the school district, that contain general information about a student along with grades, attendance, assessments, information about the student’s disability and placement. Parents have the right to view their child’s cumulative file.

Deaf-Blindness

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as: medically verified visual loss coupled with medically verified hearing loss that, together, interfere with acquiring information or interacting in the environment. Both conditions need to be present simultaneously, and the pupil must meet the criteria for both visually impaired and deaf and hard of hearing to be eligible for special education and services under this category.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota State and is defined as:  diminished sensitivity to sound, or hearing loss, that is expressed in terms of standard audiological measures. Hearing loss has the potential to affect educational, communicative, or social functioning that may result in the need for special education instruction and related services.

Developmental Adapted Physical Education -(DAPE)

Are programs specially designed or modified to meet the unique needs of students in special education to enable them to benefit from physical fitness activities. DAPE is a related service.

Developmental Cognitive Disability

Is one of the 13 special education categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  a condition resulting in significantly below average intellectual functioning and concurrent deficits in adaptive behavior that adversely affects educational performance and requires special education and related services. DCD does not include conditions primarily due to a sensory or physical impairment, traumatic brain injury, autism spectrum disorders, severe multiple impairments, cultural influences, or inconsistent educational programming.

Developmental Delay

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  The team shall determine that a child from birth through the age of two years is eligible for infant and toddler intervention services if:  A. the child meets the criteria of one of the disability categories in United States Code, title 20, chapter 33, sections 1400, et seq., as defined in Minnesota Rules; or  B. the child meets one of the criteria for developmental delay in subitem (1) or the criteria in subitem (2):  (1)  the child has a diagnosed physical or mental condition or disorder that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay regardless of whether the child has a demonstrated need or delay; or  (2)  the child is experiencing a developmental delay that is demonstrated by a score of 1.5 standard deviations or more below the mean, as measured by the appropriate diagnostic measures and procedures, in one or more of the following areas:  (a) cognitive development;  (b) physical development, including vision and hearing;  (c)  communication development;  (d)  social or emotional development; and  (e) adaptive development.

Developmental Disability

Is a mental and/or physical condition that substantially affects functioning in several major life activities and is expected to continue indefinitely. A developmental disability differs from a developmental delay.

Direct Services

Are services provided directly to the student. Direct services are not the same as one-to-one services and more than one student can receive direct services at the same time.

Due Process

Is a legal option parents can utilize to solve conflicts with the school district regarding their child’s education. Due process is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Early Intervention Services

Identifies and provide services to children under three who are showing signs or are at risk for developmental delays in order to minimize the potential for problems in the future. Early intervention services take a family-centered approach.

Emotional or Behavioral Disorders

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  an established pattern of one or more of the following emotional or behavioral responses:  A. withdrawal or anxiety, depression, problems with mood, or feelings of self-worth;  B. disordered thought processes with unusual behavior patterns and atypical communication styles; or  C. aggression, hyperactivity, or impulsivity. The established pattern of emotional or behavioral responses must adversely affect educational or developmental performance, including intrapersonal, academic, vocational, or social skills; be significantly different from appropriate age, cultural, or ethnic norms; and be more than temporary, expected responses to stressful events in the environment. The emotional or behavioral responses must be consistently exhibited in at least three different settings, two of which must be educational settings, and one other setting in either the home, child care, or community. The responses must not be primarily the result of intellectual, sensory, or acute or chronic physical health conditions.
Endocrinologist – is a medical doctor whose specialty is the diagnosis and treatment of growth, puberty, diabetes and other hormonal disorders of the endocrine glands.

Evaluation

Is the testing and observations used to find out if a student’s disability makes them eligible for special education and related services.

Extended School Year Services - ESY

Are for students in special education who require services beyond the normal school year. Services are provided at no cost and are specified in the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). ESY services are not the same as summer school.

Fine Motor Skills

Involve the coordination of small muscles of the body to complete functional tasks. Development of fine motor skills, including the dexterity of small muscles of the hands, fingers, feet, toes, lips and tongue normally develop as a child grows.

Free Appropriate Public Education - FAPE

Is a provision of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (IDEA) that ensures special education and related services to qualifying students free of charge.

Functional Behavioral Assessment - FBA

Is the problem-solving process of identifying the relationship between the environment and a student’s disability-related behavior that is negatively impacting their education. When the function and communicative intent is determined, strategies can be developed to address inappropriate behavior.

Gross Motor Skills

Are the abilities required to control the large muscles of the body and whole body movement and are dependent on muscle tone and strength.

IEP Team

Is the group of people, including parents and school district staff that are responsible for creating a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Indirect Services

Is the time spent by special education staff discussing and modifying the student’s education plan and curriculum. Indirect services do not include time working directly with the student.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA

Is federal legislation passed in 1975 and most recently revised in 2004 that guarantees every child a free and appropriate education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) and special education and related services for qualifying students.

Independent Educational Evaluation - IEE

Can be considered when parents do not agree with the school district’s evaluation of their child. The evaluation is conducted by an examiner not employed by the school district and chosen by the parents. The results must be considered when developing the IEP and is completed at the school district’s expense unless they can prove their original assessment was correct.

Independent Interagency Intervention Plan - IIIP

Is an option to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for children 0-3 who are using multiple state agencies and would like to coordinate care with school, home and community.

Individualized Family Service Plan - IFSP

Is the process of finding, evaluating, documenting and providing early intervention services for children 0-3 with special needs who qualify under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). An IFSP is centered around the child and his/her family. Children over age 3 have an IEP instead of an IFSP.

Interagency Early Intervention Committee - IEIC

Through the Child Find process, seeks out, identifies and finds children 0-5 suspected of having a developmental disability or delay.

Least Restrictive Environment - LRE

Requires students with disabilities to be educated in a setting with their peers without disabilities to the maximum extent possible.

Mediation

Is a voluntary meeting between the parents and the school district to resolve differences regarding a student’s education.

Modifications - 504 Plan

Is the altering of education materials to allow students with 504 Plans to participate more fully in the classroom. Accommodations and modifications are used in 504 Plans.

Multidisciplinary Team

Is a group of people, each having unique expertise, that work together to observe, test, interview and gather information to determine if a child qualifies for special education and related services.

Occupational Therapist - OT

Is a healthcare professional trained to work with clients to develop, improve, sustain or restore independence with activities of daily living related to fine motor, gross motor and sensory integration development. OT is a related service.

Office of Civil Rights

Is part of the United States Department of Education that ensures equal access to education, protects civil rights, and prohibits discrimination.

Other Health Disabilities

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  having limited strength, endurance, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened or diminished alertness to environmental stimuli, with respect to the educational environment that is due to a broad range of medically diagnosed chronic or acute health conditions that adversely affect a pupil's educational performance.

Paraprofessional

Works with special education students under the direction of the teacher, special education teacher or related service provider. Paraprofessionals may work with several students at the same time or may be assigned to work one-to-one with a student, as stipulated in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Physical Therapist - PT

Is a healthcare professional trained to provide treatment and management of physical disabilities or impairments to enhance and restore functional ability in the school setting. PT is a related service.

Physically Impaired

Is one of 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  a medically diagnosed chronic, physical impairment, either congenital or acquired, that may adversely affect physical or academic functioning and result in the need for special education and related services

Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance - PLAAFP

Is a section of the IEP that explains the special education student’s current level of functioning. It includes both the student’s strengths and needs.

Private Health Insurance

Provides coverage through a parent’s or employee’s employer or through a private plan.

Procedural Safeguards

Is a document given to parents that explains the special education process and gives information regarding their rights under the law.

Progress Reports

Is a document that states if a student is making adequate progress in meeting annual goals on his/her Individualized Education Plan (IEP). A progress report must be given to parents of students in special education at least as often as their non-disabled peers.

Public Health Insurance

Plans are offered by a government program, such as Medical Assistance.

Related Services

Are services that students require in order for them to benefit from special education services. Examples of related services are Adapted Physical Education (APE), Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT), Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) and Transportation.

Section 504

Is a federal civil rights law that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities. In the school setting, students with qualifying disabilities can receive accommodations and modifications to allow them the opportunity to perform at the same level as their peers without disabilities. Section 504 does not fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), so students do not benefit from the same protections as students on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

Severely Multiply Impaired

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  a pupil who has severe learning and developmental problems resulting from two or more disability conditions determined by an evaluation as defined by part 3525.2710. Subp. 2. Criteria. The team shall determine that a pupil is eligible as being severely multiply impaired if the pupil meets the criteria for two or more of the following disabilities:  A. deaf or hard of hearing, part 3525.1331;  B. physically impaired, part 3525.1337;  C. developmental cognitive disability: severe-profound range, part 3525.1333;  D. visually impaired, part 3525.1345;  E. emotional or behavioral disorders, part 3525.1329; or  F. autism spectrum disorders, part 3525.1325.

Special Education

Is instruction given to students with disabilities who qualify for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Special Education Director

Oversees and makes decisions for all of the special education programs in the school district.

Specific Learning Disability

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota statute and is defined as:  a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

Speech and Language Pathologist or Therapist - SLT

Is a specialist trained to evaluate and diagnose speech, articulation, communication and swallowing disorders. SLT is a related services.

Speech or Language Impairment

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined under several criteria including:  Fluency disorder, Voice disorder, Articulation Disorder, and Language Disorder.

Stay Put

Is the right of a student to remain in their current special education placement and continue to receive services while any disputes between the parents and school district are being resolved, unless parents and the school district both agree to the change. There are exceptions to this rule for serious offenses.

Summer School

Differs from Extended School Year (ESY) services. ESY provides services specifically designed to meet the goals on a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) during school breaks, while summer school does not.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that may adversely affect a pupil's educational performance and may result in the need for special education and related services. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as: cognition, speech/language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, and information processing. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

Visually Impaired

Is one of the 13 special education disability categories under Minnesota Statute and is defined as:  Visual Impairment Including Blindness - is one of the 13 disability categories under IDEA and is defined as: impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

The IEP Process

It is important to identify, evaluate and serve students who need special education services. There is a 9-step process to ensure students, whose disabilities affect their ability to learn, receive a free appropriate public education.

Definitions of terminology highlighted in Green Italics can be found in the right sidebar.

There are 9 steps in
the IEP Process:

Step 1 – Referral

Step 2 – Evaluation

Step 3 – Determine Eligibility

Step 4 – Schedule IEP Meeting

Step 5 – Hold IEP Meeting and IEP is Written

Step 6 – Services are Provided

Step 7 – Progress Reports

Step 8 – Annual IEP Review

Step 9 – Three-Year Reevaluation

STEP 1 – Referral

When a parent suspects their child may have a disability that impacts their education, they can request a special education evaluation by the school district. A referral can also be made by school district staff. Under child find, each state is required to identify and evaluate students who may need special education or related services.

Parents must give written permission for the initial evaluation and for any tests that will be used. If the school district refuses to conduct the evaluation, parents must be informed of this decision and of their rights regarding the school district’s refusal.

STEP 2 – Evaluation

Once the request is received, a qualified team from the school district has 15 days to create an assessment plan and 30 school days to complete the evaluation. The 30 school days begins when the school receives a parent’s signature on the initial assessment plan. Information is gathered from a variety of sources that will help to identify the student’s educational needs. An accurate and thorough assessment is essential in determining if a student qualifies for services. The evaluation looks at a student’s strengths and difficulties in various areas of development and may include a combination of tests, parent observations and medical information.

Educational needs are not the same as medical needs, and having a disability does not automatically qualify a student for special education services. Only needs that affect a student’s ability to function in a school setting are considered in the evaluation.

STEP 3 – Determine Eligibility

Once the evaluation is complete, parents meet with school staff to discuss the results.  Based on the findings of the evaluation, a determination is made by the IEP team if the student meets the requirements for eligibility for special education and related services as defined by IDEA.

  • If the student is deemed not eligible for services by the school district and the parents agree, a possible option for modifications and accommodations is available for qualifying students under Section 504. 
  • If the student is deemed not eligible for services by the school district and the parents disagree, they can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). This is completed by someone not employed by the school district, and the school district must pay for the IEE or show at an impartial due process hearing why the original evaluation was appropriate.
  • If the student is deemed eligible for services by the school district and the parents agree, a meeting is scheduled with the IEP Team within 30 days. The meeting must be scheduled at a time and place that is mutually agreed to by the school district and the parents

STEP 4 –Schedule IEP Meeting

An IEP meeting can be an emotional experience for parents, so it is a good idea to bring along a friend who knows your child or other advocate to offer their expertise and support.  Let your child’s case manager know you are bringing someone with you to the meeting.

A meeting time and place is scheduled that is mutually agreed to by the school district and parents. If the school district is unable to get parents to attend, they can hold the meeting without the parents if they have written evidence to show they made an appropriate effort to invite them. Alternative ways to allow parents to participate, such as by telephone, should be considered.

Who Attends?

These people should attend every meeting:

  • The parents/guardians 
  • The student is always invited and should attend if it would be beneficial to them. This decision is usually made by the parents. 
  • The special education teacher
  • If the student spends time in the regular education classroom, then the regular education teacher should attend. If the student has more than one teacher, the parents can ask for other teachers to come if they feel their attendance would be helpful, but usually one regular education teacher attends.
  • An administrative representative, other than the student’s teacher, who can make decisions on behalf of the school district
  • If the student was assessed for the first time, someone from the evaluation team must attend who can explain the results.
  • Anyone who will be providing services.

Others can attend, depending on the needs of each student:

District staff may have dual roles on the IEP team, i.e. one person can be the teacher as well as the administrative designee.

  • A specialist who can share information on how the student learns
  • Someone with special knowledge of Assistive Technology (AT) if this is a need of the student
  • A person who can clarify language and/or cultural needs of the student and family
  • Other individuals that the school district or parents feel have knowledge or expertise to share with the team about the student

If all members of the IEP team agree in writing, a team member can be excused from attending an IEP meeting if their area of instruction will not be discussed.

Preparing for an IEP meeting with school staff:

    • Request a copy of the evaluation  so you can  review it prior to the meeting. Because there is so much information to be shared, it is easy to forget valuable questions or points – so write them down to bring with you.
    • Make a list of your child’s strengths and interests as well as challenges that affect learning. Think about what educational goals you would like to see your child attain over the next year.
    • Review previous IEPs and make note of successes as well as goals you feel your child has not made reasonable progress attaining in the previous year.

   Allow adequate time for the meeting. Ask team members if they have any time constraints that would require them to leave early.

  • If possible, obtain a copy of the Procedural Safeguards before the meeting so you have a chance to review it. You will be asked to sign a form saying you received the Procedural Safeguards and were given the opportunity to ask questions regarding them.

Step 5 – Hold IEP Meeting and IEP is Written

Although the school staff will probably have discussions before the meeting, the IEP cannot be written until the team meets, which includes both staff and parents.

For students 3-21: an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is developed and written by the IEP Team. Parents are equal members of the IEP team, along with school district staff.

For students birth to 3: an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is used instead of an IEP. An IFSP is broader and contains goals that focus on the child and involves the family. Services are usually provided in the child’s natural setting, instead of a school setting.  See section on Individualized Family Service Plans.

Beginning July 2003, a third option called an Independent Interagency Intervention Plan (IIIP) is an option for students through age 21 that use multiple state agencies. The IIIP reflects the collaboration of the school district, the county and state programs the student is currently using. Parents have a right to refuse the IIIP and can use an IEP or IFSP if they are under the age of 3.

Read more about The Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Read more about The Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)

Step 6 – Services are Provided

When an IEP is proposed, parents have 14 calendar days to agree or disagree in writing.

If the IEP team agrees on special education and related services and the parents sign the IEP document, the student will begin receiving services. All of the school staff involved with the student will receive a copy of the IEP and each is responsible for providing their services listed in the document.

You do not need to sign the IEP document at the time of the meeting. Advocacy groups recommend bringing a copy home to review. If you do not agree with contents of the IEP, you have options to resolve these differences. See section on Conflict Resolution.

Step 7 – Progress Reports

When looking for a new school/district for your child, visit the programs for students with special needs in 4th grade, middle school/junior high, and high school. Although the early years are VERY important, it is often during 4th grade year when the separation of students with special needs begins. That is when curriculum is more difficult for the schools to adapt and modify, and it is much more challenging to provide services and integrate students as they get older.

Progress is measured periodically to check if the student is making adequate gains towards achieving annual goals. Progress reports for children receiving special education must be given to parents at least as frequently as their peers without disabilities. 

Step 8 – Annual IEP Review

Each student’s IEP is reviewed at least once per year. Parents can, however, ask for an IEP meeting at any time if they have concerns about their child’s progress, placement, etc. 

Step 9 – Three-Year Reevaluation

At least every three years, a reevaluation is completed to determine if the student still qualifies for special education and related services. The reevaluation will also determine the student’s current educational needs. A reevaluation can be requested more frequently by any member of the IEP team.