A Handy Guide to Special Ed Acronyms

Question mark and acronyms
What? Huh?
Acronyms, otherwise known in the English language as "too lazy to say the whole phrase so let's substitute letters in the interest of time." In the Special Education world, life is full of them. I'm one of the lucky ones because I have a degree in Special Ed, which means I don't have to look all of them up. But for most parents, it's confusing (unless you're hyperlexic. In which case, you should be writing this article).

You cannot possibly have a successful visit to "HOLLAND" without knowing the definitions, so I'm going to give you the 411 on ADHD, OCD, PDD, IEP, and FAPE, ASAP and PDQ, OK? 


Special Ed AcronymsADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Sometimes it's just ADD and sometimes it can be Inattentive type or Combined type. In our family, it's all of them. Which means Energizer Bunny crossed with a Chinchilla and LOOK! SHINY!

IEP: Individualized Education Plan. Emphasis on INDIVIDUALIZED. Basically, it's the legally binding set of goals, accommodations, and related services for your child. Also known as the yearly meeting from H E  Double Hockey Sticks.

PDD: Pervasive Developmental Delay, also known as a type of autism. Sometimes you'll see PDD NOS, which means "not otherwise specified" or "we don't really know, so here's an acronym for you to figure out later on your own."

OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Common in children with autism. Also common in my family of siblings and children, who all prefer CDO because it's in alphabetical order, as it should be.

IDEA: Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. This act, revised a few times since it was passed, guarantees the right to education of the disabled.

FAPE: Free and Appropriate Public Education. This is the part of IDEA that guarantees public education services to your child that you do not have to pay for (well, except those pesky school taxes). Note the word "appropriate." What's appropriate can be debated by parents, educators, and school districts. Mostly the school districts. Sometimes they think sitting in a room with no stimulation or support is appropriate (hint: IT'S NOT).

LRE: Least Restrictive Environment. Also from IDEA. This states that the child should be placed in an environment that is as nonrestrictive and as close to regular education as is deemed possible.

SPD: Sensory Processing Disorder. Some kids with special needs have "Super Powers," at least according to my son. This means they have to have the tags cut out of all of their clothing, only wear 100 percent cotton, have food texture issues, and loathe load noises. Unless they are making the loud noises (and they do), in which case it's all good.

OT/PT: Occupational and Physical Therapy. Occupational Therapy works on fine motor skills and Physical Therapy works on gross motor skills, both of which are often delayed in children with special needs. Known to my son as "Yeah! They're pulling me out of social studies class!"

ESY: Extended School Year. Some children qualify for their services to be continued over the summer so they don't lose skills and then have difficulty regaining those skills. Without ESY I'd be in the corner, rocking back and forth and muttering to myself. No lie.

FERPA: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This statue refers to confidentiality and access to educational records. The First Rule of Special Education Club is YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT SPECIAL EDUCATION CLUB.

Hope that clears some of it up for you. I'm usually good at confusing people. If that's the case, there's this handy little website I like to visit called Wright's Law.com that gives you tons of information regarding the IEP process, laws, and Special Education. Read it. Memorize it. You can thank me later.


Lower image via © iStock.com/mocker_bat


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