Federal Education Terminology

When parent/guardians are interested in exploring ways in which a student can receive additional support, it is helpful to be aware of some of the education terminology that might be used. Below are some of the more common words and phrases used at IEP and 504 Plan meetings.

  • Accommodations:  Tools and interventions provided by the school to allow student to have equal access to an education for students with disabilities. Can be provided under a 504 Plan or an IEP. Examples: word processor to assist with writing; notes provided; testing in separate location; extended time are common accommodations for students with Tourette.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Federal law that protects people with disabilities from being discriminated against. Examples are protections from being bullied and being punished for symptoms.
  • Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) A plan developed by a school detailing supports and interventions which the school personnel provide in order that challenging symptoms/behaviors are less likely to re-occur.
    • Regulations: Part 300 / D / 324 / a The IEP Team must–  (i) In the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior.
  • Child Find:  Schools must locate, identify and evaluate all children who are suspected of having disabilities so that services can be available to all eligible children
  • Child with a Disability: Phrase used when IEP team is determining if a student is eligible for an IEP.  This is commonly misunderstood to mean that any child with a diagnosed disability, such as Tourette, is automatically eligible for an IEP. A student must meet IDEA’s definition of child with a disability in order to be eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
  • Due process: Requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires a formal set of policies and procedures be implemented by schools and districts for children in special education programs.
  • Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):  Replaced No Child Left Behind, rejecting the overuse of standardized tests and one-size-fits-all mandates in our schools. Additionally, states and school districts are required to include in their plans a description regarding how professional development funds will be used to improve the teaching skills of school professionals toward identifying the specific learning needs of gifted students and tailoring academic instruction to those needs. These same skills can be applied to making arrangements and plans for students with TS who are capable of performing on a high level but are not doing well in school due to tics or common related symptoms. As a civil rights law, ESSA provides protections for all students with disabilities and not just those who are eligible for special education services.
  • Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): Under IDEA, FAPE means special education and related services provided at public expense in order to meet a student’s unique needs.  Section 504 also provides FAPE by providing regular or special education services to meet the individual education needs of children with disabilities as adequately as the needs of children without disabilities are met. Students with Tourette generally receive FAPE in a general education setting with services, accommodations, modifications and aides and may not require a change of placement to a special education classroom or school. 
    • Definition of ‘Appropriate’ taken from a Supreme Court Decision The essential function of an IEP is to provide meaningful opportunities for appropriate academic and functional advancement, and to enable the child to make progress. The expectations of progress in the IEP must be appropriate in light of the child’s unique circumstances. While the Court did not specifically define “in light of the child’s circumstances,” the decision emphasized the individualized decision-making required in the IEP process and the need to ensure that every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives. “the IEP must aim to enable the child to make progress.” For example, the Court stated that the IEP Team, which must include the child’s legal guardians as Team members, must give “careful consideration to the child’s present levels of achievement, disability, and potential for growth.”
    • The definition of ‘appropriate’ becomes critically important for students with TS who are being considered for a change in placement and out of the general education setting. 
  • The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) : Both custodial and noncustodial parents have the right to access their children’s education records, and the right to seek to have the records amended. When a student reaches 18 years of age or attends a postsecondary institution, he or she becomes an “eligible student,” and all rights under FERPA transfer from the parent to the student. The term “education records” are those records that contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. These may be located in the Office of Special Education as well as office of the Principal, Nurse’s, School Psychologist’s, guidance counselor or social worker. FERPA applies to educational agencies and institutions (e.g., schools) that receive funding under any program administered by the Department of Education. Private and parochial schools at the elementary and secondary levels generally do not receive such funding and are, therefore, not subject to FERPA.
  • Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA): Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a school is obligated to provide a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) whenever a student’s behavior interferes with the ability of that or other students to learn. FBA’s are conducted to gather information regarding why, when and where a disruptive or dangerous behavior/symptom, which cannot be ignored, most often interferes with education. This information is then used to write a Behavior Intervention Plan outlining provisions which school employees will provide so that the symptom/behavior is less likely to reoccur.  Functional Behavior Assessment and positive behavior intervention plans provided by a team that includes a person knowledgeable regarding Tourette and the common co-occurring disorders can be an essential part of a student’s success in the school setting.
  • IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act): Federal law requiring a free and appropriate public education for students with disabilities. Congress stated that the purpose of IDEA is: “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living” and to “ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected.” 
  • Impartial Hearing: A formal hearing, often requiring attorney, held when school and guardians cannot agree on services to meet the unique needs of a student.
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP): An IEP is a legal document which lists the specific services an eligible student will be provided in order that they receive FAPE. It is developed and written by the IEP team during the IEP meeting. Some states require a parental signature at the end of the meeting even though Federal law does not.  It is sometimes advisable to have student’s attend IEP meetings increasing the involvement as the student advances in grades.
  • Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE): A legal guardian has the right to request an independent education evaluation at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation provided by the school.  If requested, the school must, without unnecessary delay, either file a due process complaint to request a hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate; or ensure that an IEE is provided at public expense.  This is a complex law. Read more here. 
  • Interim Alternative Education Setting: (IAES) A setting where a student with a disability may be placed under certain circumstances during the disciplinary process. The IEP team determines when an IAES is necessary. Regardless of placement, it must provide educational services which enable the student to continue to participate in the general education curriculum and make progress toward meeting the goals on the student’s IEP.
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): LRE mandates to the maximum extent appropriate, school districts must educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom with appropriate aids and supports, along with their nondisabled peers in the school they would attend if not disabled. Students with disabilities should only be placed in special ed. classes or separate schools if it is determined that, even with the provision of supplementary aids and services, the regular classroom placement will not be successful. It is important that schools determine and provide aids and supports for students with Tourette prior to changing their placement to a more restrictive setting. Some students with Tourette may require a smaller placement but it is important that FAPE continue to be provided by ensuring that this placement includes students who have similar intellectual abilities and challenges.
  • Local Education Agency (LEA): Term often used for school district or group of school districts.
  • Manifestation Determination: Student’s team, including guardians and relevant members of the IEP team determine whether a behavior violates a code of student conduct and is related to the student’s disability. Relevant members are determined by student’s parents and school district. It may include outside therapists, doctors, person recognized as being knowledgeable about student’s disability.
  • Modifications: Changes in what a student is taught or expected to learn. Examples would be not requiring a foreign language or reduced math requirements.
  • Other Health Impairment (OHI): Definition, classification under which Tourette syndrome is included in IDEA.
    • S. Department of Education explains why Tourette syndrome was added to the definition of other health impairment: ….., we do believe that Tourette syndrome is commonly misunderstood to be a behavioral or emotional condition, rather than a neurological condition. Therefore, including Tourette syndrome in the definition of other health impairment may help correct the misperception of Tourette syndrome as a behavioral or conduct disorder and prevent the misdiagnosis of their needs. Changes: We have added Tourette syndrome as an example of an acute or chronic health problem in §300.8(c)(9)(i).
  • Occupational therapy (OT): An increasingly important services for students with TS, many of whom have sensory tics/difficulties which can interfere with education. An occupational therapist works with a student and teacher to develop a sensory plan specific to the student’s needs. Additionally, occupational therapist can provide support with fine motor skills.
  • Office for Civil Rights (OCR):  Oversees and enforces a student’s civil rights including (but not limited to) 504 Plans.  Regional OCR offices may be contacted anonymously if it is believed that a school is denying a student’s civil rights. 
  • Positive Behavior Intervention Plan (PBIP): A plan developed by a student’s team that includes proactive and positive supports by the school to assist a student with managing symptoms/behaviors which interfere with students education. A PBIP is generally more effective for students with neurological disorders since consequence-based approaches do not assist a student in developing strategies to manage symptoms and/or disinhibition.
  • Psychoeducational Evaluation/Assessment: Identifies areas of strength and weakness in a student’s learning profile and provides a deeper understanding of their educational abilities. These may be requested by parent or teacher, is provided by a trained professional and provides important information that is discussed during IEP meetings as well as some 504 meetings.
  • Response to Intervention (RTI): A process by which students who have difficulties in the general education setting are identified and provided interventions to improve a student’s performance. Data is collected and reviewed to determine if greater interventions are required. The IEP process may be initiated and proceed during RTI.
  • Section 504: Provision of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits recipients of federal funds from discrimination against persons with disabilities.
  • Sensory Diet: Activities, tools, and strategies to reduce sensory issues Ex: chewing gum, movement, trampoline, weighted vest, sensory chair, music, art, modified loud environments, etc. These are often developed by the occupational therapist and supported though out the day by teachers and school staff.
  • Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP): provides support in schools to assist with critically important skills including: social skills, executive function, pragmatics, speech delays, stuttering.
  • Special Education: Specially designed instruction at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, as defined by IDEA.
  • Support Services: additional educational services, or school resources provided to students in the effort to help catch up with peers or meet specific goals. Examples: aide, resource/consultant teacher, counselor, speech or occupational therapist.