2013 Special Needs Terms and Acronyms

Need a primer on special needs terms and acronyms? This glossary of descriptive and legal terms can help.

Adaptive Development: Refers to the development of age-appropriate self-care or daily living skills.

Adjusted Age: The age of a child, less the number of weeks the child was born premature; often compared/contrasted to chronological age.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; also seen as ADAAA or Americans with Disabilities Act, As Amended.

Assistive Technology (AT): Assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices that promote greater independence for people with disabilities by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish tasks.

Birth Defect: A structural, functional or metabolic abnormality present at birth that results in physical or mental disability or is fatal.

Brain Injury: Damage or trauma to the brain that may affect memory, muscle control or other neurological functions.

Cognitive Development: Development of the functions of the brain including perception, memory, imagination and language use.

Conduct Disorder: A repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior that violates the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules.

Congenital: Any trait or condition that exists from birth.

Developmental Delay: Describes the development of children who have not reached various milestones in one or more areas in the time frame that is typical for his or her chronological age.

Developmental Disability (DD): A mental or physical condition beginning in childhood where the child acquires skills at a slower rate than his or her peers, the condition is expected to go on indefinitely, and the condition restricts the child’s ability to function in society.

Early Intervention: Specific services provided to infants and toddlers showing signs of, or at risk of, having a developmental delay.

Emotional Disturbance (ED): Refers to an individual who exhibits chronic difficulties in the emotional and behavioral areas. Also referred to as behavioral disturbance (BD) or emotional-behavioral disturbance (EBD).

Established Risk: When a child has already been identified with a condition related to developmental delay or disability or other medical conditions impacting development.

Failure to Thrive: A condition in some children below the third percentile in weight and height (compared to other children of the same age) caused by problems with feeding and/or caregiving.

Genetic Disorder: Disease transmitted from one generation to the next through genes.

Inclusion: Full participation of special needs children in programs designed for typically developing children; also referred to as mainstreaming.

Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA): Federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to children with disabilities.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A legal document that defines the individual educational goals for a child with special needs and the accommodations and services the school agrees to provide.

Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP): Documents the delivery of community-based, interagency services for families with young children who have disabilities.

Intervention: Treatment or assistance given to improve a deficit or a lag in mental or physical functioning.

Learning Disability (LD): A disorder that impacts a person’s ability to interpret what is seen and heard and/or link information from different parts of the brain that is not caused by mental retardation or known physical problems.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): A legal term pursuant to the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires schools to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent appropriate.

Neurological Disorder: Various disorders or significant problems of the central nervous system.

Occupational Therapy (OT): A type of health care treatment to improve self-help skills and adaptive behavior for people with development delays, illnesses or injuries that impede their ability to function independently.

Orthopedic Impairment: A condition of the skeletal system that may result in restricted movement and development delays, illnesses or injuries.

Sensory Integration Disorder: The inability of the brain to organize information coming through the senses; also called Sensory Processing Disorder.

Service Eligibility: Conditions that must be met to qualify for particular resources and help.

Sources: Center for the Improvement of Child Caring (ciccparenting.org) and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (ncdhhs.go

Categories: Exceptional Child