The IEP process can be cumbersome and confusing – especially when you take into consideration all of the acronyms and abbreviations that are used as common English.

The first thing I make sure all of my clients understand are some of the vocabulary that is used during the IEP process.  It’s a simple way to better understand what is happening in the room.  Here you’ll find a rudimentary definition of some of the most important terms.  My goal is to better define (with nuance) each definition and how it applies to children who need help.

At a Glance:

1. There are a series of laws that protect the right of people with disabilities.

2. Under the law, public schools are required to serve the educational needs of eligible students with disabilities.

3. Special Education is a legal term that refers specifically to instruction designed to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities.


IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is the federal law that guarantees requires schools to serve the educational needs of eligible children with disabilities.

LRE – Least Restrictive Environment is outlined by IDEA that states that public schools must educate kids with disabilities in a general education setting and with peers as much as possible. LRE is not a PLACE, but set of circumstances that determine how and where a student is taught.

ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act is the federal law that requires schools to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.  Through the use of accommodations, students with disabilities (including learning disabilities) are able to fully participate in school.

FERPA – Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is the federal law that ensures that (under most circumstances) your child’s educational records are kept private and cannot be shared without your consent.

FAPE – Free Appropriate Public Education is an educational right of children with disabilities.  It refers to the legal requirements that public schools provide eligible students with disabilities the support and services required – and preferably in the general education setting.

RTI – Response to Intervention is the process in which schools provide tiers of interventions for struggling students (with or without a disability).

Lau remedies are guidelines to make sure schools follow civil rights requirements when teaching English language (EL) learners.

NCLB – No Child Left Behind is the current name for the federal law (The Elementary and Secondary Education Act) that requires annual testing of students to monitor student achievement.

IEE – Individual Educational Evaluation is the testing done by a qualified examiner is is NOT employed by the school district.

IEP – Individual Education Program is the legal document that outlines the special education services that the school will provide to meet the student’s unique needs.  Includes all services: learning, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapies, etc.

504 Plan is an outline of accommodations and modifications made to a student’s education plan if the student DOES NOT qualify for an IEP.

LEA – Local Education Agency is the authority that controls the public school – typically the Board of Education.

Modifications are CHANGES to curriculum for students with disabilities – both in what they are expected to learn and how the demonstrate knowledge.  Modifications are written into a student’s IEP. Modifications may or may not affect grades and/or graduation.  Modifications change WHAT a child learns.

Accommodations are SUPPORTS to a student’s learning environment and are typically written into a student’s IEP or 504 plan.  Accommodations change HOW a student learns.


Do you need something in particular defined?  Are you confused about some of the language on your IEP?  Ask your question below or email me directly.




Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply