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Glossary: Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are a part of many students' lives. Understanding the terms used in this context is crucial for students, parents, and educators. This glossary is designed to explain these terms. Remember, these terms are tools to help us better understand and support those with learning disabilities.

Glossary of Learning Disability Terms

Acquired Injury: An injury that occurs after birth and causes a disability. This could be from an accident, illness, or other causes that affect the brain or body.

Accommodations: Adjustments made in how a student with a disability is taught or tested. These adjustments help students with disabilities access the curriculum and show what they know without changing the content.

Adapted Physical Education: Physical education is modified or adapted to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

Adaptive Behavior: The collection of skills and behaviors that people need to live independently and function well in daily life.

Alternate Assessment: A type of assessment. This test is used for students with disabilities who are unable to take part in standard educational testing. This allows these students to be assessed in a way that accommodates their specific needs.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A law in the United States that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. This is prohibited in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, and transportation. Learn more with FindLaw's The Americans with Disabilities Act Overview article.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): People with this disorder have severe difficulty focusing and maintaining attention. They display characteristics of inattentiveness, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. This disorder often leads to learning and behavior problems at home and school.

Assistive Technology: Tools or devices that help students with disabilities in their learning. Assistive technology devices can include computers, special software, or audio recorders.

Auditory Discrimination: People with this disorder have difficulty with perception. They have trouble perceiving differences between speech sounds and sequencing these sounds into meaningful words.

Autism: A developmental disorder that negatively affects communication and behavior. It involves a range of symptoms and skills.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP): A plan that includes strategies to improve behavior that may interfere with learning or interactions.

Child Find: A component of IDEA. Child Find is a legal requirement that schools identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities who may need special education services.

Communication Disorder: A problem with speaking, understanding, or using language.

Department of Education (ED): The government department responsible for overseeing education policies. It administers federal funding for education and ensures compliance with federal education laws.

Developmental Aphasia: This is a severe language disorder. It is thought to be due to a brain injury rather than a developmental delay in the normal acquisition of language.

Developmental Disability: A group of conditions that cause impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas.

Dyscalculia: People with this disorder have severe difficulty understanding number-related concepts. These students may need symbols for success in mathematics.

Dysgraphia: People with this disorder have difficulty with handwriting. Their writing is usually not legible and not written at an age-appropriate speed. Problems might be seen in the motor patterns used during writing. It can also appear as difficulties with spelling and written composition.

Dyslexia: This is difficulty with language processing. It impacts reading, writing, and spelling.

Dysnomia: People with this disorder have difficulty remembering names or recalling words.

Dyspraxia: This is a severe difficulty in performing tasks requiring fine motor skills. Tasks like drawing or writing may be difficult for the student.

Due Process Hearings: A formal meeting where disagreements between the family of a student with a disability and the school are discussed and resolved. These disagreements usually involve the student's school program.

Early Intervention Services: Programs or services are given to very young children with developmental delays or disabilities. The goal is to help these children catch up in their development.

Educational Environment: The setting in which education is provided. This could range from a general education classroom to a more specialized setting, depending on their needs.

Educational Evaluation: A thorough assessment is conducted by professionals to determine a student's learning strengths, weaknesses, and needs. This evaluation is used to make decisions about eligibility for special education services and the development of an IEP.

Education Plan: A comprehensive plan developed for a student, which may include an IEP or a 504 plan. It outlines the educational goals, services, and supports needed for the student to succeed.

Educational Needs: Refers to the specific learning requirements of a student, focusing on those with disabilities. These needs are identified through evaluations and are addressed in the student's education plan.

Educational Rights: The legal rights that ensure students have access to education, including the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and the right to services that allow students to access education according to their unique needs.

Eligibility: Refers to whether a student meets specific criteria to qualify for special education services. This eligibility is determined through evaluations and assessments. Learn more with FindLaw's IEP Requirements for Disabled Students article.

Emotional Disturbance: A classification used in special education to describe students who have significant challenges in managing their emotions. This can have a negative effect on their educational performance.

Enrollment: Refers to the process of entering a student into a school or educational program. Schools must identify non-discriminatory enrollment practices for students with disabilities.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): A legal right under IDEA. This right ensures that students with disabilities receive an education that fits their needs at no cost to the family.

Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA): A process to understand the reasons behind a student's behavior and how to address that behavior in an effective manner.

General Education: The standard curriculum and education program offered to all students in a school, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

Health Impairment: A term that refers to a wide range of chronic or acute health problems that impact a child's ability to learn. These impairments can include asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and other conditions.

Independent Living: Refers to the ability of individuals with disabilities to manage their daily lives with minimal assistance. It often includes skills training and resources to improve independence.

Individualized Education Program (IEP): A plan developed for a student with a disability. The IEP is tailored to the individual's needs and includes the student's goals and the services they will receive. The IEP team consists of parents, educators, and specialists.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP): A plan for special services and related services for young children with disabilities. It focuses on the child and their family and what they need.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): A federal law that ensures that students with disabilities get a free appropriate public education. Learn more with FindLaw's What to Know About the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) article.

Language Impairment: Difficulties in speaking, listening, reading, or writing. This is due to problems with understanding or using language.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): A setting that allows students with disabilities to learn alongside their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible.

Mandates: The legal requirements that schools and educational agencies must follow to provide services to students with disabilities.

Occupational Therapy: A type of therapy that helps students with disabilities develop, improve, or maintain skills needed for daily living and school tasks.

Orthopedic Impairment: A disability that affects a child's ability to move or complete motor activities.

Perceptual Handicap: This is difficulty processing, organizing, and discriminating among visual, auditory, or tactile information.

Physical Therapy: A type of therapy that helps individuals improve their movement and manage their pain.

Procedural Safeguards: Legal protections for students with disabilities and their families, ensuring their rights in the special education process. These safeguards include the right to participate in meetings, to access educational records, and to resolve disputes.

Referral: The formal process of identifying a child as potentially needing special education services and starting the process of evaluation and determination of eligibility.

Rehabilitation Act: A federal law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination in programs that receive federal funding.

Response to Intervention (RTI): A multi-tier approach to identify and support students with learning and behavior needs.

School Psychologist: A professional who works in educational settings to help students succeed academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. They often conduct assessments, provide counseling, and consult with educators and parents.

Special Education Programs: Programs designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities.

Special Needs: A term used to describe individuals who require extra assistance or accommodations due to physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional disabilities or challenges.

Specific Language Disability: People with this disorder have severe difficulty in some aspects of listening, speaking, reading, writing, or spelling. Their skills in other areas may be age-appropriate.

Specific Learning Disability: This term is synonymous with learning disabilities. It is the official term used in federal legislation. It refers to difficulty in certain areas of learning compared to difficulty in all areas of learning.

Specially Designed Instruction: Instruction that is tailored to the unique needs of a student with a disability.

Support Services: Services provided in schools to assist students in their learning and development. These can include speech therapy, counseling, occupational therapy, and more.

Transition Plan: A part of the IEP that prepares students with disabilities for life after high school. It includes goals and services related to training and education. It also includes planning, where appropriate, for employment and independent living skills.

Transition Services: Services designed to help students with disabilities move from school to adult life. This includes education, vocational training, employment, independent living, and community participation.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): An injury to the brain that can cause problems with thinking, learning, and behavior.

Visual Impairment: A term that includes any kind of vision loss, whether it's someone who cannot see at all or someone who has partial vision.

Getting Legal Help

Navigating the world of learning disabilities and special education can be challenging. Sometimes, legal assistance may be necessary. Lawyers with experience in special education and learning disabilities can help. They can help you understand relevant laws and advocate for your student. They can help ensure that your student receives an appropriate education.

Speak to an education law attorney about your child's learning disabilities today.

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