Terms and Phrases
Glossary of Special Education terms and phrases
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Ability- a characteristic that is indicative of competence in a field.
Academic Classes- classes in basic subjects such as English, history, science and math.
Accommodations- techniques and materials that allow individuals with a disability to complete school or work tasks with greater ease and effectiveness. Examples include spellcheckers, tape recorders and expanded time for completing assignments. Accommodations affect three areas of testing: 1) the administration of tests, 2) how students are allowed to respond to the items, and 3) the presentation of the tests (how the items are presented to the students on the test instrument).
Other examples of accommodations: extended time for an assignment, enlarged print, extra white space on a test, highlighter tape allowed in textbook, extra set of textbooks for home use, book bag allowed in class, locker located near core classes, use of word processor for writing assignments, handouts of notes provided for students who cannot copy from an overhead.
Achievement Tests- a test that measures the extent to which a person has acquired certain information or mastered certain skills, usually as a result of planned instruction or training. These tests are often called educational tests.
Alternative Assessment- usually means an alternative to a paper and pencil test; refers to non-conventional methods of assessing achievement (e.g.. work samples and portfolios).
Aptitude- an individual’s ability to learn or to develop proficiency in an area if provided with appropriate education or training.
Aptitude Test- a test designed to measure a person’s ability to learn and the likelihood of success in future schoolwork or in a specific career. Aptitude tests include tests of general academic (scholastic) ability; tests of special abilities (i.e., verbal, numerical, mechanical); tests that assess “readiness” for learning; and tests that measure ability and previous learning that are used to predict future performance.
Articulation (speech)- refers to the production of speech sounds resulting from the movements of the lips, jaw, and tongue as they modify the flow of air.
Assessment- the process of testing and measuring skills and abilities. Assessments include aptitude tests, achievement tests, and screening tests.
Assistive Technology- equipment that enhances the ability of students and employees to be more efficient and successful. For individuals with LD, computer grammar checkers, an overhead projector used by a teacher, or the audiovisual information delivered through a CD-ROM would be typical examples.
Association- ability to relate concepts presented through the senses (visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic).
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)- a severe difficulty in focusing and maintaining attention. Often leads to learning and behavior problems at home, school, and work. Also called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Attention Span- the length of time an individual can concentrate on a task without being distracted or losing interest.
Auditory Discrimination- ability to detect differences in sounds; may be gross ability, such as detecting the differences between the noises made by a cat or a dog, of fine ability, such as detecting the differences made by the sounds of letters “m” and “n”. Trouble telling differences between similar sounds or words. (Example: seventeen for seventy). Seems to hear but not to listen.
Auditory Memory- ability to retain information which has been presented orally; may be short term memory, such as recalling information presented several seconds before; long term memory, such as recalling information presented more than a minute before; or sequential memory, such as recalling a series of information in proper order. A disability in this area would cause difficulty remembering what was heard, difficulty remembering important items from a lecture and spells poorly.
Auditory Sequencing- a deficit in this area would cause confusion with number sequences, lists or lists of directions. Hearing ninety-four instead of forty-nine.
Basic Skill Area- includes such subjects as reading, writing, spelling, and mathematics.
Battery- a group or series of tests or subtests administered; the most common test batteries are achievement tests that include subtests in different areas.
Behavior Modification- a technique intended to change behavior by rewarding desirable actions and ignoring or “negatively rewarding” undesirable actions.
Benchmark- levels of academic performance used as checkpoints to monitor progress toward performance goals and/or academic standards.
Ceiling- the highest level of performance or score that a test can reliably measure.
Child Study Committee- is located in each school building to receive and act upon referrals of students suspected of being handicapped. The membership of this committee usually consists of at least three persons, including the school principal or person chosen by the principal, the teacher or teachers, specialists and the referring source if appropriate.
Classroom Assessment- an assessment developed, administered, and scored by a teacher to evaluate individual or classroom student performance.
Cognition- intellectual ability; thinking and reasoning skills.
Cognitive Style- a person’s typical approach to learning activities and problem solving. For example, some people carefully analyze each task, deciding what must be done and in what order. Others react to impulsivity to situations.
Collaboration- a program model in which the LD teacher demonstrates for (or team teaches) with the general classroom teacher to help a student with LD is successful in a regular classroom.
Compensation- process in which a person is taught how to cope with his learning problems, how to work around skills or abilities which may be lacking; emphasis is placed on using the individual’s strengths.
Composite Score- the practice of combining two or more subtest scores to create an average or composite score. For example, a reading performance score may be an average of vocabulary and reading comprehension subtest scores.
Conceptualization- the process of forming a general idea from what is observed. For example, seeing apples, bananas and oranges and recognizing that they are all fruit.
Congenital- a condition existing at birth or before birth. Congenital does not imply that a condition is hereditary.
Content Area- an academic subject such as math, reading, or English.
Core Curriculum- fundamental knowledge that all students are required to learn in school.
Criterion-Referenced Tests- the individual’s performance compared to an objective or performance standard, not to the performance of other students. Tests determine if skills have been mastered; do not compare a child’s performance to that of other children.
Cross Categorical refers to a system in which a teacher addresses more than one handicapping condition within one instructional period.
Decoding- the process of getting meaning from written or spoken symbols. (See Receptive Language)
Developmental Aphasia- a severe language disorder that is presumed to be due to brain injury rather than because of developmental delay in the normal acquisition of language.
Diagnostic Test- a test used to diagnose, analyze or identify specific areas of weakness and strength; to determine the nature of weaknesses or deficiencies; diagnostic achievement tests are used to measure skills.
Direct Instruction- an instructional approach to academic subjects that emphasizes the use of carefully sequenced steps that include demonstration, modeling, guided practice, and independent application.
Directionality- the ability to know right from left, up from down, forward from backward, and direction and orientation.
Discrimination- process of detecting differences between and/or among stimuli.
Distractibility- the shifting of attention from the task at hand to sounds, sights, and other stimuli that normally occur in the environment.
Due Process- the application of law to ensure that an individual’s rights are protected. When applied to children with learning disabilities, due process means that parents have the right to request a full review of any educational program developed for their child. A due process hearing may be requested to ensure that all requirements of Public Law 94-142 have been met.
Dyscalculia- difficulty in understanding or using mathematical symbols or functions. A child with dyscalculia may be able to read and write but have difficulty in performing mathematical calculations.
Dysgraphia- a severe difficulty in producing handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed.
Dyslexia- a severe difficulty in understanding or using one or more areas of language, including listening, speaking, reading, writing, and spelling. A dyslexic may see letters, syllables, or words upside down, reversed, blurred, backwards, or otherwise distorted.
Dysnomia- difficulty in remembering names or recalling appropriate words to use in a given context. A marked difficulty in remembering names or recalling words needed for oral or written language.
Dyspraxia- A severe difficulty in performing drawing, writing, buttoning, and other tasks requiring fine motor skill, or in sequencing the necessary movements.
Educational Consultant/Diagnostician- an individual who may be familiar with school curriculum and requirements at various grade levels; may or may not have a background in learning disabilities; may conduct educational evaluations.
Educational Evaluation- one of the components necessary to determine whether a child is handicapped. Although the specific content of an educational evaluation is not specified by the regulations, the evaluation generally consists of a battery of tests and /or classroom observation and analysis of class work designed to determine the current levels of achievement in areas such as reading, math, spelling, etc. Perceptual abilities and learning style may also be evaluated.
Eligibility Committee- determines (1) whether a child has a handicapping condition which requires special education and, in some cases, related services such as speech and language therapy; (2) identifies the handicapping condition and recommends the special education services (and, where needed, related services) that are needed. It is composed of the special education administrator or a person representing the administrator and school division personnel representative of the disciplines involved in the conduct of the evaluation (e.g., psychologist, educational diagnostician). At least one school division representative must be a person who tested or observed the student.
Encoding- the process of expressing language (i.e., selecting words; formulating them into ideas; producing them through speaking or writing). (See Expressive Language)
Expressive Language- communication through writing, speaking, and or gestures.
Eye-Hand Coordination- the ability of the eyes and hands to work together to complete a task. Examples are drawing and writing.
Figure-Ground Discrimination- Auditory figure-ground or visual figure-ground discrimination is the ability to sort out important information from the surrounding environment. For example, hearing (auditory) a teacher’s voice while ignoring other classroom noises (air-conditioners, heaters, etc.) or seeing (visual) a word among others on a crowded page.
Fine Motor- the use of small muscles for precision tasks such as writing, tying bows, zipping a zipper, typing, cutting with scissors, doing puzzles.
General Education- or “regular education”, all education not included under Special Education.
Grade Equivalents- test scores that equate a score to a particular grade level. Example: if a child scores at the average of all sixth graders tested, the child would receive a grade equivalent score of 5.0. Use with caution.
Gross Motor- the use of large muscles for activities requiring strength and balance. Examples are walking, running, and jumping.
Handicapped- any person with any physical and/or mental disability who has difficulty in doing certain tasks such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning, or working. Federal law defines handicapped children as those who are mentally retarded, hard of hearing, deaf, speech impaired, visually handicapped, seriously emotionally disturbed, orthopedically impaired, other health impaired, blind, multihandicapped, or as having specific learning disabilities and who require special educational services because of these disabilities.
Hyperactivity- disorganized and disruptive behavior characterized by constant and excessive movement. A hyperactive child usually has difficulty sticking to one task for an extended period and may react more intensely to a situation than a normal child.
IEP- see Individualized Education Plan (or Program)
IEP Committee- writes the Individualized Education Plan (Program) for the youngster who has been identified by the Eligibility Committee as handicapped. Members are (1) a school division employee, other than the student’s teacher, who is qualified to provide or supervise special education; (2) the student’s teacher(s); (3) the parent or guardian (4) the student, if appropriate and if 14 required; (5) other individuals who the parents or the school division select.
Impulsivity- reacting to a situation without considering the consequences.
Individual Education Plan (IEP)- a written educational prescription developed for each handicapped (including learning disabled) child. Sometimes called an Individual Education Program. School districts are required by law to develop these plans, in cooperation with parents. An IEP must contain:
Informal Tests- task-oriented tests to provide information concerning specific skills. Are not standardized.
Inversions- in reading, spelling, or math, confusion of up down directionality or letters or numbers, e.g., M for W , 6 for 9, etc.
Itinerant Teacher- special education teacher who is shared by more than one school.
Kinesthetic- pertaining to the muscles.
Kinesthetic Method- a way of teaching words using the muscles. For example, a student might trace the outline of a word with a finger while looking at the word and saying aloud the word or its letters, in sequence. Hands on learning.
LD- learning disability, learning disabled, learning disabilities
Learning Disabilities- disorders of the basic psychological processes that affect the way a child learns. Many children with learning disabilities have average or above average intelligence. Learning disabilities may cause difficulties in listening, thinking, talking, reading, writing, spelling, or arithmetic. Included are perceptual handicaps, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Excluded are learning difficulties caused by visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, mental retardation, emotional disturbances, or environmental disadvantage.
Learning Disorder- damage or impairment to the nervous system that results in a learning disability.
Learned Helplessness- a tendency to be a passive learner who depends on others for decisions and guidance. In individuals with LD, continued struggle and failure can heighten this lack of self-confidence.
Learning Modalities-approaches to assessment of instruction stressing the auditory, visual, or tactile avenues for learning that are dependent upon the individual.
Learning Strategy Approaches- instructional approaches that focus on efficient ways to learn, rather than on curriculum. Includes specific techniques for organizing, actively interacting with material, memorizing, and monitoring any content or subject.
Learning Style- the channels through which a person best understands and retains learning. All individuals learn best through one or more channels: vision, hearing, movement, touching, or a combination of these.
Mean- average score; sum of individual scores divided by the total number of scores.
Median- the middle score in a distribution or set of ranked scores; the point (score) that divides a group into two equal parts; the 50th percentile. Half the scores are below the median, and half are above it.
Metacognitive Learning- instructional approaches that emphasize awareness of the cognitive processes that helps one’s own learning and its application to academic work assignments. Typical metacognitive techniques include systematic rehearsal of steps or conscious selection among strategies for completing a task.
Mode- the score or value that occurs most often in a distribution.
Modifications- changes in the content, format, and/or administration of a test to accommodate test takers who are unable to take the test under standard test conditions. Modifications alter what the test is designed to measure of the comparability of scores.
Multisensory Learning- an instructional approach that combines auditory, visual, and tactile elements into a learning task. Tracing sandpaper numbers while saying a number fact aloud would be a multisensory learning activity.
Neuropsychological Examination- a series of tasks that allow observation of performance that is presumed to be related to the intactness of brain function.
Perceptual Handicap- difficulty in accurately processing, organizing, and discriminating among visual, auditory, or tactile information. A person with a perceptual handicap may say that “cap/cup” sound the same of that “b” and “d” looks the same. However, glasses or hearing aids do not necessarily indicate a perceptual handicap.
Prereferral Process- a procedure in which special and regular teachers develop trial strategies to help a student showing difficulty in learning remains in the regular classroom.
Raw Score- a raw score is the number of questions answered correctly on a test or subtest. For example, if a test has 59 items and the student gets 23 items correct, the raw score would be 23. Raw scores are converted to percentile ranks, standard scores, grade equivalent and age equivalent scores.
Receptive Language- a student with this disorder appears to be “not listening”, have incomplete work because they didn’t get all the directions.
Resource Program- a program model in which a student with LD is in a regular classroom for most of each day, but also receives regularly scheduled individual services in a specialized LD resource classroom.
Score- a specific number that results from the assessment of individual.
Self-Advocacy- the development of a specific skills and understandings that enable children and adults to explain their specific learning disabilities to others and cope positively with the attitudes of peers, parents, teachers, and employers.
Specific Language Disability- a sever difficulty in some aspect of listening, speaking, reading, writing, or spelling, while skills in the other areas are age-appropriate. Also called Specific Language Learning Disability
Specific Learning Disability- the official term used in federal legislation to refer to difficulty in certain areas of learning, rather that in all areas of learning. Synonymous with learning disabilities.
Standard Deviation- a measure of the variability of a distribution of scores. The more the scores cluster around the mean, the smaller the standard deviation. In a normal distribution, 68% of the scores fall within one standard above and one standard deviation below the mean.
Subtest- a group of test items that measure a specific area (i.e.. math calculation and reading comprehension). Several subtests make up a test.
Test Bias- the difference in test scores that is attributable to demographic variables (e.g., gender, ethnicity, and age).
Transition- commonly used to refer to the change from secondary school to postsecondary programs, work, and independent living typical of young adults. Also used to describe other periods of major change such as from early childhood to school or from more specialized to mainstreamed settings.
Validity- the extent to which a test measures the skills it sets out to measure and the extent to which inferences and actions made on the basis of test scores are appropriate and accurate.
Visual Discrimination- difficulty seeing the difference between two similar objects.
Visual Memory- difficulty remembering what was seen. Difficulty in reading comprehension, math equations and poor recall of information.
Visual Motor Integration- a deficit in this area may result in the inability to may cause mechanical problems in test taking, difficulty copying from chalkboard or overhead or book, spaces poorly, and poor written work, unorganized.
Visual Sequencing- a deficit in this area may result in problems in using a separate answer sheet may lose place easily while reading, reversing or misreading numbers or letters.