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The ABCs of Military Special Education

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Table of Contents

    Special education is complex, military jargon is prolific, legal terms require precise language that you have to “get right.” Because you have enough to worry about, Partners in PROMISE created an exhaustive list of terms and definitions. Bookmark this page, print it out for your IEP Binder, and let us know what we are missing that would help you navigate the special education process.

    Special Education

    Academic Intervention Services: Student support services to supplement instruction provided in the general curriculum and designed to assist students in meeting State learning standards. AIS are available to students with special needs and consistent with the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

    Activities of Daily Living (ADL): Daily self-care activities i.e. dressing, grooming, grocery shopping, etc.

    ADD/ADHD: Attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are medical conditions characterized by a child’s inability to focus, while possessing impulsivity, fidgeting and inattention.

    Accommodations: Changes that allow a person with a disability to participate fully in an activity. Examples include extended time, different test format and alterations to a classroom.

    Adapted Physical Education (APE): Specially designed physical education program to fit the needs of students who require developmental or corrective instruction.

    Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP): A measurement defined by the No Child Left Behind Act that allows the Department of Education to determine academic performance of  public schools standardized tests results.

    Age Equivalent: An age equivalent (AE) score is a type of norming that provides an estimate of the chronological age (CA) at which a typically developing child demonstrates the skills displayed by the child being assessed.

    Alternative Assessment: Alternate assessments are designed for testing students who are unable to take the regular assessment, even when testing accommodations are provided. These assessments are given to a very small number of students with significant cognitive disabilities.

    American Sign Language (ASL): A mode of communication that expresses language through movements/gestures of the hands and face.

    Annual Review:  A review of a child’s special education performance to determine the efficacy of services, recommendations to modify or terminate services, or propose additional services. This review is conducted annually and is based on the student’s needs.

    Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): The practice of applying the psychological principles of learning theory in a systematic way to modify behavior or teach specific skills. 

    Assessment: Evaluation procedures used to identify a child’s needs and the family’s concerns and priorities about their child’s development.

    Assistive Technology Devices and Services: Equipment and services to improve a child’s ability to function including playing, communicating or eating.

    Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): Includes all of the ways we share our ideas and feelings without talking; this can include gestures, the use of a speech generating device, the use of pictures, etc.

    Autism Spectrum Disorder: A developmental disability that significantly affects verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction and adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics sometimes include engaging in repetitive activities, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.

    Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP): Special education term used to describe the written plan used to address problem behavior that includes positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and support. This may include program modifications and supplementary aids and services.

    Child Study Team: A child study team consists of professionals that determine if a student is eligible for special education services or accommodations in the classroom.

    Cognitive: A term that describes the process used for remembering, reasoning, understanding, and making decisions.

    Community Advisory Committee (CAC): A committee whose membership includes parents of school children, school personnel, and representatives of the public. The committee advises school administration and local school boards regarding the plan for special education, assists with parent education, and promotes public awareness of individuals with special needs.

    Cumulative File: The records maintained by the local school district for any child enrolled in school. The file may contain evaluations and information about a child’s disability and placement, and  contains grades and standardized tests . Parents have the right to inspect these files at any time.

    Curriculum Based Assessment: An evaluation process that makes use of academic content selected directly from the material taught. 

    Deaf-Blindness: Concomitant (simultaneous) hearing and visual impairments which cause such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs designed for children with deafness or children with blindness.

    Deafness: A severe hearing impairment that adversely affects a child’s ability to process linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, and adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

    Designated Instructional Services (DIS): Also called Related Services. Instruction and services not normally provided by regular classes, resource specialist programs or special day classes. There are 16 DIS services available for students:

    • Speech and Language
    • Occupational and Physical Therapy (OT)
    • Adapted Physical Education (APE)
    • Hearing Services (HH)
    • Interpreting Services
    • Vision Services (VI)
    • Orientation and Mobility (OM)
    • Behavior Intervention Services (ABA)
    • Counseling and Guidance
    • Parent Counseling and Training
    • Psychological Services
    • Social Worker Services
    • Specially Designed Vocational Education
    • Recreation Services
    • Heath and Nursing Services
    • Mental Health Services
    • Counseling/Therapy—Individual, Group & Family
    • Parent Counseling and Training
    • Psychological Services

    Developmental Delay: For children from birth to age three (under IDEA Part C) and children from ages three to nine(under IDEA Part B),identifies a delay in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication, social or emotional development, or adaptive [behavioral] development.

    Developmental History: Steps or stages of a child’s growth in such skills as sitting, walking, and talking. This information is gathered as part of the social history requirements.

    Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): Manual currently in its 5th edition of mental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association

    Diagnostic Reading Assessment (DRA): An individualized reading assessment that enables teachers to evaluate growth in a student’s reading performance over time.

    Dominant Language: The language or other mode of communication that afamily normally uses. Evaluations must be administered in the child’s dominant language.

    Educationally Related Support Services (ERSS):  Education services intended for students not eligible for special education services yet eligible to receive supportive (or related) services such as speech and counseling services.

    Emotional Disturbance: A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time, and to a marked degree, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:

    • An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
    • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
    • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
    • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
    • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

    The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined they have an emotional disturbance.

    English Language Learner (ELL): Students who do not communicate fluently or learn effectively in English.

    English as a Second Language (ESL): Is the use of English by speakers with different native languages.

    Executive Functioning: A set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these skills every day to learn, work, and manage daily life. Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things.

    Extended School Year (ESY): Specialized instruction or related services outlined in the IEP and delivered when school is not typically in session. While oftentimes they take place in the summer, they can also occur over other breaks in the school year.

    Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): A process that collects data to determine why a behavior is occurring and what factors are reinforcing the behavior. The FBA is oftentimes a precursor to a behavior intervention plan.

    Grade Equivalent (GE): Compares the student’s performance on grade-level activities against the average performance of students at the same grade level.

    Hearing Impairment: An impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but is not included under the definition of “deafness.”

    Impartial Hearing: A formal process where a family’s complaint can be heard by an impartial hearing officer who aims to resolve the dispute or complaint regarding the child’s evaluation, IEP, or certain other issues.

    Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE): An evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency responsible for the education of the child in question.

    Individualized Education Program (IEP): A written plan developed by the CSE to specify the appropriate level of special education programs and services to meet the unique educational needs of a student with a disability.

    Individualized Education Program (IEP) Progress Report: provides detailed information about their progress toward the individualized goals and objectives designed for them in the IEP. These goals and objectives aim to remediate your child’s skill deficits in order for them to advance as it relates to their learning disability and individual needs.

    Individualized Transition Plan (ITP): The ITP is a section of the IEP that outlines short-term to long-term  goals and services for the student with a disability. The goals and objectives are designed to assist the student’s transition from the educational environment to adulthood. Intellectual Disability: Measured by a significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently (at the same time) with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Until October 2010, the law used the term “mental retardation.” In October 2010, Rosa’s Law was signed into law by President Obama, which changed the name of the term to “intellectual disability.”

    Local Education Agency (LEA): A public board of education or other public authority within a state that maintains administrative control of public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a state.

    Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): is the requirement in federal law that students with disabilities receive their education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with nondisabled peers and that special education students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily..

    Modification: Changes what a student is taught or expected to learn.

    Multiple Disabilities: Concomitant (simultaneous) impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment, etc.)that  cause such severe educational needs that a special education program cannot adequately provide accommodations for only one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness.

    Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET): Team is part of the evaluation and re-evaluation process. 

    Occupational Therapy (OT): Services delivered by an Occupational Therapist that relate to self-help skills, adaptive behavior, play, and sensory,motor, and postural development.

    Orthopedic Impairment: A severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g. cerebral palsy, amputations and fractures or burns that cause contractures).

    Orton-Gillingham: This learning approach is a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling does not come easily to individuals, such as those with dyslexia.

    Other Health Impairment (OHI): Chronic or acute health problems that cause limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance and results in limited alertness in the educational environmentSome examples include: asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia and Tourette syndrome.

    Parent Support Group: Discussion and information-sharing meetings for parents of children with disabilities.

    Physical Therapy (PT): Services provided by a Physical Therapist that relate to large movement difficulties and related functional problems.

    Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): Alternative/augmentative communication system that utilizes the exchange of pictures to teach functional communication.

    Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS): A school wide proactive approach that focuses on prevention.

    Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP): The very first PLAAFP for a child describes their skills and abilities based on initial special education evaluation.

    Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLOEP): A summary describing the student’s current achievement in the areas of need as determined by an evaluation. It specifically addresses the student’s strengths, effective teaching approaches, and interventions to enable student success.

    Present Levels of Performance (PLOP): The present level of performance is the portion of a child’s IEP that details current educational performance.

    Reevaluation Review: A reassessment of the child’s ability and achievement within a three-year period.

    Regression: loss of previously attained skills. These can include, but are not limited to: academic, social, emotional skills.

    Related Services: See Designated Instructional Services.

    Resource Specialist Program (RSP): A program designed to help support students with learning disabilities and give them strategies to help them be successful in their education. .

    Response to Intervention (RTI): Integrates assessment and intervention within a multi-level prevention system to maximize student achievement and to reduce behavioral problems. Schools use data to identify students at risk for poor learning outcomes, monitor student progress, provide evidence-based interventions, and adjust the intensity and nature of those interventions depending on a student’s responsiveness.Designed to assist teachers and schools in identifying students with learning disabilities or other disabilities. This is similar to Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS).

    Special Education: Specially designed instruction that includes special services or programs.

    Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT): A preschool special education teacher who provides direct and indirect service in regular programs or a child’s home for students ages three and four.

    Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI): An instructional delivery model, not a program. These instructional services are outlined in the IEP.

    Specific Learning Disability (SLD): A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, an intellectual disability, an emotional disturbance, or of an environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage.

    Speech Generating Device (SGD): An alternative form of communication for people with severe speech impairments.

    Speech Language Therapy: The assessment and treatment of speech language disorders and communication difficulties.

    Speech or Language Impairment: A communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

    Speech Therapy (SP or ST): Services provided by a Speech and Language Pathologist that relate to delays in speech development and communication.

    State Education Department (SED): Refers to the state agency that establishes education regulations and provides support to counties and school districts.

    Student Study/Success Team (SST): A problem solving and coordinating structure that assists students, families, and teachers to seek positive solutions for maximizing student potential.

    Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing and speech. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

    Visual Impairment Including Blindness: An impairment of vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

    Legal Terms

    Administrative Law Judge (ALJ): A judge and trier of fact who both presides over trials and adjudicates claims or disputes involving administrative law.

    Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or ADA, is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability.

    Complaint Procedure: A formal complaint filed with the County or State Board of Education if a district violates a legal duty or fails to follow a requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

    Consent: The written approval a parent gives to the Committee on Special Education to have their child evaluated and receive services. Consent is always voluntary and a parent may revoke it at any time.

    Due Process: Due process is a formal way to resolve disputes with a school about a child’s education. Parents can file a due process complaint only for special education disputes, not for general education issues. Parents have the right to an impartial hearing officer and to present evidence and witnesses at the due process hearing.

    Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): The Every Student Succeeds Act is a U.S. law passed in December 2015 that governs K–12 public education policy, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act.

    Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): A Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

    FAPE: The right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is an educational entitlement of all students in the U.S., guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Ensures students with a disability are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education that is tailored to their individual needs. The IDEA was previously known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act from 1975 to 1990.

    Mediation: A confidential, voluntary process to resolve disputes between parents and school districts without a formal due process hearing. An impartial mediator helps the parties express their views and positions and to understand the other’s views and positions and to facilitate discussion to help the parties reach an agreement. A mediator does not recommend solutions or take positions or sides..

    No Child Left Behind (NCLB): The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 replaced the ESSA and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Actincluding Title I provisions applying to disadvantaged students. 

    Pendency: A due process right that the parent and child have that allows the child and family to continue to receive services as described on the current IEP while the parent works to resolve a dispute.

    Power of Attorney (POA)

    General Power of Attorney: A legal document that grants broad authorizations to the

    agent. The agent may be able to make medical decisions, legal choices, or financial or business


    Special Power of Attorney: A legal document that is narrow in scope. This POA can be

    limited to automotive purchases/repairs or medical decisions only.  

    Prior Written Notice (PWN): Is a legal right guaranteed to parents that requires the school to send written explanations of any proposed changes in your child’s educational plan. Prior written notice also requires the school to send a written notice if the school denies a parent request.

    Section 504 Accommodation Plan/Individual Accommodation Plan (IAP): A plan for how the school will provide support and remove barriers for a student with a disability by providing services and changes to the learning environment enabling students to learn alongside their peers.

    Stay-Put:  Same as Pendency.

    Military Acronyms

    Pulled from: https://download.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/ResourceGuides/EFMP-QuickReferenceGuide.pdf

    AD (Active Duty): Someone currently serving fulltime in the military.

    AFPC (Air Force Personnel Center): The Air Force’s version of a human resources department

    Autism Care Demonstration (ACD): Once enrolled in EFMP and registered in ECHO, families may be eligible for services under the Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) benefit—a program under TRICARE that allows families to access ABA services for their children diagnosed with autism.

    BUPERS (Bureau of Naval Personnel): The Navy’s version of a human resources department, also called PERS. 

    CDC (Child Development Center): On-installation child care centers that offer full-day, part-day, and hourly care for children (6 weeks – kindergarten).

    CONUS: Duty stations located within the CONtinental United States

    CSC (Central Screening Committee): The Committee that reviews completed EFMP applications.

    DD Form: Department of Defense forms required  to enroll in EFMP.

    DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System: Military database that lists everyone who is eligible for TRICARE benefits.

    DoD: Department of Defense

    DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Activity): Is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and managing prekindergarten through 12th grade educational programs on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

    ECHO (Extended Care Health Option): Provides financial assistance to beneficiaries with special needs for an integrated set of services and supplies.

    EDIS (Educational and Developmental Intervention Services): Early intervention program serving children birth to age 3 that provides information and support to families who have questions or concerns about their child’s development.

    EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program): A mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services worldwide to U.S. military families with special needs.

    FDI (Facility Determination Inquiry): An Air Force process that begins when special needs are identified. The FMRCC develops a FDI package and sends it to the gaining EFMP location. 

    FMRCC (Family Member Relocation Clearance Coordinator): An Air Force employee who obtains medical records and schedules an in-person FMRC appointment for all family members accompanying the sponsor.

    FMTS (Family Member Travel Screening): Is required for all families being considered for accompanied OCONUS assignments, regardless of EFMP enrollment. The availability of medical and/or educational services to support the needs of family members must be verified for all locations prior to travel approval. Family Member Travel Screening may also be conducted for families enrolled in the EFMP for CONUS assignments.

    HRC (Human Resources Command): The Army’s version of a human resources department. 

    MilPDS (Military Personnel Data System): Air Force records database for personnel data and actions that occur throughout an airman’s career.

    MPD (Military Personnel Division): Army division that is responsible for military personnel management programs in support of unit readiness including installation level support for specified units.

    MTF (Military Treatment Facility): Military hospitals and clinics found at military installations around the world.

    OCONUS: Duty stations located Outside the CONtinental United States

    OPSEC (OPerational SECurity): Protecting military-related information that could, if properly analyzed and grouped with other data by a clever adversary, reveal classified military information.

    Page 2: It is the second page of a service member’s standard paperwork that includes personal family information. It is often required whenever family members need to do anything in the military.

    PAS-code (Personnel Accounting Symbol): A unique eight character code assigned to each individual unit of the U.S. Air Force.

    PCM/PCP (Primary Care Manager/Physician): Medical professional who oversees care.

    PCS (Permanent Change of Station): A change in geographical location (aka move) that is a direct result of written military orders to a new duty station.

    Q-code: An identifier to the Air Force Personnel Center when a PCS assignment comes up to ensure the gaining base can meet the needs of the sponsor’s dependents

    SLO (School Liaison Officer): Serve as the primary point of contact for school-related matters, representing, informing, and assisting commands and military families, while forging partnerships between the military and schools.

    EFMP Coordinator: Also known as Special Needs Coordinator (SNC) in the Air Force, are available to help with EFMP enrollment, status updates, and disenrollments. 

    TAD/TDY/TDI: Temporary Duty Travel (TDY), also known as “temporary additional duty” (TAD), or TDI for “temporary duty under instruction.”


    MFRC (DoD Military Family Readiness Council): The DoD Military Family Readiness Council is a federally chartered board whose job it is to consider military family programs.

    DOE: Department of Education

    HASC: House Armed Services Committee

    In Conference: When a bill is under review by a congressional committee prior to moving forward to become a law.

    NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act): The Department of Defense’s annual budget and the bill that sets the military legislative agenda for the coming year.

    OCR (Office of Civil Rights): 

    Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs (OSN): Office designated with developing a comprehensive policy on support to families who have children with disabilities and advocate for military families to help resolve problems.

    Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS): Provides a wide array of supports to parents and individuals, school districts and states in two main areas—special education and vocational rehabilitation.

    SASC: Senate Armed Services Committee

    Staffer: Legislative aides who work for elected officials, typically in the House or the Senate.

    State Educational Agency (SEA): The state-level government organization within each U.S. state or territory responsible for education, including providing information, resources, and technical assistance on educational matters to schools and residents.

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