Special Education Terms and Acronyms under IDEA

IDEA Terms and Acronyms Defined

In the legal mandates of IDEA, there are a list of terms and acronyms including IDEA that need to be defined and demystified for the regular layperson. Below are the terms and the acronyms that will make IEP meetings a breeze for all of the stakeholders:

  • ADA – American with Disabilities Act
  • ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder
  • BD – Behavioral Disorder
  • BIP – Behavioral Intervention Plan based on the FBA
  • EDB – Emotional Behavioral Disorder
  • Case Law – court developed laws addressing special education issues
  • Competency – the ability to achieve a designated level of academic or behavioral performance
  • Consent – parent permission for schools to evaluate students for special education services
  • Disability – impairments that affect school performance defined under IDEA
  • EAHCA – Education for All Handicapped Children Act, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • FAPE – Free Appropriate Public Education
  • FBA- Functional Behavioral Analysis – Analysis of students behavior for the behavioral intervention plan (BIP)
  • Full inclusion – mainstreaming special education students in regular education classes.
  • FERPA – Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act – related to student privacy acts and confidential laws
  • HCPA – Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986 – provides legal compensations and reimbursements for parents who have been successful in cases against agencies
  • IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • IEP – Individualized Education Program, also known as Individualized Education Plan
  • LRE – Least restrictive environment which is known as mainstreaming special
  • LD – Learning disabled per diagnostic assessments
  • MR – Mentally retarded as medically diagnosed
  • Reasonable Accommodation or Modification – providing reasonable program or curriculum modifications for students with IEPs or 504 plans
  • Section 504 – Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that provides reasonable accommodations for students with defined disabilities
  • Transition services – a part of the IEP that provides activities and educational instruction for students transitioning into higher education or other defined settings under IDEA (Rothstein, L.F. (2000) pp 327-330.

This list is not a comprehensive list of the myriad of terms used in IDEA law and special education school communities, but it’s a start for those navigating the journey of special education services for students.


Rothstein, L.F. (2000). Special education law. (3rd ed.) New York: Longman.