Assistive Technology - Assistive Technology refers to equipment, products and services to improve, maintain or increase the functional capabilities of a student with a disability.  For instance, this device could assist non-verbal children communicate or could be a lap top for a child with problems with written expression.   This requires an assistive technology evaluation.


Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) - A Behavior Intervention Plan is a specific, well defined, written plan of action for managing a student's behavior.  A BIP uses the observations made by a professional who conducts what is referred to as a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) of a child.


Classification Classification is the first step in determining whether a child is eligible to receive special education services.  There are 14 separate classifications recognized in North Carolina, these are:

  • Autism (AU)
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder (AU) is a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Developmental Disorder (for children ages 3-7)
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment (OHI)
  • Serious Emotionally Disturbed (ED)
  • Speech or Language Impairment (SLI)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Visual Impairment (VI)


Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) - This nationwide organization is a watchdog and lobbying group protecting the rights and interests of children with disabilities.


District This refers to a school district.


Early Intervention (EI)A Federal program available to children from birth to age three, who display a 25% delay in two or more areas of development.  This program provides evaluations as well as a host of services, including:  ABA, feeding therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, play therapy, speech therapy, special education and parent training.  It is a free program and available to all children regardless of a parents’ financial resources.  The first step in accessing this program is generally through a child’s pediatrician, however parents can self-refer.


Evaluation   An evaluation assesses the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability.  The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child.  A parent may request that their child be evaluated or a teacher may refer the child.  Parents must consent for their child to be evaluated if the evaluation is not administered to all children.


Extended School Year (ESY) A provision for special education students to receive instruction during ordinary school “vacation” periods (most often used during the summer).     There are two types of analysis when determining whether ESY is appropriate for a student.  1. Regression-recoupment analysis:  services are necessary when a child will experience significant regression in the absence of an educational program and the time it will take to relearn the skills is excessive. 2. Significantly jeopardized analysis: services are necessary when the progress the student made during the school year will be significantly jeopardized during extended school breaks.


Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) -  FAPE is the cornerstone of all special education law.  A FAPE is the fundamental right and entitlement of every child who has been identified as needing special education and related services.  This is a federal guarantee given to children and their parents by both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).


Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) - This is generally done by a licensed psychologist to assess a student whose behavior(s) interferes with their ability to progress in the curriculum and to achieve IEP goals.  FBA’s purpose to isolate a target behavior and to develop a hypothesis regarding function of the target behavior.  (A target behavior interferes with student's ability to progress in the curriculum and to achieve IEP goals). Once the target behavior is identified and the hypothesis developed, create a positive intervention plan to address the target behavior with strategies and interventions, if necessary use a more informal approach.


Full Scale Intelligence Quotient (FSIQ) - This is the weighted average of sub-scores of an I.Q. or intelligence test.


Grade Equivalent (GE) You will often see these numbers on an educational evaluation or on the I.E.P.  It indicates what grade and the month a child is scoring in a specific area.  For example, a G.E. in calculation of 2.9 means that in mathematical calculation the child is scoring in the 9th month of 2nd grade.


Hearing When this term is used by a or school district it generally means Impartial Hearing or Due Process Hearing.   This is a legal proceeding occurring when parents disagree with the classification or program recommendation made by a IEP team.


If the school district denies your child a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), you have the right to challenge the district in a due process hearing. These challenges concern your child’s evaluation, classification, program and placement and/or implementation of services. If you choose to pursue a due process hearing, a Hearing Officer is appointed to hear your side and the side of the school district and then decide the dispute.

 If you choose to pursue a hearing, the process is much like a trial, with each side presenting evidence and sworn testimony to the Hearing Officer.  In North Carolina, the hearing officer is an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  After the hearing is concluded, the ALJ renders a decision. Statistically, parents are significantly more successful in these hearings if they have a special education attorney present their case. 

Once the hearing is complete, either party (you or the school district) disagrees with the ALJ's decision, they can then appeal to the EC Division.  If there is an appeal, the EC Division appoints an impartial review officer to conduct a state-level review.  The review officer conducts a review of the findings and decisions appealed and issues an independent decision upon completion of the review.  The decision made by the review officer is final unless either party brings a civil action in either state or federal court. 

If you think your child is not receiving an appropriate education, Sydnor Law Firm, PLLC is here to help your family every step of the way through this difficult process.


Home Based ProgramA special education program that occurs in a child’s home or a therapist’s office or sensory gym, as opposed to in a school or center based facility.


Inclusion - A popular philosophical position based upon the belief that we need to return to one educational system for all students and that every student is entitled to an instructional program which meets his or her individual needs and learning characteristics within a general education classroom environment.


Independent Evaluation (IEE) - Testing done by someone who does not work for the school system. Parents may request one IEE per year if they dispute the results of the school evaluation.


Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)This is the federal law (statute) governing special education throughout the USA.  It is a funding statute which assures that children with educational handicaps receive special education and related services that are appropriate for them.  It is the important law establishing and protecting special education in our country.  The official citation for this statute is 20 U.S.C. 1400-1415.


Individual Education Program (IEP)This is the document created by a team (including the parent) indicating a child’s classification, program recommendation, related services, goals and objectives. An IEP is a legal document that must be created by adhering to legal procedures.


Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Special education law requires that every classified student be educated in the least restrictive environment where they can have as much exposure as possible to typically developing peers.    For example, a resource classroom is less restrictive than a self- contained class.  The level of restriction is important because it determines the degree of exposure for the student to interact with their typically developing peers.


Mainstreaming - A term used where a child with an IEP has an opportunity to be educated with or alongside typically developing non-special education students in a regular classroom, for a portion of each school day.  It also refers for opportunities to participate with typical children for non-academic activities, such as lunch, art, music, assembly and trips.


Parentally Placed A private school placement made by parents who are not seeking reimbursement.  Generally, this refers to private mainstream and religious school placements, it should not be confused with a unilateral placement.


Placement –under IDEA refers a point on the continuum from PRTF to mainstreaming and everything in between.


Related Services - The IDEA defines related services as: "transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.”


Unilateral Placement - A placement made by a parent without the recommendation, approval or consent of the school district.  This term is usually used when referring to placement in a private special education school, but can also be used for a private therapist or other services, that a parent on his or her own initiates and funds.