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  • Writer's pictureLaura Jones

Death by Acronyms

How the ABC's of IEP's can destroy an educational process

The special education process is simply full of acronyms. You get a notice of a REED, prior to the IEP meeting. At the REED, staff discuss the testing, perhaps the WISC, and debate the value of a FSIQ, perhaps pointing to a better solution using an FBA, or maybe RTI first. Does IDEA still allow that? Has anyone seen guidance on that from OSE? What in the world are you supposed to do when you cannot follow the discussion because the code is like a foreign language? You feel like a half wit just trying to follow the basic conversation.

This is your child, and this is your meeting. Set some ground rules. You will need to assert yourself a little here, but this is your meeting and doing so can make all the difference. Send a nice email before the meeting to the team leader, or the entire team, and make concrete asks for the meeting. My suggestion is often this "in order that I / we are better able to participate in this important meeting for our child, we ask that you refrain from using acronyms during any / all meetings we attend. The use of acronyms does save time, but since we do not know them all, they also alienate us from the meeting and actively prevent us from participating in a meaningful way". Restate your request at the beginning of the meeting verbally as a reminder. It can be a bit cumbersome to say Individualized Education Plan instead of IEP or Functional Behavior Analysis instead of FBA, but its a small change that can open up your ability to participate.

How will this help? For one, you will understand what is actually going on more clearly. Be sure to ask for more information when the issue being discussed isn't clear to you. If someone is talking about Response To Intervention (RTI) you may still not be clear why they are bringing it up. Ask. Why is this an issue? Why does it matter? How will this process change the way our current plan is working or being designed? These are fair questions. You should be sure you understand as much as you can. If you feel confused, slow the meeting down and ask. You may get some glares, but generally, professionals are willing to explain the terms and process to you clearly.

So those terms....there are so many. In cases where teams don't stop using them, here is a basic glossary that may help you.




Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act


Americans with Disabilities Act


Alternative Dispute Resolution


Administrative Law Judge


Assistive Technology


U.S. Department of Education


Free and Appropriate Public Education


Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act


Independent Educational Evaluation


Individualized Educational Program


Local Education Agency


Least Restrictive Environment


Manifestation Determination Review


No Child Left Behind


U.S. Office for Civil Rights at the US Department of Education


U.S. Office of Special Education Programs at the US Department of Education


U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Programs


Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy


Prior Written Notice


Speech Language Pathologist

Remember, you are a meaningful member of your child's special education team!

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