Commonly Used Terms

Listed in alphabetical order:

Accommodation A change or adjustment to the work environment which permits a person with a disability to apply for a job, perform the essential functions of the job, and enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.
ADA The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 – Federal legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability.
Adaptive Skills Skills needed by students that facilitate community integration and independence.
ADD/ADHD Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder Hyperactivity
Adult Services Refers to the many agencies and programs that are provided to adults with specific needs such as
Advocacy Speaking on behalf of another person or group of persons.
Advocate Someone who takes action to help someone else.
Age of Majority The age that the state has determined a person is allowed to make decisions on their own (usually 18) unless determined incompetent to do so by a court of law.
Allies Groups or individuals who believe in the same thing you or your group who will stand by you. An ally may not believe in every thing that you believe in, but they will band together with you on the issues you both care about. Your allies also believe in you as a person or group.
Ancillary Staff Staff who provide services that are specially designed to meet the unique needs of a student with a disability through age 25.
Annual Goals A set of general statements that represent expected achievement over a year’s time for a student with a disability enrolled in special education programs and services.
AP Alternate Participants
APE Adapted Physical Education
Appeal To make a request for a change of a decision.
Apprenticeships Periods of part-time work experience that may extend a year or more, usually associated with a specific occupation.
Aptitudes The particular strengths, knowledge, or skills that a person has, generally related to an occupation or career.
Assistive Technology Any item, piece of equipment or product that is used to assist, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a person.
Audiologist A person who is qualified to assess a person’s hearing and provide interventions to improve it.
AUT Autistic
Behavioral Supports Strategies designed to reduce or eliminate inappropriate or stigmatizing behaviors that may limit an individual’s participation in community life.
BLI Blind.
Board (or Board of Directors) A group of people who make decisions for an organization, such as an agency, a community group, or a religious group. Some kinds of decisions a board makes are: decisions about finances (money), policy (what an organization stands for, its rules and positions), and employment decisions, such as salaries, benefits and hiring an executive director. Boards usually make decisions by voting.
BPAO Benefit Planning Assistance and Outreach.
Budget A written plan of the finances of an organization. A budget tells how much the organization plans to spend and to earn or raise, as in fund-raising. A budget can cover periods of time like one month, three months (or quarter), one year (might be termed an annual budget). Sometimes it covers all of these time periods.
BWE Blind Work Experience. Blind Work Experience provides that any earned income of a person who is blind which is used to meet expenses needed to earn the income is not counted in determining SSI eligibility and the payment amount.
CAC Community Advocacy Committee
Career Exploration A systematic process designed to assist a person with a developmental disability to identify career goals based on interest and aptitude, and to research jobs by observing job sites or sampling a variety of work tasks.
Career Fairs Panels and/or exhibits designed to provide information on a range of careers.
Career Planning Refers to the general planning process related to helping the individual develop and achieve meaningful adult roles. Transition planning is a specific form of career planning.
Career Portfolios Organized samples (often a notebook) of student work and classroom activities that include writing samples, photographs, videos and other demonstrations of student performance.
Career Portfolio Assessment A standardized method of assessing the student’s career portfolio activities by measuring mastery (e.g., novice, apprentice, expert) or level of independence.
CARF The Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission – Promotes quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through accreditation that centers on enhancing the lives of the persons receiving services.
Case Manager A person responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing a person’s Individual Program Plan (IPP). May also be called a Service Coordinator.
Choicemaker A self-determination approach that focuses on: (a) choosing goals, (b) expressing goals, and (c) taking action.
COACH A form of person-centered planning that stands for Choosing Options and Accommodations for Children. Includes the family’s values and dreams in IEP planning.
Community This is a hard word to define because it has many meanings. Community can mean the places where members of the general public live and get together. It can also refer to institutions and other kinds of places where only people with disabilities live together.
Community College A post-secondary education program (generally two-year) that leads to an occupation or entrance into an university.
Compliance Complaint A formal complaint filed against an educational agency regarding a possible violation of a student’s rights under IDEA. This may be filed when the school does not provide what it has agreed to provide in the IEP.
Confidentiality A guarantee that personally identifiable information about a student or family remains private and may only be shared among agencies with the written permission of the parent.
Coordinator A person or agency responsible for assuring that planned services are provided in a timely manner and in a way that complements other services provided to a student.
Course of Study Refers to the type of educational program that a student is enrolled in, including vocational education, college preparation and apprenticeships.
DBL Deaf-Blind
DD Developmental Disability
DEA Deaf
Departmentalized A secondary level instruction approach in which two or more teachers provide content instruction to common groups of special education students.
Developmental Disability A disability that is acquired during the period the person is developing, generally before age 21 or at birth, and that significantly impacts several life activity areas such as self-care, self-direction, learning, mobility, speech and independent living.
DIS Designated Instructional Service
DOL Department of Labor
Due Process Procedure established to protect a student’s right to entitled services.
Ecological Model A model that focuses on individuals and the environments that affect their lives.
Educational Evaluation An evaluation of a student’s achievement levels in reading, math and/or written expression.
Education of All Handicapped Children Act Landmark 1975 legislation that required education for all students with disabilities and introduced the terms IEP, Least Restrictive Environment, Free Appropriate Public Education, and Multi-factored Evaluation to Education.
EIE Earned Income Exclusion
Eligibility Requires that a student has met all the criteria within the law in order to take part in special education programs and services.
Employability Life Skills Assessment This criterion-referenced checklist may be used yearly to assess a student’s level of performance in twenty-four critical employability skills areas in the domains
Employment Specialists In supported employment, a person who provides job placement, training, and sometimes follow-along services to a worker with a disability. Sometimes used interchangeably with job coach.
Empowerment Education and practices aimed at transferring power to or strengthening individuals and groups.
EN Employment Network
Enclave A form of supported employment where a group of no more than eight persons with disabilities work in an integrated employment setting, often with professional supervision.
Entitlement The legal right to certain services and benefits.
Entitlements Programs that must be provided to all eligible persons upon demand. Special education and Social Security are entitlements, many adults services are not.
EPE Extended Period of Eligibility
ESL English as a Second Language
ESR Employment Supported Representative
Facilitator Someone who supports or assists a group to do what it wants to do. The facilitator does not express personal opinions, but listens and assists others by asking questions. Facilitators can help a group make plans and decide how and when they will accomplish their goals. Facilitators can help with other difficult tasks, such as when serious disagreement exists between members or when a group needs to think hard about something.
Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act Federal legislation giving parents and students over age 18 the right to inspect and review educational records.
FAPE Free and Appropriate Public Education
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
FBR Federal Benefit Rate
FO SSA Field Office
Follow-Along Services In supported employment this term refers to services and supports provided to a worker with a disability after job training is complete.
Free Appropriate Public Education The requirements, introduced by EHA of 1975, that requires schools to provide an education relevant to the needs of students with disabilities. The courts have generally stated that appropriateness does not mean optimal, only that the student is progressing at a reasonable rate.
Functional Vocational Evaluation Evaluation that focuses on identifying skills demonstrated by the student in actual vocational and life activities. Situational and work assessments are functional. IQ tests and tests of standardized reading levels are not.
GIE General Income Exclusion
Grants Money given by a government or by a foundation or charity. A grant is usually given for the accomplishment of specific activities or goals.
Group Action Planning A self-determination approach that helps students take charge of personal futures planning.
Guardian A person or agency that assumes limited or unlimited authority to make decisions for a minor or an adults who has been determined to be incompetent in a court of law. Includes medical guardianships, guardianship of the person, and guardian of the estate.
HOH Hard of hearing
HUD Housing and Urban Development. A program that provides subsidized housing for low-income persons.
HWD Health care for Workers with Disabilities
IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IDT-Interdisciplinary Team A group of people (parents, teachers, psychologists, social workers, and others) who are involved with a student in helping him/her to get the services he/she needs through development of the IPP.
IEP- Individual Education Plan The written plan documenting eligibility, programs and services for special education students.
IEPT Individualized Educational Planning Team Determines if a student meets the criteria under the law to be considered eligible for special education programs and services, and also determines what those programs and services will be.
ILC Independent Living Center
ILS-Independent Living Skills Training or Program Teaching skills in home maintenance, cooking, money management, community access, etc., to persons who want to live semi-independently or independently.
Impairment Related Work Expense Certain expenses for things a persons with a disability needs because of his/her employment in order to work may be deducted when determining eligibility for SSDI or SSI.
Inclusion The process of including students with disabilities in the environments, activities, and curriculum of typical students and persons. Inclusion may mean different things to different people. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term “integration”.
Independent Living Centers Established by the Rehabilitation Act in response to consumer and People First movements. ILC’s are run predominately by consumers and can fund or support accommodations in vehicles and housing to make persons with disabilities more independent
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act An updated version of the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act (EHA) which required the statement of needed transition services as part of the IEP in 1990.
Individual Education Program A statement of the programs and services that will be provided to a student with a disability that is eligible under the IDEA
Individualized Service Plans Plans developed for specific individuals that describe services provided by an agency to help an individual achieve desired goals. These include Individual Habilitation Plans (MR/DD), Individual Work Related Plans (VR), and Individual Plans for Employment (VR).
Ineligible A student not considered to be disabled.
Informational Interviews Interviews with employers to find out about their organization, jobs, and the types of people they employ.
Informed Consent A parent’s written permission to assess their child, provide services for the child, or to place the child in special education.
Integration In the disability context, the process of including persons with disabilities in the environments, activities, and social networks of typical persons. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term “inclusion”.
Internships See apprenticeships
IPE Individualized Plan for Employment (used by State VR Agencies)
IPLAN A form of person-centered planning that stands for Inventory, Plan, Ask, and Name your goals.
IPP Individual Program Plan
IRWE Impairment-Related Work Expense
ITP Individual Transition Plan
IWEN Individual with Exceptional Needs
IWP Individual Work Plan
Job Analysis The process of analyzing a job in terms of essential elements, skills needed, and characteristics to aid in job matching and training
Job Carving A technique used in advanced supported employment programs where a job is divided into components that can be done by a person with a severe disability.
Job Coach See job trainer.
Job Placement The process of helping an individual find a job.
Job Sharing The practice of having two or more persons share a job to provide accommodations in work scheduling or job duties.
Job Trainer In supported employment, generally a paraprofessional who provides on-site job training and supports to a worker with a disability. Sometimes used interchangeably with employment specialist or job coach.
Language Specialist See speech pathologist.
LD Learning Disabled
Least Restrictive Environment A concept introduced by education by the EHA in 1975 that required a continuum of services for students with disabilities so that they could be educated in as integrated an environment as possible while still providing FAPE.
Life-Centered Career Education This career development approach delineates 22 major competencies that can be infused into primary, middle, and secondary curricula to address the major life domains of work, home and academics.
Life Style Planning A form of person-centered planning that describes future goals and defines the steps needed to reach them.
Mainstreaming A term that was used widely in the 1970’2 to refer to the practice of placing students with disabilities in the regular education curriculum. This term lost favor when it found that many students were being placed in regular classes without needed supports.
Mediation Formal intervention between parents and agencies to achieve reconciliation, settlement or compromise.
Medicaid A health care program serving eligible low-income persons with disabilities whose income and assets are below specific levels. Generally available to persons receiving SSI or SSI work incentives.
Medicare The insurance program serving persons 65 and older and individuals with disabilities regardless of income, if they are eligible for SSDI.
Mental Health Services Services provided to persons with significant behavioral or mood disorders that are not related to mental retardation or developmental disabilities.
Mentoring A mentor is someone who works in the came career or specific job desired by the career seeker.
Meyers-Briggs This assessment identifies four personality temperaments that can be used to develop self and career awareness (e.g. introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceptive or INFP).
Natural Supports Refers to the use of persons, practices, and things that naturally occur in the environment to meet the support needs of an individual.
NCLB – No Child Left Behind Act Signed into law on January 8, 2002, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which established the federal framework for how we provide public education throughout the country.
Next S.T.E.P. A field-tested student-directed transition approach that consists of sixteen lessons that address: (a) getting started, (b) self-exploration and evaluation, (c) developing goals and activities, and (d) putting a plan into place.
Occupational Therapist A person qualified to develop and implement programs to develop fine motor skills and implement accommodations related to work and daily living.
Occupational Work Adjustment A program that places a person in jobs or environments in order to develop appropriate work and social behaviors.
Occupational Work Experience Refers to programs that allow a person to try one or more jobs for periods of a year or less in order to explore interests and develop job skills.
OH Orthopedically Handicapped
OHI Other health impairment
Opportunity The chance to do something.
OT Occupational Therapy
P & A Protection and Advocacy
Participant A person who is involved in an organization or activity.
Participation The act of taking part or being involved in an organization or activity.
PAS Personal assistance services
PASS Plan for Achieving Self-Support
Peer Support Non-paid support from friends.
People First A movement started by persons with disabilities in the late 1970’s to take greater control of programs affecting them. Originated the concept of person-first language.
Person-Centered Planning Refers to a number of planning approaches that tailor services and supports to meet the needs of the individual, as opposed to programs that try to fit individuals into available services.
Person-First Language The practice of referring to persons with disabilities with the term denoting disability following and not supplanting terms referring to them as an individual (e.g., a person with a vision impairment, a person who uses a wheelchair). Person-first avoids impersonal, negative, and medical terminology (e.g., the disabled, cripples, retardeds).
Personal Future Planning A type of person-centered planning that involves dreaming, describing, and doing with the family and their support system.
PESS Property Essential for Self-Support
Physical Therapist A person qualified to develop and implement programs to develop fine and gross motor skill and rehabilitation services to persons with physical disabilities.
Plan for Achieving Self-Support A savings account that can be excluded from income and assets of persons with disabilities to allow them to save up for something that would make them self-sufficient (e.g., college fund).
PLEP – Present Level of Educational Performance Level of achievement in academic subjects at the time a concern is registered with regard to a student’s suspected disability.
Postsecondary Education Programs that occur after high school (secondary education).
Procedural Safeguards A written document that must be provided to parents of a student being evaluated for a suspected disability.
Proficiency Tests Tests that are designed to determine if students are measuring up to educational standards set by the state and/or district.
PS Partially Sighted
Psychiatrist A medical doctor who can assess an individual’s emotional, intellectual, and coping skills and typically provides medical interventions or medications to improve them.
Psychological Evaluation An evaluation of a student’s intellectual capacity and learning style.
Reasonable Accommodation An adaptation or modification of the environment or materials which makes it possible for a person with a disability to fully participate in an activity.
Referral The process of notifying an agency to request services. A referral is often followed by an eligibility determination.
Rehabilitation Technologist A person qualified to apply technology to meet the needs of persons with disabilities.
Related Services Services that are not necessarily educational in nature, but that are provided as part of an educational program. Speech, language, hearing, social work, and psychology services are examples of related services.
Research To get more information about something.
Respite A brief break (in-home or out-or-home) for caregivers of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Responsibility To do what one promises to do. For example, an officer agrees to follow the rules of the group and to fulfill the duties expected of him or her in that office.
RFP Request for Proposal
Rights Powers that belong to you by the laws of your country or state.
Section 504 A section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Federal civil rights statute designed to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
Section 8 Housing Refers to housing subsidized by HUD.
SED Severely Emotionally Disturbed
SEIE Student Earned Income Exclusion
Self-Advocacy The ability and opportunity to speak on behalf on one’s self.
Self-Determination Special training provided to persons with disabilities to enable them to choose and act on the basis of their choices.
SGA Substantial Gainful Activity
SLP Speech and Language Pathologist
Sign Language American Sign Language, Signing Exact English, and other non-verbal forms of communication.
Social History An evaluation of a student’s developmental history which is conducted by a school social worker.
Social Security Administration The agency that oversees the provision of Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security income and related work incentives.
Social Security Disability Insurance In this context, a monthly check provided to children or parents who have retired or become disabled and have paid into Social Security. Only paid to individuals whose income falls below SGA after accounting for work incentives.
Social Worker A person employed by a school or agency to help individuals, families, or groups in coping with their environments and obtaining needed services.
Speech and Language Evaluation An evaluation of a student’s receptive and expressive language abilities.
Speech Pathologist A person who is qualified to assess a person’s speech and provide interventions to improve it. Sometimes referred to as a language specialist.
SSA Social Security Administration or Social Security Act
SSDI Social Security Disability Insurance
SSI Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income An income support payment administered by the Social Security Administration that is provided to children with disabilities and adults who are disabled and whose income and assets fall below a prescribed level after accounting for Social Security work incentives.
Support Anything that is needed to make it possible or easier for you or your group to accomplish a task, or to be involved in something, or to achieve goals you or your group has set.
Supported Employment A form of employment where training is done at the job site and ongoing supports are provided to maintain employment. Supported employment is meant for persons with the most severe disabilities. Supported employment jobs are in integrated settings and may consist of individual placements, mobile work crews, or enclaves.
Supports Refers to accommodations, persons in the environment, or practices that help an individual in conducting live activities, including employment.
SVRA State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
Technical Schools Refers to educational programs that lead to certification in a highly specialized vocation such as electrical engineering.
Ticket to Work (TWWIIA) Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999
Timeline The time within which entitled and mandated services must be provided; also prohibits being put on a waiting list for any service to which you have a right.
Transition The process of moving from adolescence to adult roles where the child reconciles their needs, interests, and preferences with adult norms and roles.
Transition Meeting The meeting in which transition is discussed. This meeting should occur no later than age 14 to discuss the student’s course of study, and no later than age 16 to discuss services and supports needed to achieve the student’s desired post-school outcomes.
Transition Plan Also known as the “Statement of Needed Transition Services” or Individual Transition Plan (ITP). The IEP/transition plan states in the IEP what services, supports and activities will be provided to students to help them reach their career goals.
Transition Planning The process of helping students and their families plan services to help them reach career goals and adult living objectives related to their needs, interests, and preferences. The IDEA requires transition planning activities documented in the IEP for students age 14 and older.
Transition Planning Inventory An inventory approach that focuses on student skill and support needs in the areas of: (a) employment, (b) further education, (c) daily living, (d) leisure activities, (e) community participation, (f) health, (g) self-determination, (h) communication, and (i) interpersonal relationships.
Trial Work Period The amount of time that an individual receiving SSDI can exceed SGA without losing benefits (currently up to nine non-consecutive months in a 60 month period).
TWP Trial Work Period
Vendor A person or organization approved and paid to provide services to people with disabilities.
Vocational Education Training and education in specific occupational skills to prepare an individual for transition from school to a job.
Vocational Rehabilitation Services A federal and state program that provides a range of services to persons with disabilities, typically to achieve a particular career goal.
VR Vocational Rehabilitation
Waiting List A list of persons who have been determined eligible for services that are in short supply and cannot be provided until openings arise or services are expanded.
WIA Workforce Investment Act
Work Experience Work experience gives career seekers an opportunity to perform actual work in a career area they are interested in.
Work Incentives A number of Social Security Work Incentives that allow a person to exclude part of their income to maintain eligibility for SSI or SSDI. Includes PASS, IRWE’s, Student Earned Income Exclusion, and extended eligibility for Medicaid.
Work Study Jobs Developed by the high school where the student receives credit toward graduation.
WOTC Work Opportunities Tax Act Credit

DDC 2021