Regularly Used Special Education Acronyms and Jargon

October 23, 2019

Regularly Used Special Education Acronyms and Jargon

The special education process can be confusing, difficult, or even a relief for some people. As a special education teacher, I thought I would write a series sharing the special education process. In this series, I will start from the referral through the IEP.  In this first post though, I thought that it’s important to establish some of the language used in the field. This is just a brief overview of some of the jargon and acronyms used in special education. 

Special Education: special ed or sped

IEP: Individualized Education Plan  

Special Education Evaluation/Reevaluation: eval, reeval, assessment, [sped] testing

Gen Education: general ed; gen ed; setting I. Also called mainstream. 

Federal Setting (fed setting/settings/placement): this has to do with the “location” or “placement”  where the student with an IEP is being taught. 

Setting I -Typically up to about 20% of time spent in special education (however, Fed Setting I can [and many times will] take place completely in a gen ed setting even though the student has an IEP).

Setting II -is between 21%- 60% sped (for example, a student may go to a “Resource Room”  for a couple class periods to get academic support from the sped teacher). 

Setting III -is also referred as self-contained 60% or more of the day in sped. 

Setting IV -is all sped. Generally a separate sped school.

There are more than four settings. Some have to do with medical facilities or other non-public school facilities. 

Minutes: amount of special education “time” a student gets. Time includes related services (speech, OT, DAPE, etc.) as well. For example, student gets 30 minutes of social skills instruction daily on their IEP.

Services: refers to the receiving of or eligibility of sped. E.g. Is Danny eligible for speech and language services? Or, ”We’re delivering sped services in the mainstream classroom to support Kelly’s inattentiveness due to ADHD.”

Case manager: sped teacher assigned to a particular group of students with IEP's. 

FAPE: Free and Appropriate Public Education (this means that all students with disabilities receive an education that is appropriate for them at no cost)

LRE: Least Restrictive Environment (Students with disabilities are to be taught in a setting that is the “least restrictive” based on their needs and supports. For example, a student with a Specific Learning Disability in reading would typically be placed in a Federal Setting I or II based on his/her disability. Conversely, a student with a Specific Learning Disability in reading would not typically be placed in a Setting IV as this would be “too restrictive” based on the student’s disability.

Team: student,family, case manager (& other sped teachers who work on the team) school psychologist, school social worker, school nurse, district rep, regular ed teacher. In addition, if the student has community supports, they're considered team members also. Sometimes those meetings get huge!


IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act): this federal law provides rights to children with disabilities. Part C of IDEA covers infants through age 2. It’s designed to ensure that young children with disabilities get early intervention services. Part B of IDEA is for children and young adults with disabilities between the ages of 3 years old to 21 years old. 

Hopefully this is a helpful list. I intentionally didn’t mention disability categories as those will be discussed in a later blog post.