General Lingo

AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication

ABA: Applied Behavior Analysis

ABC: Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence

AT: Assistive Technology

  • AT is used to assist students with disabilities to increase their overall capacity to work and fully participate in the classroom. AT includes any “device, piece of equipment, or product system” that is used to improve functional capabilities on students with disabilities.
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BIP: Behavior Intervention Plan

CTE: Career and Technical Education

ESL/ELL: English as a Second Language/English Language Learners

FAPE: Free and Appropriate Public Education

  • FAPE is the concept that all students with disabilities will receive free and appropriate public education. An appropriate education can vary from self-contained to general education classes. FAPE is guaranteed to students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
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FBA: Functional Behavior Assessment

  • FBA is the process of describing and observing a student’s disruptive or inappropriate behaviors to understand the function of that behavior, or reason why they may be engaging in a particular behavior. Understanding the function of certain behaviors is the first step in determining strategies for addressing and improving these behaviors.
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IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

  • IDEA is a law that mandates access to free and appropriate public education for individuals with disabilities, as well as access to accommodations and services.
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IEP: Individualized Education Plan

IPE: Individualized Plan for Employment

ITP: Individualized Transition Plan

  • An ITP is a section within the IEP that is introduced as soon as a student turns 14 in Tennessee. The ITP is used to determine goals for a student to accomplish while they are in high school to prepare for transition to postsecondary education, employment, or community participation
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LEA: Local Educational Agency

  • LEA is a public board of education or other public authority within a state that maintains administrative control of public elementary or secondary schools in a school district. School districts and county offices of education are both LEAs.
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LRE: Least Restrictive Environment

PBIS: Positive Behavior Interventions and Support

  • PBIS is a three-tiered method for providing behavioral support for all students. Tier 1 involves basic foundational support that all students receive. Tier 2 provides supports for students who are at risk of developing more serious problem behaviors. Tier 3 is where students receive intensive and individualized behavior supports.
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PLEP: Present Levels of Educational Performance

RTI: Response to Intervention

  • RTI is a multi-tiered approach to early identification of students with complex learning and behavior needs. The first tier of RTI is where all students start. They receive high-quality, research-based instruction. Students who struggle in Tier 1 receive targeted interventions in Tier 2. These services are provided in a small group setting. The third tier involves intensive interventions where students are then referred for a comprehensive evaluation to see if they qualify for special education services under the IDEA.
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Section 504 Plan

  • Section 504 plans ensure that a child with a disability has equal access to education as their peers. It is guided by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students who do not qualify for an IEP might still qualify for a Section 504 plan.
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SKEMA: Skills, Knowledge, and Experience Mastery Assessment

  • To earn an occupational diploma a student must meet the criteria on the Skills, Knowledge, and Experience Mastery Assessment. This assessment looks at the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to be successful in the workplace. All required skills must be completed at a score of 3 or higher and 8 out of 10 critical skills must be completed at 3 or higher.
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SOP: Summary of Performance

  • The SOP is a summary of a student’s functional performance and includes recommendations for ways to help the student meet their postsecondary goals. This is usually completed during the final year of the student’s high school education.
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Disability Categories in Tennessee Special Education

Adapted from

ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. Autism is a spectrum which means that no two people with autism are alike. Some may have difficulties with communication and eye contact while others may struggle without having a set schedule.

Visual Impairment

Visual Impairment is defined as impairment in vision (even with correction) that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. This term includes both partial sight and blindness.


Deaf-Blindness means a hearing and visual impairment, the combination of which causes severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that cannot be accommodated in special education programs by just addressing one of the impairments.


Deafness means that a person has a very severe hearing loss and relies primarily on lip reading or sign language for communication.

ID: Intellectual Disability

ID is a disability that is characterized by significant limitation in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. An intellectual disability originates before the age of 18.

Developmental Delay

Developmental Delay refers to children between the ages 3-9 who are experiencing delays in one or more of the following areas: physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, or adaptive behavior that adversely affects their educational performance.

Emotional Disturbance

Emotional Disturbance means a condition exhibiting one (1) or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance: (A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors. (B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers. (C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances. (D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. (E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Functional Delay

Functional Delay means a continuing significant disability in intellectual functioning and achievement which adversely affects the student’s ability to progress in the general school program, but adaptive behavior in the home or community is not significantly impaired and is at or near a level appropriate to the student’s chronological age

Hearing Impairment

Hearing Impairment means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but does not include Deafness.

Intellectually Gifted

Intellectually Gifted means a child whose intellectual abilities, creativity, and potential for achievement are so outstanding that the child’s needs exceed differentiated general education programming, adversely affects educational performance, and requires specifically designed instruction or support services

Multiple Disabilities

Multiple Disabilities means concomitant impairments (such as Intellectual Disability, Deafness, Intellectual Disability-Orthopedic Impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated by addressing only one of the impairments. The term does not include Deaf-Blindness.

Orthopedic Impairment

Orthopedic Impairment means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes, but is not limited to, impairments caused by congenital anomaly (e.g. club foot, absence of some member), impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g. cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures)

OHI: Other Health Impairment

OHI is a category that encompasses a wide range of conditions. OHI’s include health conditions like asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and any other health condition that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.

SLD: Specific Learning Disability

The term Specific Learning Disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations and that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Such term includes conditions such as perceptual disabilities (e.g., visual processing), brain injury that is not caused by an external physical force, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

Speech or Language Impairment

A Speech or Language Impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

TBI: Traumatic Brain Injury

A TBI is an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external force which resulted in a functional disability that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.


 BCBA: Board Certified Behavior Analyst

  • A BCBA is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis, which is the science of behavior. BCBA’s work to improve human condition through behavior change.
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OT: Occupational Therapist

  • School-based OT is designed to enhance the student’s ability to fully access and be successful in the learning environment. Their job is to help the student in achieving their goals in order to improve quality of life, whether that be fine motor skills, sorting, or handwriting.
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Para: Paraprofessional

  • Paras are assistants in a classroom that provide instructional and behavioral support to students. Paraprofessionals are not certified teachers, but are still crucial members of a school’s support staff. Paras are also often referred to as instructional aides or teacher assistants.
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PT: Physical Therapist

  • A PT is a movement expert who improves a student’s quality of life through exercise and gross motor skill development.
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SLP: Speech Language Pathologist

  • An SLP works with students who struggle with language and communication skills. Their goal is to improve a student’s performance in the classroom by targeting their language abilities. They can either work with students in a one-on-one or small group setting.
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