Special Education Glossary



Tools and procedures that give students with disabilities equal access to instruction and assessment. They are designed to level the playing field for students with disabilities, and are generally grouped into the following categories:

  • Presentation
  • Response
  • Timing/Scheduling
  • Setting

Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

These are textbooks and instructional materials that have been converted into a format that is accessible to a student who is unable to use standard printed materials. These formats include:

  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Audio
  • Digital text

Adapted Physical Education (APE)

A specialized physical education program of:

  • Developmental activities
  • Games
  • Sports
  • Rhythms

The IEP team will recommend APE if your child cannot safely or successfully participate in the regular physical education program. APE teachers will adapt and modify a physical activity so that it is appropriate for the individual student.

Alternate Assessment

Used to evaluate the performance and progress of students with severe cognitive disabilities who are unable to take part in standard assessments, even with testing accommodations.

NY State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) is part of the annual NY State testing process for all eligible students in grades 3-8 and in high school. If your child's IEP specifies that s/he is eligible for alternate assessment, NYSAA will be used for State assessments in grades 3 through 12.

Alternate Placement

A temporary service provided when a student's bilingual ICT or special class is not available. An alternate placement is a monolingual ICT or special class, with a paraprofessional who is bilingual in the recommended language of instruction of the student(s) awaiting a bilingual class.

Annual Goals

Specific, measurable goals written on the IEP that describe what the student is expected to achieve in the disability-related area(s) over a one-year period.

Annual Review

After your child has received special education services, an IEP meeting is held at least once each year to review your child’s progress. This is called an "Annual Review". During the annual review the team will:

  • Discuss your child's progress toward his or her goals
  • Review the special education services provided
  • Determine services and goals for the following year

Assessment Authorization

A letter that is issued to a parent that will allow him/her to obtain an assessment from a non-DOE independent evaluator at DOE expense.

Assistive Technology (AT) Devices and Services

An Assistive Technology Device is any piece of equipment, product or system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. Examples include:

  • A communication device
  • FM unit
  • Computer access

An AT Service is any service that helps a child with a disability select, acquire, or use an AT device. Any AT devices or services your child requires will be specified on the IEP.

Audiological Assessment

A specialized hearing assessment conducted to determine whether or not a student has a significant hearing loss/impairment.

Authorization to Attend Letter

A notice sent to parents after they have consented to special education services, to inform them of the school their child will be attending and the date on which attendance should begin.


Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP)

A plan that is based on the results of a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) to address problem behavior. It includes:

  • The target behavior(s) and goal(s)
  • Positive behavioral interventions and strategies
  • Accommodations or modifications
  • How the plan will be monitored and updated if needed

Bilingual Assessment

An evaluation conducted in both English and a child’s home or native language.

Bilingual Special Education (BSE)

BSE is a specialized program for students who require an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) or Special Class (SC) with a language of instruction other than English. These programs are intended to support English Language Learners (ELLs) who benefit from culturally and linguistically responsive instruction that addresses cognitive, academic and linguistic needs.


Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential

  • Recognizes a student's mastery of the CDOS learning standards and the completion of a career preparation program. It is designed to provide students with IEPs an opportunity to develop the skills to succeed in work after high school.
  • Available to students with IEPs who participate in standard assessment.
  • May be awarded as an endorsement to a Regents diploma or local diploma, or as the student's sole exiting credential from high school.

Schools must provide students who earn only a CDOS written confirmation that they are eligible to return and earn a diploma until they reach age 21.

Child Find

New York City has an obligation to identify, locate, and evaluate each child attending a New York City school who has a disability or is suspected of being a child with a disability, regardless of the severity of the disability. This is called the “Child Find” obligation. Child Find extends to all children with disabilities – including children who are homeless, wards of the state, not attending a New York City public school, etc. – whether or not the DOE is providing services to the child.

Classroom Observation

An observation of a student in his/her primary educational setting to see how the student learns and what behaviors they exhibit.


A term used for a DOE assessment professional, such as a school psychologist or school social worker.

Commissioner’s Regulations

State Education Department regulations based on Federal and State education laws that specify the steps school districts must follow in the special education referral, evaluation, and placement process.

Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE)

The CPSE is responsible for coordinating the special education process for children ages 3 to 5. CPSEs serve families in the district where a family resides, regardless of where children receive preschool services. There are 10 CPSEs in different areas of the city. Each CPSE is part of a larger Committee on Special Education (CSE) office. A Chairperson oversees the CSE office, including the CPSE.

Committee on Special Education (CSE)

The CSE refers to one of the regional offices that manages the special education process for school-age students who are not attending DOE K-12 school programs.


The obligation of the DOE to maintain the student’s special education records in a manner that ensures that only appropriate staff has access.


There are instances when you will be asked to provide your consent during the special education referral, evaluation, and placement process. Providing consent means that you:

  • Have been fully informed about the action for which you are giving consent
  • Understand and agree in writing to that action.

Consent is voluntary on your part and you may withdraw your consent at any time. Your withdrawal of consent does not undo an action that has occurred after you gave your consent and before you withdrew it.


The range of education programs and services in the DOE to support educating children with disabilities in their least restrictive environment.



Students who no longer need special education services are declassified by the IEP team after a reevaluation.

Declassification Support Services

Students who no longer need special education services are declassified after a reevaluation. Students who have been declassified will not have an IEP, but may receive the following services to ease the transition to general education:

  • Instructional support
  • Instructional modifications
  • Related services

These services may continue for up to one year after the student has been declassified. In addition, the declassification IEP may list testing accommodations that must be provided to the student after s/he has been declassified. Students who are declassified in grades 8-12 may be eligible for Safety Net graduation options if his or her last IEP notes this. To learn more about graduation options, visit our high school pages below:

Deferred Placement

During the IEP meeting, there may be a discussion regarding whether the recommended special education services should begin immediately, or, instead, whether the services should begin at the beginning of the next term or school year. This is referred to as a “deferred” placement and requires consent from the parent.

Disability Classification

Disability Classification refers to the type of disability that most affects a student's educational performance. The IEP team will determine the appropriate classification, and it will be memorialized on the student's IEP.

Due Process

Procedures that, by law, are used to ensure your child’s rights to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and your rights to be involved and have a full understanding of that process.

Due Process Complaint

Also called a Request for an Impartial Hearing, this is a written complaint filed by a parent or a school district involving any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, educational placement or provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education to a student with a disability. This may result in an Impartial Hearing.

Due Process Hearing (Impartial Hearing)

A legal proceeding before an Impartial Hearing Officer who is not an employee of the DOE. Both the parents and the school district present arguments, witnesses, if any, and evidence.


Early Intervention (EI)

The EI Program, under the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), supports families with children ages birth to 3 who have a disabilities or developmental delays.


The process of collecting information about a student’s strengths and weaknesses to improve his or her educational program. The information collected through assessments, observations, and interviews will assist the team in determining the child’s present levels of functioning and educational needs.

Exit Summary

When a student with an IEP will no longer be eligible for special education — either because s/he will (a) graduate with a local or Regents endorsed diploma or (b) no longer be age-eligible — an "Exit Summary" will be provided. The Exit Summary will summarize the student's academic achievement and functional performance and will include recommendations on how to assist the student in meeting his or her postsecondary goals.

Extended School Year Services (ESY)

Extended school year services are special education program and services provided during July and August. They may be recommended for students with disabilities who require special education over the summer to prevent substantial regression.

Children with an IEP recommendation for ESY may either:

  • Receive the same program and services in July - August as in September – June; or
  • Receive less intense services in July – August.

If ESY services are recommended, the IEP will specify the program and services that will be provided in July and August.


Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

Special education programs and related services that are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge to the parent.

Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA)

When a student engages in problem behaviors that may interfere with his or her learning or the learning of others, or that place the student or others at risk of harm or injury, a Functional Behavioral Assessment may be conducted. A Functional Behavioral Assessment is a process that is used to identify:

  • The reasons for a behavior
  • The possible interventions to address it

For more information about Functional Behavioral Assessments, visit the NY State Education Department’s website.


General Education Curriculum

The body of knowledge and range of skills that all students, including students with disabilities, are expected to master.


Home Instruction

Home instruction is an educational service that is provided to students with disabilities who are unable to attend school due to a medical or psychological condition


Hospital Instruction

Hospital instruction is an educational service provided on a temporary basis to students who are hospitalized for medical conditions that prevent them from attending school.


Independent Assessment

A parent may request an independent assessment at DOE expense if s/he disagrees with an assessment conducted by the DOE. The request must be made in writing to the student's DOE school or CSE. The DOE will either agree to pay for the independent assessment or will file a due process complaint to demonstrate that the assessment conducted by the DOE was appropriate.

A parent may also pay for an assessment him/herself or obtain an assessment through insurance. If you acquire an independent assessment and would like it to be considered by your child's IEP team, be sure to provide it to DOE staff in advance of the IEP meeting.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) documents a child’s eligibility for special education services and formalizes the plan to provide special education programs and services that are appropriate for the child’s unique needs. It contains specific information about a child and the education program designed to meet these needs, including:

  • A child’s current development and/or performance in school, and goals that can be reasonably accomplished in a school year;
  • Special education and related services (including counseling and speech, occupational, or physical therapy), paraprofessional support, assistive technology, behavior intervention, and modifications;
  • Participation with nondisabled children;
  • Date services will begin, how often they will be provided, where they will be provided, and for how long; and
  • Means of measuring a child’s progress.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team

The IEP team is a group of members who share information and work together to determine whether your child has a disability and requires special education services, and if so, what services are appropriate. You are an important member of the IEP team.

If the IEP team, based upon the evaluation(s), determines that your child has a disability and that special education services are necessary, an IEP will be developed at the meeting.

IEP team members may include, but are not limited to:

  • a general education teacher;
  • special education teacher;
  • school psychologist;
  • social worker;
  • district representative;
  • you, the parent; and
  • your child.

Individualized Education Services Program (IESP)

If your child is or will attend a private or religious school in New York City, and the IEP team finds your child eligible for special education, the IEP team will develop an Individualized Education Services Program (IESP) instead of an IEP. The IESP will describe the special education services and/or related services to be provided while your child attends the private or religious school.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The IDEA is a Federal law that gives students with disabilities the right to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment from age 3 through the end of the school year in which the student turns 21 years or graduates with a high school diploma.

Initial Referral

The initial referral is a request that begins the special education evaluation process to determine whether the student has a disability and requires special education services. The initial referral can be made by the student's parent, the principal of the student's DOE school, or the chairperson of the student's CSE. To make an initial referral, the parent should submit a written request for evaluation to the student's DOE school or CSE.


A person who speaks the parent’s preferred language/mode of communication or the child’s language and interprets meetings for the parent and/or assessments for the student.




Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The IEP team will recommend a special education services that provide a student with a disability with a Free Appropriate Public Education in his or her least restrictive environment. This means that your child will be educated alongside his or her non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.

Placement of students with disabilities in special classes, separate schools, or other removal from the general educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that even with the use of supplementary aids and services, education cannot be satisfactorily achieved.

The least restrictive environment is therefore different for each child.

Limited Mobility

A student with limited mobility is one who utilizes a mobility device— such as a wheelchair, walker, crutches, or cane—to negotiate the environment, or any student who negotiates the school environment with difficulty and/or at a slower pace than his or her peers, whether it is due to muscle weakness, lack of endurance, or any other reason. Students with specific mobility impairments, whether physical or sensory, for whom the design of building may pose barriers, must be offered access to programs to the extent required by law.

Local Diploma

The local diploma is a high school diploma option available to students who are eligible for the Safety Net and will not meet or exceed the requirements for an advanced Regents or Regents diploma. The Safety Net provides additional flexibilities to support students with disabilities in earning a high school diploma. If a student uses the Safety Net options, they will earn a local diploma.


Management Needs

The IEP will indicate a student's management needs, which include the type and amount of environmental modifications, human resources, or material resources that are required to enable a student to benefit from instruction.

Manifestation Determination Review (MDR)

A Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) is a meeting between the parent and members of the school community. It is held when a student with a disability is subject to a disciplinary change of placement. A disciplinary change of placement occurs if a student is removed from his/her current educational program due to a superintendent's suspension, principal's suspension, and/or teacher removal:

  • For more than 10 consecutive school days; or
  • For more than 10 cumulative school days in a school year as a result of a pattern of removals.

The MDR will include a discussion of the student's disability, the behavior that led to the removal, and whether the the behavior was related to his/her disability or related to a failure to implement your the student's IEP.


Mediation is a confidential, voluntary process that allows parties to resolve disputes without a formal due process hearing. An impartial mediator helps the parties to express their views and positions and to understand the other’s views and positions. The mediator’s role is to facilitate discussion and help parties reach an agreement, not to recommend solutions or take positions or sides. If parties reach agreement, that agreement is binding and may not be appealed



Modifications change the the content and/or the instructional level of the curriculum. While accommodations are changes in formats or procedures, modifications change the difficulty level and/or quantity of the content being taught. Modifications are made for students with disabilities who are unable to comprehend all of the content an instructor is teaching. For example, assignments might be reduced in number and modified significantly for an elementary school student with cognitive impairments that limit his or her ability to understand the content in the general education class in which they are included.


Neurological Assessment

A neurological assessment is a specialized assessment that may be warranted when there is a suspected neurological disorder that may present through problems in daily functioning.

New York State Approved Non-Public School

These are privately operated schools that provide special education placements, which are New York State approved.


Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy is a related service designed to help a child maintain, improve, or restore adaptive and functional skills, including fine motor skills and oral motor skills in all educational activities.

Orientation and Mobility Services

These services are designed to improve a child’s understanding of spatial and environmental concepts and use of information they receive through the senses (sound, temperature, vibrations) for establishing, maintaining, and regaining orientation and line of travel. Orientation and mobility services are provided to students with visual impairments.



A paraprofessional is an aide who provides assistance to students, either to an entire class or to an individual student.

You child’s IEP may recommend the support of a paraprofessional in:

  • Behavior support
  • Health
  • Transportation
  • Orientation and Mobility
  • Toileting

An alternate placement paraprofessional is a paraprofessional who is bilingual in the recommended language of instruction for students who are awaiting placement in a bilingual class.

Parent Member

A parent member is a parent of a child with a disability in the school district who participates in IEP meetings and assists a parent of a child with a known or suspected disability in making educational decisions for his or her child. Parents have the right to request participation of the Parent Member at an IEP meeting, with 72 hours notice.


When a parent or the DOE requests an Impartial Hearing, the child is entitled to remain in his or her "last agreed upon placement" until the Impartial Hearing Process (including all appeals) is complete. This placement is called pendency.

Preferred Language

This is the language that a parent feels most comfortable speaking. This may or may not be the language regularly spoken at home


Prior Written Notice

This is a notification sent by the DOE to the parents(s). This notification will inform the parent(s) that the DOE is proposing to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, educational placement of their child.

P-1 Letter

If a placement for a special class has not been offered to a student on or before the 60th school day from the date of consent for initial referral or from the 60th school day of receipt of referral for previously identified students, the DOE must provide the parents with a letter (P-1 Letter). The P-1 Letter entitles the student to placement in a State approved non-public school at public expense. This timeline may be adjusted if the parent unreasonably delays the process.

Psychiatric Assessment

This is a specialized assessment conducted by a psychiatrist when severe emotional and/or behavioral problems may be impacting success in school.



An evaluation conducted for a student with a disability who already receives special education services. A reevaluation will be conducted at least once every three years and upon request. A request for a reevaluation can be made by the student's parents, teacher, or school district. A reevaluation with not be conducted more than once a year unless the school and the parent agree otherwise


Regents Diploma

In New York State, there are three types of diploma: a local diploma, a Regents diploma, and an Advanced Regents diploma. There are specific examination and credit requirements to earn a Regents Diploma.

Related Services

Related services are services that may be required to assist a student with a disability to receive meaningful educational benefit. These may include counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language therapy, orientation and mobility services, and other support services

Related Services Authorization (RSA)

An RSA is an authorization letter given to parents that allows them to obtain the services of a non-DOE independent provider of specific related services at DOE expense. It will be issued to the parent when the DOE has not identified a related services provider in a timely manner.

Requested Review

Upon request of the parent, the IEP team may review the child's IEP to determine if it continues to meet his or her needs.

Response to Intervention (RTI)

An instructional approach and preventative tool used by schools to ensure that all students have equal access to high-quality, instruction that is matched to their needs.

Resolution Meeting

After a parent’s due process complaint is filed, the DOE and the parent are provided with an opportunity to meet to discuss possible resolution to the issues of the complaint. This meeting is called a “resolution meeting.”


Safety Net

The Safety Net allows students with disabilities to earn a Local Diploma by fulfilling alternative exam requirements. This option is available to students with IEPs, students with 504 plans specifying Safety Net eligibility, and students with disabilities who were declassified in grades 8-12 but whose last IEP specified Safety Net eligibility. To learn more about graduation options, visit our high school pages below:

Short-Term Objectives or Benchmarks

Short-term objectives are the intermediate steps that must be learned in order to reach an annual goal. Benchmarks are major milestones that the student will demonstrate that lead to an annual goal. Short-term objectives or benchmarks will be written and memorialized on the IEP for any school-age student who participates in alternate assessment.

Skills and Achievement Commencement (SAC) Credential

This non-diploma commencement credential is available to students with IEPs who participate in alternate assessment and have attended school for at least 12 years, excluding kindergarten. It must be accompanied by documentation of the student’s skills, strengths, and levels of independence in academic, career development and foundation skills needed for post-school living, learning and working.

A student who earns a SAC Credential as the sole exiting credential is eligible to remain in school until they receive a Regents or local diploma or through the end of the school year in which they turn 21 years of age.

Social History

An interview with parents concerning a student’s health, family, and school background, including social relationships that is used as part of a student’s evaluation.

Special Class

All students in a special class have IEPs that identify needs that cannot be met in a general education classroom. Special classes are taught by special education teachers, providing specialized instruction.

Specially Designed Instruction

Specially designed instruction consists of adaptations to the content, methodology (pedagogical approaches to instruction), or the delivery of instruction to address the unique needs that result from the child’s disability. The purpose of specially designed instruction is to ensure the student has access to the general curriculum and is able to meet the educational standards of the school district that apply to all students..

Speech-Language Therapy

Speech-language therapy is a related service that helps to improve a child’s listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in academic and social situations throughout the school environment, with a focus on improving the child’s communication skills.

Surrogate Parents

To ensure the rights of the student are protected, in the following circumstances, a person may be appointed by the Department as a “surrogate parent” to act in the place of parents or guardians when no parent can be identified and nobody else (for example, foster parent, guardian) can serve in that role.

Surrogate parents are not officers, employees or agents of the Department of Education or the State Education Department or any other agency involved in the education or care of the student.


Transition Services

For students with IEPs, “Transition” means planning for life after high school. Beginning when the student is age 14, the IEP team will discuss the student's goals, transition needs, and transition activities at each IEP meeting until the student graduates or until the end of the school year in which they turn 21. 

Transition focuses on improving students’ academic and functional achievement in many different settings, including education, employment, and independent living.

It is a student-centered process. That means that it addresses the unique strengths, needs, and preferences of each student.

Transportation Attendant

All door-to-door buses have a transportation attendant in addition to the driver. The attendant ensures that students board the bus safety, but the attendant does not act as a personal aide for any individual student.

Travel Training

Eligible students age 14 and above can receive travel training service. Travel training is instruction to enable students to develop an awareness of the environment in which they live and to learn the skills to move effectively and safely from place to place within that environment (e.g., in school, in the home, at work, and in the community).



Vocational Assessment

Students age 12 and those referred to special education for the first time that are age 12 and over receive a Level 1 Vocational Assessment that includes a review of school records, teacher assessments, and parent and student interviews to determine vocational skills aptitudes and interests. The Vocational Assessment is used to when considering a student's Transition needs, starting during the first IEP in effect during the school year in which the student turns 15. It should be updated in advance of, or at, each annual IEP meeting.