Updated June 2020


Welcome to the alphabet soup of special education!
The disability community is full of acronyms that people constantly use in writing and in conversation, and it’s important to know what those acronyms stand for. Acronyms are used in order to abbreviate names or phrases. The CPIR is pleased to provide this list of special education and disability-related acronyms, and hope it helps our readers quickly connect with the meaning of pivotal acronyms in the field.


A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z


A Acronyms

AAC | Alternative Augmentative Communication

ABA | Applied Behavioral Analysis

ABC | Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence

ADA | Americans with Disabilities Act

ADD/ADHD | Attention Deficit/Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADLs | Activities of Daily Living

ADR | Alternative Dispute Resolution

AIM | Accessible Instructional Materials

APE | Adaptive Physical Education

APR | Annual Performance Report

ARD | Admission, Review, and Dismissal Committee

ARRA | American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

ASD | Autism Spectrum Disorders

ASL | American Sign Language

AT | Assistive Technology

ATA | Assistive Technology Act

AYP | Adequate Yearly Progress

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B Acronyms

BD | Behavioral Disorder

BIE | Bureau of Indian Education

BIP | Behavioral Intervention Plan

BOE | Board of Education

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C Acronyms

CAP | Client Assistance Program

CAP | Corrective Action Plan

CAPD | Central Auditory Processing Disorder

CAPTA | Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

CBA | Curriculum Based Assessment

CC | Closed Captioning

CCSS | Common Core State Standards

CDA | Child Development Associate

CDC | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CEC | Council for Exceptional Children

CF |  Cystic Fibrosis

CFR Code of Federal Regulations

CHIP | Children’s Health Insurance Program

CIFMS | Continuous Improvement and Focused Monitoring System

COP | Community of Practice

CP | Cerebral Palsy

CPIR | Center for Parent Information and Resources (that’s us!)

CPRC Community Parent Resource Center

CSHCN | Children with Special Health Care Needs

CSPD | Comprehensive System of Personnel Development

CST | Child Study Team

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D Acronyms

DB | Deaf-Blind

DD | Developmental Delay

DD Act | Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act

DIBELS | Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy

DoDDS | Department of Defense Dependent Schools

DS | Down Syndrome

DSM | Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association

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E Acronyms

EBP | Evidence-based Practice

ECE | Early Childhood Education

ECSE | Early Childhood Special Education

ED | Emotional Disturbance

ED U.S. Department of Education

EDGAR | Education Department General Administrative Regulations

EHA | Education of the Handicapped Act (now IDEA)

EHDI Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program

EI | Early Intervention

EIS | Early Intervening Services

ELL | English Language Learner

EMH | Educable Mentally Handicapped **

EMR | Educable Mentally Retarded **

EPSDT |Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment

ERIC Education Resources Information Center

ESD | Extended School Day

ESEA | Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now called ESSA)

ESL | English as a Second Language

ESSA | Every Student Succeeds Act 

ESY or EYS | Extended School Year or Extended Year Services

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F Acronyms

FAPE | Free Appropriate Public Education

FAS | Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

FBA | Functional Behavioral Assessment

FC | Facilitated Communication

FEOG | Full Educational Opportunity Goal

FERPA | Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

FOIA | Freedom of Information Act

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G and H Acronyms

GE | General Education

GPRA | Government Performance and Results Act

GT | Gifted and Talented

HI | Hearing Impaired

HO | Hearing Officer

HoH | Hard of Hearing

HOUSSE | High Objective Uniform State Standards of Evaluation [Editor’s Note, January 2016: The definitions and requirements associated with the term “highly qualified teachers” have been deleted from both general and special education legislation as of December 2015. You may still hear this term, if states themselves continue the standards they set under the No Child Left Behind Act.]

HQT | Highly Qualified Teacher [Editor’s Note, January 2016: The definitions and requirements associated with the term “highly qualified teachers” have been deleted from both general and special education legislation as of December 2015. You may still hear this term, but it will soon be a relic left over from past legislation.]

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I Acronyms

IA | Instructional Assistant

IAES | Interim Alternative Educational Setting

ID | Intellectual Disabilities

IDEA | Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IEE | Independent Educational Evaluation

IEP | Individualized Education Program

IES | Institute of Education Sciences

IFSP | Individualized Family Service Plan

IHE | Institution of Higher Education

ITCA | Infants and Toddlers Coordinators Association

ITP | Individualized Transition Plan

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L, M, and N Acronyms

LD | Learning Disability

LEA | Local Education Agency

LEP | Limited English Proficiency

LRE | Least Restrictive Environment

MD | Muscular Dystrophy

MD or MH | Multiple Disabilities or Multiply Handicapped

MDR | Manifestation Determination Review

MMR | Mildly Mentally Retarded **

Mod MR | Moderately Mentally Retarded **

MOU | Memorandum of Understanding

MR | Mental Retardation **

MTSS | Multi-Tiered System of Supports

NASDSE | National Association of State Directors of Special Education

NCLB | No Child Left Behind Act (Elementary and Secondary Education Act,  reauthorized in 2015 as ESSA, Every Student Succeeds Act)

NIH | National Institutes of Health

NIMAS | National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard

NIMH | National Institute of Mental Health

NPRM | Notice of Proposed Rule Making

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O Acronyms

OCD | Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCR | Office for Civil Rights

ODD | Oppositional Defiant Disorder

OHI | Other Health Impairment

OI | Orthopedic Impairment

O & M | Orientation and Mobility Services

OSEP | Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education

OT | Occupational Therapy

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P and R Acronyms

P&A | Protection & Advocacy

PALS | Peer-Assisted Learning System

PARCC  | Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers

PASS | Plan for Achieving Self-Support

PBS | Positive Behavioral Supports

PCA | Personal Care Attendant

PD | Physical Disability

PDD | Pervasive Developmental Disorder (the term is no longer used; as of 2013, it’s included under the umbrella category of  autism spectrum disorder)

PEI | Spanish acronym for the Individualized Education Program (Plan Educativo Individualizado)

Perkins Act | Carl Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act

PII | Personally Identifiable Information

PLEP or PLP | Present Level(s) of Educational Performance or Present Level(s) of Performance

PP | Paraprofessional

PS | Preschool

PT | Physical Therapy

PTAC | Parent Technical Assistance Center

PTI | Parent Training and Information Center

RDA | Results-Driven Accountability

RFP | Request for Proposals

RS | Related Services

RTI | Response to Intervention

RTTT | Race to the Top Fund

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S Acronyms

§ | This symbol means “Section” as in “§ 300.7 Child with a disability” in the IDEA regulations

SAS | Supplementary Aids and Services

SB | Spina Bifida

SCHIP | State Children’s Health Insurance Program

SE | Special Education

SEA | State Education Agency

SEAC | Special Education Advisory Committee

Section 504 | Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

SED | Serious Emotional Disturbance

SEPAC | Special Education Parent Advisory Council

SI | Sensory Integration

SIG | State Improvement Grant

SIMR  | State-Identified Measurable Results for Children with Disabilities

SIP | State Implementation Plan

SLD | Specific Learning Disability

SLI | Speech/Language Impairment

SLP | Speech/Language Pathologist

SPOA | Specific Power of Attorney

SPP | State Performance Plan

SSDI | Social Security Disability Income

SSI | Supplemental Security Income

SSIP | State Systemic Improvement Plan

SST | Student Study Team

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T to Z Acronyms

TA&D | Technical Assistance and Dissemination Network funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

TANF | Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

TBI | Traumatic Brain Injury

TDD | Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf

TMH | Trainable Mentally Handicapped **

TMR | Trainable Mentally Retarded **

TS | Tourette Syndrome

T-TA | Training and Technical Assistance

TTY | Teletypewriter (phone system for the deaf)

TWWIIA | Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act

VI | Visual Impairment

Voc Ed | Vocational Education

VR | Vocational Rehabilitation

WIC | Women, Infants and Children (Special Supplemental Food Program)

WWC | What Works Clearinghouse

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** Editorial note ** 
Until October 2010, IDEA used the term “mental retardation.”  In October 2010, Rosa’s Law was signed into law by President Obama.  Rosa’s Law changed the term to be used in future to “intellectual disability.” The definition of the term itself  did not change, only the use of “intellectual disability” instead of “mental retardation.”