Special Education Law – Relevant Terms

Applied Behavior Analysis (“ABA”): An intensive, structured teaching program in which behaviors to be taught are broken down into simple elements. Each element is taught using repeated trials where the child is presented with a stimulus; correct responses and behaviors are rewarded with positive reinforcement, while when incorrect responses occur, they are ignored and appropriate responses are prompted and rewarded.

Alternative Assessment: The use of assessment strategies, such as performance assessment and portfolios, to replace (or supplement) the assessment of a special education student by standard machine-scored multiple-choice tests.

Assistive Technology: Refers to any piece of equipment, product, system, or other item that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of an individual with a disability.

Behavior Intervention Plan (“BIP”): Refers to a plan, strategies, program or curricular modifications, and supplementary aids and supports, which are positive in nature (not punitive) and are developed by the PPT to teach a child appropriate behaviors and minimize behaviors that impede learning.

Extended School Year (“ESY”): This refers to special education and related services that a school provides to a student beyond the normal school year and/or the normal school day, at no additional cost to parents, in accordance with the child’s IEP.

Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”): Each special education student is entitled to a free, appropriate public education. It is defined as special education and related services that are provided at public expense and under public supervision and direction, without charge to the student. “Related services” include, but are not limited to, transportation, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, and psychological services, among others. A special education student’s FAPE must meet state and federal requirements, and be provided in accordance with the child’s IEP. In Connecticut, children must be provided a FAPE from age three through the end of the school year in which the child reaches the age of twenty-one (or until the child has graduated from high school with a regular diploma, whichever is first to occur).

Functional Behavior Assessment (“FBA”): Refers to an assessment of the reasons why a child behaves the way he or she does, given the nature of the child and what is happening in the environment. It describes a process for collecting data to determine the possible causes behind certain behaviors in order to identify strategies to address those behaviors.

Identification: Refers to the decision that a child is eligible for special education services.

Independent Educational Evaluation (“IEE”): Refers to an evaluation of a special education student performed by a professional who is not employed by the school district. If you disagree with the PPT’s evaluation of your child, you may request an independent educational evaluation. The school district must either pay for the cost of the IEE, or prove to a due process hearing officer that its own PPT evaluation is in fact appropriate. Of course, parents may obtain an IEE for their child at their own expense at any time. When presented with the results of the IEE, the PPT must consider the findings, but is not bound to adopt them.

Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”): This refers to a written education program developed for an individual child with a disability. It is developed by a multi-disciplinary team of school professionals and the child’s parents and is reviewed and updated at least once per school year. The IEP describes the child’s present performance and learning needs, as well as detailing which services will be necessary at what time, for how long, and by whom those services will be provided.

Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”): A child with a disability must, to the maximum appropriate extent, be educated with children who are not disabled, in a general education class in the school that the child would attend if he or she did not have a disability requiring special education services. A child with a disability should not be removed from the general educational setting unless the nature and severity of that child’s disability is such that education in the general class with the use of supplemental aids and services cannot be satisfactorily achieved.

Manifestation Determination: If a school seeks to change the placement of a child with a disability because that child behaved in a way that violated the school’s code of conduct, then a “manifest determination” must be made, to determine whether the behavior complained of is caused by the child’s disability.

Positive Behavior Supports (“PBS”): Refers to an approach to addressing challenging behaviors, and includes: functional assessment of the behavior; organizing the environment; teaching skills; rewarding positive behaviors; anticipating situations; and redesigning interventions as necessary.

Planning and Placement Team (“PPT”): Refers to a group of professionals who represent each of the teaching, administrative and pupil personnel staffs at a special education student’s school, and who, with the student’s parents, are equal participants in the decision-making process to determine the specific educational needs of the student. The PPT, along with the parents, develops, reviews and revises a student’s IEP; the PPT also reviews referrals to special education, determines if the child needs to be evaluated, decides what evaluations the child will have, and determines whether the child is eligible for special education services.

Stay Put: Refers to the requirement that a special education student must stay in his or her current program or placement during the course of a due process hearing. This provision may be modified upon agreement by both the parent and the school district.