Glossary and Disability Classifications:


Please note that as indicated, some terms are only applicable in New York City.

AT – Assistive Technology

Assistive technology is a tool that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.  Varied examples of assistive technology include a pencil grip or an iPad.

BIP – Behavioral Intervention Plan

A plan to address behaviors that interfere with learning that is based on the results of a functional behavior assessment and which includes, at a minimum:  a functional description of the problem behavior, hypotheses as to why the behavior occurs and intervention strategies to address the problem behavior.


Florence County Sch. Dist. v. Carter, 510 U.S. 7 (1988):   A US Supreme Court decision that held that the courts may award reimbursement for parents who withdraw their child from a public school that provides an inappropriate education and enroll the child in an appropriate private school program.

CBST – Central Based Support Team (NYC only)

The CBST secures placement in a state approved non-public school when the Committee on Special Education (CSE) determines that a child’s needs cannot be met in a public school setting.

CSE/CPSE – Committee on Special Education (NYS only)

The CSE is a multidisciplinary team, including a child’s parents, that identifies, evaluates, classifies, and creates an IEP for children over the age of 5, suspected of having an educational disability.  The Committee on Pre-School Education serves children from ages 3 to 5.

District 75 (NYC only)

District 75 is a citywide district which provides educational programs for the most severely disabled children in New York City.

Due Process Complaint

A written request for an impartial hearing, concerning the identification, evaluation, placement, or provision of a free, appropriate, public education to a student with a disability.

Due Process Hearing

A formal quasi-judicial proceeding where the parents and the school district present legal arguments and evidence in the form of documents and testimony before an impartial hearing officer or administrative law judge.

EI – Early Intervention

Education and support provided to lessen the effects of a disability or delay on a child’s education.  Services are provided to infants and toddlers who have a diagnosed condition or who are at risk for a developmental delay.

FAPE – Free and Appropriate Public Education

FAPE refers to special education and related services that are provided at public expense at an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school in conformity with a child’s individualized education program (IEP).

FBA – Functional Behavioral Assessment

An evaluation process for addressing  behavior concerns by identifying the reasons for a specific behavior and selecting appropriate interventions that directly and proactively address the problem behavior.

FNR – Final Notice of Recommendation  (NYC only)

A letter that indicates a specific placement in a New York City school.  The FNR is typically sent to a parent after the child’s Committee on Special Education (CSE) review meeting.

IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (20 U.S.C. §1400, et. al):

The IDEA is the federal law protecting special education rights for children with disabilities through the provision of appropriate education and related services.  The IDEA was first passed in 1975, as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.  The IDEA is revised and reauthorized every few years.  The final regulations, or rules, for implementing the 2004 (most recent) reauthorization of the IDEA were published in 2006 and govern how the law is executed.

IEP – Individualized Education Plan

The IEP is a legal document that serves as the roadmap for the education of a child with a disability.  It is written by the Committee on Special Education (CSE) (or IEP team) and it includes a child’s classification of disability, a statement of the child’s present levels of performance, measurable annual goals and objectives, educational placement, and appropriate related services.  Specific procedures and rules apply to the creation of a child’s IEP and the meeting of the CSE (or IEP) team.

IHO – Impartial Hearing Officer

A type of administrative law judge with advanced training who presides over special education due process hearings and issues legally binding decisions.


Inclusion involves placement of a child with a disability in general education, typically for most, or all, of the child’s school day, with any necessary supplementary supports and services to allow the child to access the general curriculum and participate with their typical peers.

LRE – Least Restrictive Environment

According to the federal special education law, to the maximum extent possible, children with disabilities must be educated in regular classrooms with non-disabled peers.

Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment is to occur only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.


Mainstreaming is the placement of a child who is in a full-time special class (or in a special class for the majority of the school day) into a general education classroom with age-appropriate peers for the areas of instruction in which the child’s disability does not impact on his or her ability to participate. A child may be mainstreamed in academic classes such as math, language arts, science, or social studies, or a non-academic program such as music or art.


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.

Nickerson Letter or P-1 Letter (NYC only)

A Nickerson Letter, or P-1 letter, is an authorization letter which enables a child to be placed in a state approved special education school with funding, when the New York City Department of Education fails to provide a special class placement within required timelines.  

P-3 Letter (NYC only)

A P-3 letter is an authorization letter that allows a parent to secure special education teacher services for their child, when the child has an IEP that recommends these services (SETSS), but either the public school that the child attends cannot provide this service, or the child attends a private mainstream school.


When a party requests an Impartial Hearing or participates in mediation, pendency, (or the “stay-put” provision of the IDEA) protects a child, by allowing the student to remain in his or her “last-agreed-upon placement” until the Impartial Hearing process (and appeals) is complete, unless the parent and the school district agree to an alternative.

Prior Written Notice

A written notice that the school must provide to the parents of a student with a disability explaining the district’s rationale, if the district wishes to, or refuses to, change a student’s classification, evaluation, educational placement, or services.

Related Services

Services that may be given to special education students to help support and assist their participation in their educational program. These services must be recommended on the IEP and are provided either individually or in groups. Examples of related services include counseling, school health services, hearing education services, occupational therapy, physical therapy, parent counseling and training, speech/ language therapy, vision education services, and orientation and mobility services.

RSA – Related Service Authorization  (NYC only)

An RSA is an authorization letter given to parents that allows them to obtain the services of an independent provider for specific related services at the school district’s expense, when the school district has been unable to provide these services for the student.

Resolution Session

A mandatory meeting that the school district must convene to attempt to resolve a conflict between a parent and school district, within 15 days of receiving the parents’ due process complaint. The resolution session includes parents, members of the IEP team relevant to the complaint, and a representative of the school district who has decision-making authority.

SBST – School Based Support Team (NYC only)

The SBST is a subcommittee of the CSE found in every New York City public school which develops IEPs and makes recommendations for placement and services.

SEIT – Special Education Itinerant Teacher

A SEIT is a licensed special education teacher who provides one to one instruction to a pre-school child in the child’s home or center based program.

SETSS – Special Education Teacher Support Services (NYC only)

SETTS, previously referred to as “resource room” and “consultant teacher” services, involves a special education teacher working with up to 8 children with disabilities for a minimum of two hours per week and a maximum of fifty percent of the school day.

Unilateral Placement

When a parent places their child with a disability in a nonpublic school due to the district’s failure to offer that child a free, appropriate public education in a timely manner.


Disability Classifications(as defined by federal regulations)

Autism “…a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engaging in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.”

Deaf-Blindness “…concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.”

Deafness “…a hearing impairment that is so severe that a child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.”

Emotional Disturbance “…a condition exhibiting one 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. Emotional disturbance includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance…”

Hearing Impairment “…an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness.”

Intellectual Disability “…significantly sub average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.” (This classification was previously termed Mental Retardation, and was changed through the passage of Rosa’s law in 2010.)

Multiple Disabilities “…concomitant impairments (such as intellectual disability-blindness, intellectual disability-orthopedic impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Multiple disabilities does not include deaf-blindness.

Orthopedic Impairment “…a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, 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).”

Other Health Impairment “…having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that—(a) is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia; and (b) adversely affects a child’s educational performance.”

Specific Learning Disability “…a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

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

Traumatic Brain Injury “…an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Traumatic brain injury applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.”

Visual Impairment including Blindness “…an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.”

SOURCE: 34 CFR Section 300.8 of the Federal Register (2006).