When I worked as a graduate student researcher at UC Berkeley, I had this game I secretly played with my co-worker during staff meetings. It was called “Educational Jargon Bingo.” Before the meetings, we wrote down all the educational terms that researchers throw around and placed them on a bingo chart in random order. The key was to find a word that everyone uses repeatedly but no one really knows what it means in real life. Some classics that usually guaranteed a win:

Authentic Learning
Milieu
Developmentally Appropriate
Accountability
Rubric

The reason I bring this up is much to my chagrin, NOW I’M ONE OF THEM! I realized this yesterday when I had a discussion with a special education teacher. Here is an actual transcript:

Dr. Bell: Hi Teacher, did you get my note about the IEP tomorrow?
Teacher: The IEP for the LD kid?
DB: Yeah, the LD/ADHD kid we wanted to recommend for RSP instead of SDC.
T: Why RSP?
DB: Because we need the LRE, especially since he bypassed the SST process.
T: Do we need to bring the paperwork for AB3632?
DB: No, we need to SB1895 first.
T: Ok, and are the parents ok with RSP instead of the SDC-LD class?
DB: Yeah, because the SDC we have on site is an SDC-ED not an SDC-LD class.
T: Make sense.

Average reader: ????
Anyone else in the field of special education: Got it. See you at the IEP.

So today I will translate some commonly used terms in special education that we throw around like everyone knows what we’re talking about. Feel free to use as a cheat sheet.

IEP: Individualized Education Plan. The IEP refers to both the meeting held to discuss a student in special education’s learning needs as well as the actual document created. IEP documents are created following an assessment by a school professional (e.g. speech pathologist, school psychologist) and a meeting is held every year thereafter to see how it’s going. Think of it as a plan for a student with a disability. Only it’s 24789247598475 pages long and full of legal jargon. Perhaps a future post can clarify the document.

LD: Learning Disability. In the school setting, it’s when a student’s cognitive potential (read: IQ or something similar) is at least average, there is a processing deficit (read: one way the student has difficulty learning), and there is a statistically significant discrepancy between the cognitive abilities and one area of achievement (the student’s reading, math, or writing is below what you’d expect of a kid with average intelligence). The problems with learning have to be due to the processing deficit, not to situational factors like poor attendance, poor instruction, not speaking English, etc. More on LD later…it’s a big topic.

LD/ADHD: Learning Disability/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This means the student I was referring to has both a Learning Disability and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For the purpose of clarity, the IEP team (everyone who goes to the meeting) has to decide which is impacting the kid’s education more and check that box. But it doesn’t mean the kid only has one disability. More on ADHD later too. Huge topic. Huge.

RSP: Resource Specialist Program. Only open to students with an IEP. The Program is run by a Resource Specialist (it is incorrect, but the teacher is also referred to as the RSP. I have also heard the teacher called the “RS” or Resource Specialist). What’s important is this person has a credential to work with students with disabilities. The Resource Specialist Program usually looks like one of two options:
1) The RSP (special education teacher) will consult with the general education teacher about how to best teach the student and case manage the IEP meetings.

2) The RSP will pull out the student every so often to directly instruct him or her in whichever area of academics they have difficulty in. They will also consult with the teacher and parents and case manage.

SDC: Special Day Class. Also open only to students with an IEP. This is a class of students who all have disabilities, usually of the same kind or severity. It has a smaller class size, usually 10-15 students. The majority of the student’s day is spent in this class with a special education teacher and usually an assistant (sometimes called a “para” short for paraprofessional). Depending on the severity of the disabilities, the only time the students interact with non-disabled peers is lunch and possibly electives such as art and PE. If a kid can handle it, they can take other classes with the general education students as well. It’s case-by-case.

SDC-LD: Special Day Class for students with Learning Disabilities

SDC-ED: Special Day Class for students with an “Emotional Disturbance,” meaning the main reason these students have difficulty learning is because of a psychological or psychiatric disorder (e.g. anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorder).

LRE: Least Restrictive Environment. This means that the child should be educated with non-disabled peers as much as the disability allows. The hierarchy from least restrictive to most restrictive is basically 1) No special education at all 2) Resource Specialist Program and 3) Special Day Class. There are more restrictive (read: all special education students) environments too. They are usually hospitals or special schools for severely impaired students who absolutely cannot make it in public school, despite trying all the special education supports on-site.

SST: Student Success Team or sometimes called Student Study Team. This is basically a parent-teacher conference with more people there, depending on the issue (usually can include other support staff like the principal, school psychologist, social worker, speech pathologist, and/or school nurse). This is a meeting usually held when there is a concern about a student, and a plan is made. Sometimes, the plan is to move forward with testing for special education, though it is generally agreed-upon to try other interventions first before labeling a child as “disabled.” This team can be disguised as many other names: Care Team, Coordinated Service Team, Student Assistance Program. It’s tricky like that. But it is most commonly called an SST.

AB3632: This is a California-specific law (Assembly Bill #3632) that basically says that if you are a student in special education and you need mental health support (counseling) to succeed in school, then you can get it free of cost, usually at an outside clinic. It’s usually for students with Emotional Disturbance, but can be accessed by other students with other disabilities if it’s determined by the AB3632 assessor (a psychologist or similar who comes to the school to see how severe the needs are) that the student’s emotional and behavioral problems are getting in the way of learning.

SB1895: Another California-specific law (Senate Bill #1895) that basically says before you refer for AB3632 (outside mental health services, like a clinic) you should try school- based services (on-site counselors). This law is new and how school districts are interpreting it varies widely. I couldn’t begin to explain it yet. Stay tuned.

And that is your educational jargon lesson for the day. Next time someone rattles off the alphabet soup of special education, you can say, Bingo!

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