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Paraeducators and IDEA 2004: Understanding IDEA Terminology

Paras and IDEA 2004Why This Topic Is Important to Paraeducators

Too often in education, unexplained terms and jargon are used that can undermine effective communication. Even worse, terms and acronyms are sometimes used inappropriately. When people find themselves unsure of what a term or phrase means, they may hesitate to ask for clarification so as not to appear uninformed.

You want to be sure you are doing your job properly. An understanding of the commonly used terms found in IDEA 2004 will help you discuss and share information relevant to students with disabilities. You should familiarize your self with the glossary in the following section.

How to Understand IDEA 2004—A Short Glossary of Terms

Assistive technology device —any item, piece of equipment, or product system—whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized—that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted or the replacement of that device.

Assistive technology service —any service that directly assists a student with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. This term covers:

  • Evaluating the needs of the student, including a functional evaluation of the student in his or her customary environment.
  • Purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by such student.
  • Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices.
  • Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs.
  • Providing training or technical assistance for a child with a disability, or, where appropriate, the family of the child.
  • Providing training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of the child [emphasis added]. This would include paraeducators.

Child with a disability —a child evaluated in accordance with the requirements of IDEA as having mental retardation, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance, an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, and/or deaf-blindness or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason of the preceding condition(s), needs special education and related services.

Equipment —includes machinery, utilities, built-in equipment and any necessary enclosures or structures to house such machinery, utilities or equipment, and all other items necessary for the functioning of a particular facility for the provision of education services to students with disabilities. Such items include instructional equipment and necessary furniture; printed, published, and audiovisual instructional materials; telecommunications, sensory, and other technological aids and devices; and books, periodicals, documents, and other related materials.

Free appropriate public education —often referred to as FAPE, this includes special education and related services that are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge; that meet the standards of the state education agency; that include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education; and that are provided in conformity with the individualized education program.

Individualized education program —often referred to as the IEP, this is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with IDEA’s requirements. The IEP team includes parents, teachers, and others who are deemed, by either the agency or the parents, to have special knowledge or expertise regarding the student. Paraeducators often fall into the category of those having special knowledge or expertise of a student.

Individualized family service plan —a written plan for providing early intervention services to infants and toddlers. The contents of the plan include:

  • Statement of the infant’s or toddler’s present level of development in the following areas: physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, and adaptive. This statement shall be established using objective criteria.
  • Statement of the family’s resources, priorities, and concerns relating to the enhancement of the child’s development.
  • Statement of the measurable results or outcomes to be achieved, including pre-literacy and language skills, as developmentally appropriate for the child, and the criteria, procedures, and timelines used to determine progress toward the results or outcomes and whether modifications or revisions are necessary .
  • Statement of specific early intervention services based on peer-reviewed research, to the extent practicable, necessary to meet the infant’s or toddler’s and the family’s unique needs, including the frequency, intensity, and method of delivering services.
  • Statement of natural environments in which early intervention services will appropriately be provided, including a justification of the extent, if any, to which any services will not be provided in a natural environment.
  • Projected dates for initiation of services and the anticipated length, duration, and frequency of the services.
  • Identification of service coordinator from the profession most immediately relevant to the infant’s, toddler’s, or family’s needs, who will be responsible for the implementation of the plan, and the coordination with other agencies and persons, including transition services.
  • Steps to be taken to support the transition of the toddler with a disability to preschool or other appropriate services.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act —often referred to as IDEA 2004, the major federal education program for students with disabilities. IDEA 2004 remains in effect until it is reauthorized. It contains comprehensive requirements and authorizes state and local aid for special education and related services for children with disabilities.

Related services —transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability in benefiting from special education. This includes:

  • Early identification and assessment of disabling conditions in children.
  • Developmental, corrective, and supportive services including speech-language pathology and audiology services; psychological, physical, and occupational therapy; recreation, including therapeutic recreation; social work services; counseling services including rehabilitation counseling; and orientation and mobility services.
  • Medical services included in related services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only. Related services do not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, the optimization of device functioning, maintenance of the device, or replacement of such a device.

Supplementary aids and services —aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate.

[Source: Definitions section of IDEA, located in Volume 20 United States Code Section 1401.]


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