Abstract reasoning deficit
Difficulty with the ability to analyze, organize, and synthesize information—including making inferences.

Variations in time, format, setting, and/or presentation that allow students with LD to complete the same assignments as their typical peers. The purpose of accommodations is to provide a student with equal access to learning and an equal opportunity to show what he knows and what he can do. See IEP Planning: Accommodations & Modifications and Examples of Accommodations & Modifications.

Asperger’s Syndrome
Also referred to as high-functioning autism characterized by at least normal intelligence and verbal skills. Symptoms include difficulties with social interaction and often, problems with motor skills and obsessive interests.

Assistive technology (AT)
Any form of technology that allows students with learning or other disabilities to access educational material that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD, ADHD)
Difficulty in regulating attention effectively, including paying appropriate attention for the required amount of time, and the ability to shift attention to another task.

Auditory perception deficit
Difficulty with the ability to interpret auditory (i.e. sound) information, not caused by problems with hearing.

Auditory Processing Disorder
See Central Auditory Processing Disorder.

A complex developmental disability causing problems with social interaction and communication, often including repetitive behaviors. Symptoms usually occur before the age of three.

Autism Spectrum Disorder
A broader category of this developmental disability including people with mild as well as more severe symptoms of autism, including Asperger syndrome.

Central auditory processing
The way in which the brain interprets or makes use of auditory (sound) information.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder
Characterized by difficulty with the interaction of hearing, neural transmission and the brain’s ability to make sense of sound.

Common core
A set of language arts and math standards that the majority of states have adopted for grades K-12. The purpose is to ensure that high-school graduates have the skills and knowledge to succeed in college and life.

Differentiated instruction
The adaptation of lessons for students with different abilities within the same classroom.

Problems in grasping basic math concepts due to difficulties such as memorization of math facts and the understanding of terms, processes, written symbols and formal procedures. Difficulties stem from various problems including language processing and visual-spatial deficits.

Originally used to describe difficulty in writing legibly because of poor motor function, the term is now used also to describe a processing disorder involving difficulty with spelling that may result from poor decoding skills (sounding out words), as well as problems with organizing information in writing despite good oral verbal skills. See this article for assistive technology help.

The most common learning disability, dyslexia is characterized by difficulty in sounding out words accurately and fluently, interfering with learning to read. It typically results from difficulty taking words apart, sound by sound, and blending those sounds back together, despite a child’s cognitive abilities. It impacts spelling, writing, math and occasionally, learning to speak. Also referred to as a language-learning or reading disability, it may also result in problems with reading comprehension. See Dyslexia; An Overview.

An assessment to determine whether a child may have learning disabilities or ADHD. Testing for learning disabilities includes measures of intellectual ability, achievement, memory, cognitive processing, and executive functions – as well as possible emotional issues. ADHD is determined by a clinical diagnosis rather than testing, via a psychiatric or psychological evaluation that includes a detailed history as well as the evaluator’s assessment of difficulty with attention, emotional, and behavioral issues. Assessments of a child’s behavior at home and in another setting such as school may include surveys to be completed by a parent and/or teacher, as well as face-to-face meetings. See more about evaluations for LD or ADHD.

Executive Function Disorder
Difficulties with executive function skills, the cognitive processes required to plan and direct activities (including getting started and seeing them through) and regulate behavior (inhibiting impulses, making good decisions, flexibility, and managing emotions).

FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act)
Federal legislation that gives parents the right to review their child’s education records.

High-stakes tests
Assessments that carry major consequences for students (pass or failure may determine graduation, scholarships, etc.) or serve as the basis for important decisions about school systems under No Child Left Behind.

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act is federal law that entitles children, whose disability requires specialized instruction and related services to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This special education law, first enacted in 1975, was last updated in 2004 and was given the name Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 or IDEA 04.

The “individualized education program” that must be developed for each child identified under the IDEA as requiring Special Education services. The program includes information on the child’s present level of performance, annual goals and short-term objectives, the specific special education and related services to be provided, and how the services will be evaluated.

The educational philosophy that favors placing children with disabilities in their home schools, in the general education setting with supports and services that allow them to access the curriculum.

Learning disabilities
Problems in learning that impact academic performance among otherwise bright and capable children, caused by differences in the way that the brain takes in and processes information.

Language learning disability
See Dyslexia.

Language deficits
Difficulty with reading and/or writing.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
A legal term that embodies the philosophy of inclusion. A guiding principle of IDEA 2004, LRE presumes that education for children with disabilities will take place in a typical setting, with non-disabled peers, and that exclusion from the general education curriculum is the exception rather than the rule.

Memory deficits
Difficulty using recently stored information to facilitate learning.

Changes in what students are expected to learn, based on their individual abilities. Modifications involve altering instructional level, content, and/or performance criteria for a particular assignment. See IEP Planning: Accommodations & Modifications and Examples of Accommodations & Modifications.

Multisensory Structured Language (MSL)
A research-based approach used to improve the language skills of students with language learning disabilities (dyslexia). Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are taught together—sequentially and systematically—employing all the senses to enhance a student’s memory and learning. See Addressing Reading Issues: MSL Basics.

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NLD)
Learning disabilities characterized by problems concerning visual-spatial, intuitive and organizational tasks that cause difficulty with interpreting social cues and understanding cause-and-effect relationships, among other issues. Also referred to as NVLD.

Organizational skill deficit
Difficulty keeping track of class materials and daily schedule.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)
Disorders included in the autism spectrum category, sometimes described as PDD not otherwise specified (atypical autism).

The smallest distinct unit of sound in language. English is generally considered to have 44 phonemes, represented by the 26 letters of the alphabet.

Phonemic awareness
The ability to break apart words into individual speech sounds, which is critical to the process of learning to read.

Phonological awareness
The understanding that each word can be isolated from a stream of spoken words, and is a separate entity of meaning; it also refers to the ability to discriminate the sounds that make each word distinct.

Phonological processing
The perception of sound and the process of breaking down language as we hear it spoken into the smaller, distinct units of which it is composed—words, then syllables, then phonemes (smallest units of sound).

Procedural safeguards
Under the IDEA procedural safeguards ensure parental access to information and decisions regarding their child’s placement and transition planning, and to resolve disagreements regarding their child’s placement.

Process writing
An approach to writing that emphasizes working through various stages of the process, from brainstorming to recording and organizing ideas, editing, and proofing the final draft.

Reading comprehension difficulty
Can remember specific details but has difficulty getting the “big picture” of the text and/or its overarching organization.

Reading disability
See Dyslexia.

Research-based services
Special education services based on peer-reviewed research.

Response To Intervention (RTI)
A multi-tiered approach to providing services to students having difficulty with learning that offers increasingly intensive, research-based instruction based on an individual student’s progress.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
A civil rights, non-discrimination law that provides equal access to activities and programs to individuals who have a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities.

Sensory Processing Disorder
Difficulty perceiving or interpreting sensory data taken in through sight, sound, touch, movement, or taste, this disorder can have severe consequences in many aspects of learning, behavior, self-regulation and daily functioning. Formerly referred to as sensory integration disorder.

SMART goals
The acronym that calls for goals and objectives appearing on an IEP to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-limited.

Special Education
The services available to a child identified with special needs, including learning disabilities, individualized to meet a child’s specific learning needs. Special education is described not as a place, but as services that may be delivered in the general education classroom, as well as in resource rooms.

2e learners
Students who are gifted and have learning disabilities.

Universal Design
An educational philosophy that offers students with LD, ADHD, and other disabilities the ability to learn in ways that utilize their strengths rather than focusing on their deficits.

Visual perception deficits
Problems making sense of what is seen, and how visual information is processed by the brain. Includes difficulty with spatial relations, visual discrimination, and the relationship of parts to the whole.

Visual or visual-spatial processing
The way the brain interprets or makes use of visual information.

Working memory
The brain system that temporarily stores information necessary for tasks such as learning, comprehending, and reasoning. Problems with working memory are associated with dyslexia and ADHD and are a risk factor for educational underachievement.

Written expression disorder
Problems with written expression include difficulty in writing that may be caused by poor motor function, processing problems (including dyslexia, see above), and difficulty with organization.