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Cutting through the education acronym kudzu

Any parent advocating for a child with special education or developmental needs faces an alphabet soup of initials and acronyms. They can be massively confusing and make you feel as if you are slashing through kudzu to get to what matters.

We can't do away with all those identifiers because they refer to the legal rights available to you under the law that allow you to press for benefits that will provide for the well-being of your child. So, today's post attempts to give readers a list of some of these terms and an explanation of what they mean.

Knowing ingredients makes for the best IEP

Our penchant for using letters to identify things is significant. During tax time, IRS is on a lot of people's lips. In the area of education, we have the following initialisms and acronyms.

  • ADA: This stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. This law bars discrimination against anyone with disabilities in the form of physical and social barriers.
  • IDEA: As an acronym, this could read as "idea." However, the letters stand for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law that spells out the scope of special education services public schools are obliged to provide to students that qualify.
  • ESSA: You may have heard of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). ESSA is the Every Student Succeeds Act. It replaced NCLB in 2015. While the two laws are similar, ESSA gives the state more responsibility for holding public schools accountable for meeting broader education goals.
  • FAPE: This abbreviation represents the foundational rule of the IDEA – to deliver a Free Appropriate Public Education.

How schools fulfill obligations under the law are negotiable, and that's something parents have a right to be involved in. The possible activities also generate another list.

  • IEP: Any child diagnosed with qualifying disabilities or developmental issues is entitled to support under an Individualized Education Program. The IEP sets goals and itemizes what services and supports to use to ensure optimal progress.
  • 504 plans: Similar to an IEP, these plans are controlled by Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act. Because it defines disabling conditions more loosely, qualifying is easier. However, schools' obligations are not as stiff.
  • LRE: This abbreviation might come up at the same time as the words, mainstreaming or inclusion. LRE means the least restrictive environment. As a parent, it's important to know that LRE and the other terms don't mean the same thing.

Finally, legal obligation does not mean schools won't try to save money by limiting what they deliver. So, knowing your rights is as important as knowing the jargon.

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