November 27, 2023

Your A-Z Guide: Acronyms in the Special Needs World

by Daniel Caridi, Co-Founder @ Kibu

Your A-Z Guide: Acronyms in the Special Needs World

Welcome to Kibu’s Comprehensive Acronym Repository!

Navigating the world of special needs can often feel like learning a new language. With countless acronyms like ABA, ISP, ASD, and FERPA, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That's why we at Kibu are excited to present a simplified guide to these acronyms, designed to be your go-to reference whenever you encounter a term that's unfamiliar. We'll update this list regularly so it becomes more and more comprehensive.

Understanding the Language of Special Needs

Before diving into the list, let’s understand why acronyms are so prevalent in the special needs community. They serve as shorthand for complex terms, making communication more efficient among professionals, educators, and families. However, for those new to the field, this shorthand can seem like a daunting code to crack.

How to Use This Repository

Our list is organized alphabetically, allowing you to easily locate the acronym you're curious about. For each acronym, you'll find a brief explanation of what it stands for and its relevance in the special needs world. This resource is designed to be a living document, evolving as new terms and practices emerge. Feel free to use Ctrl + F on Windows or Command + F on Mac to look for a specific acronym!


Acronym Repository

1. 504 Plan (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act):

A plan developed to ensure that a child with a disability attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.

2. AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication):

Forms of communication that supplement or replace speech and writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language.

3. ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis):

A therapy based on the science of learning and behavior, often used in treating individuals with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

4. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act):

A civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.

5. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder):

A neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by problems with focus, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

6. ADL (Activities of Daily Living):

Everyday tasks and activities that individuals typically do for themselves, including eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting.

7. ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder):

A developmental disorder characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, and communication.

8. ASL (American Sign Language):

A complete, natural language that serves as the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States and most of Canada.

9. AT (Assistive Technology):

Products, equipment, and systems that enhance learning, working, and daily living for individuals with disabilities. Like Kibu!

10. BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst):

A certification for professionals who provide behavior-analytic services.

11. BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan):

A plan that outlines strategies and interventions for reducing problematic behaviors in favor of positive ones.

12. BSP (Behavior Support Plan):

A plan that includes strategies to prevent problematic behaviors, teach new skills, and respond to behaviors.

13. CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy):

A psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health.

14. CDA (Child Development Associate):

A nationally recognized credential in early childhood education.

15. CF (Cystic Fibrosis):

A hereditary disorder affecting the exocrine glands, causing the production of abnormally thick mucus, leading to the blockage of the pancreatic ducts, intestines, and bronchi.

16. COPAA (Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates):

An independent, nonprofit organization of attorneys, advocates, parents, and related professionals who work to protect special education rights and secure excellence in education on behalf of the 7.1 million children with disabilities in America.

17. CP (Cerebral Palsy):

A group of disorders affecting a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture.

18. DD (Developmental Disability):

A diverse group of chronic conditions due to mental or physical impairments that arise before adulthood.

19. DHH (Deaf and Hard of Hearing):

Refers to individuals who have varying degrees of hearing loss.

20. DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders):

The standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals.

21. DT (Developmental Therapy):

Therapy focused on helping children reach developmental milestones.

22. EBD (Emotional and Behavioral Disorders):

A range of emotional and behavioral challenges faced by some children and adolescents.

23. ECSE (Early Childhood Special Education):

Educational services for young children with disabilities, typically ages three to five.

24. EI (Early Intervention):

Services and supports designed to help infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays to develop to their full potential.

25. ESL (English as a Second Language):

A program or course that teaches English to students who are native speakers of other languages.

26. ESY (Extended School Year):

Special education services that are provided to students beyond the normal school year.

27. FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education):

An educational right of children with disabilities in the United States to receive educational services at no cost guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act and IDEA.

28. FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome):

A condition in a child resulting from alcohol exposure during the mother's pregnancy.

29. FBA (Functional Behavioral Assessment):

A process for collecting information to understand why a student engages in challenging behavior.

30. FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act):

A federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.

31. GT (Gifted and Talented):

Refers to children who show potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others.

32. HI (Hearing Impaired):

A term used to describe individuals who have partial or total inability to hear.

33. IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act):

A law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation.

34. IDEIA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act):

A U.S. law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities and ensures special education and related services to those children.

35. IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation):

An evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district responsible for the education of the child in question.

36. IEP (Individualized Education Plan):

A plan developed for U.S. public school children who need special education.

37. IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan):

A plan for special services for young children with developmental delays.

38. ILS (Independent Living Skills):

Skills needed for daily living, such as shopping, managing personal finances, maintaining a household, personal hygiene, etc.

39. IPP (Individualized Program Plan):

A detailed description of the services and supports necessary for a person with developmental disabilities.

40. IQ (Intelligence Quotient):

A measure of a person's intelligence as indicated by an intelligence test.

41. LD (Learning Disability):

A neurological condition that affects a child's brain and impairs their ability to receive, process, store, and respond to information.

42. LEA (Local Education Agency):

A public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a state.

43. LRE (Least Restrictive Environment):

A principle in special education that requires students with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent appropriate.

44. LSSP (Licensed Specialist in School Psychology):

A professional who supports students' ability to learn and teachers' ability to teach, especially regarding mental health and behavior.

45. MD (Muscular Dystrophy):

A group of genetic diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass.

46. MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports):

A framework for integrating assessment and intervention within a school prevention system to maximize student achievement and reduce behavior problems.

47. NCLB (No Child Left Behind):

A U.S. Act of Congress that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; it included Title I provisions applying to disadvantaged students.

47. O&M (Orientation and Mobility):

Training that is crucial for the blind and visually impaired, as it teaches them to travel safely, confidently, and independently in their environment.

48. OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder):

A mental disorder where people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations that make them feel driven to do something repetitively.

49. ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder):

A behavior disorder defined by chronic aggression, frequent outbursts, and a tendency to ignore requests and purposely irritate others.

50. OT (Occupational Therapy):

Therapy aimed at helping people perform everyday tasks, often used for those with sensory or physical disabilities to achieve independence in all facets of their lives.

51. PBS (Positive Behavior Support):

A behavior management system used to understand what maintains an individual's challenging behavior.

52. PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder):

A group of five disorders characterized by delays in the development of multiple basic functions including socialization and communication.

53. PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified):

A diagnosis applied to children or adults who are on the autism spectrum but do not fully meet the criteria for another ASD such as autism.

54. PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System):

A form of augmentative and alternative communication typically used by individuals with communication impairments

55. PLAAFP (Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance):

A section of the IEP that outlines the student’s current abilities, strengths, and needs.

56. PT (Physical Therapy):

Therapy that focuses on improving or regaining a person's movement, mobility, and physical function.

57. RDI (Relationship Development Intervention):

A family-based, behavioral treatment designed to address autism spectrum disorders.

58. RTI (Response to Intervention):

An approach used to provide early, systematic assistance to children who are struggling in various aspects of their learning.

59. SLD (Specific Learning Disability):

A type of learning disability that includes a number of disorders that affect the ability to learn.

60. SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist):

A professional specialized in evaluating and treating people who have speech, language, voice, or swallowing disorders.

61. SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder):

A condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.

62. TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury):

A form of acquired brain injury that occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain.

63. VI (Visually Impaired):

Refers to someone who has a partial or total loss of vision.

64. VR (Vocational Rehabilitation):

A process which enables persons with functional, psychological, developmental, cognitive, and emotional impairments or disabilities to overcome barriers to accessing, maintaining, or returning to employment or other useful occupation.


Kibu's Final Thoughts

Remember, this guide is meant to be a starting point in your journey through the world of special needs. While we've covered a significant number of acronyms, the field is ever-expanding and evolving. We encourage you to reach out to professionals and support groups for deeper understanding and context.

For suggestions please email

Together, we can make the special needs world a little less overwhelming, one acronym at a time.

Written by Daniel Caridi, Co-Founder @ Kibu