Grad Students

Some school psychology graduate students come into programs with experience in special education, either as teachers, aides, or support staff. However, many do not. This page offers a brief overview of terms and a list of resources so you won’t be so lost that first semester in graduate school.

Common Terms

ABA: Applied Behavior Analysis. Also known as behaviorism approaches to learning and shaping behavior. Deals with modifying behavior through the change of environment and use of various reinforcements.

LEA: Local Education Agent. This individual represents the interest of the school and school district in IEP meetings. The LEA is typically the school’s principal; although, the principal may designate this role to other people at times.

IEP: Individualized Education Plan/Program. This is written legal document that details the present levels of academic and functional performance of a student, how the disability affects education, what goals and services need to be provided, etc.

FAPE: Free and Appropriate Public Education. This means that all students with disabilities are entitled to the same quality of education as everyone else, and without additional cost.

LRE: Least Restrictive Environment. Students with disabilities are educated with their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible while still meeting their unique needs and challenges. This will look different for every individual with a disability.

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Federal law detailing responsibilities of the states in special education programs and services.

ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act. Federal law detailing responsibilities of government agencies and corporations in providing equal treatment of those with disabilities.

504 Plan: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. For students who have disabilities but who don’t need specially designed instruction (special education services, IEP). These students need accommodations but no other special services in order to access the general education curriculum.

AT: Assistive Technology. Any item, product, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the self, modified, or made, that improves, maintains, or increases the functional performance of an individual with disabilities.

UDL: Universal Design for Learning. A learning design theory that is meant to teach all learners of various skills at once. It utilizes multiple means of engagement, multiple means of recognizing/processing content, and multiple means of expressing content mastery.


Wright’s Law

Introduction to Special Education



Read. Google search everything you can think of. The links above, including the book, are great places to start as well. Try not to run too fast (there is a reason why I only included three resources) but don’t take your sweet time either. You have a lot to catch up on if you didn’t study special education in your undergraduate studies.

Shadow. Get out in the field. Shadow school psychs, general education teachers, special education teachers, special education facilitators (professional who direct special education services for a school), and special education directors (those who direct special education for a school district). Get to know the various job responsibilities and see what it is like “in the trenches.”

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