Eye on Education

Terms and definitions

Special education: Specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.

Mainstreaming and inclusion: Educators have somewhat differing views of these terms, but mainstreaming generally means placing students with disabilities into general education classes for part of the school day. Inclusion generally means a student with disabilities learns primarily in a general education class and has special support from staff throughout the school day.

Intellectual disabilities: Limitations both in intellectual functioning and behavior, including everyday social and practical skills.

Autism: A disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. The learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities of people with autism can range from gifted to severely challenged.

Emotional disturbance: Can include a range of characteristics exhibited over a long period of time: an inability to learn that can’t be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors; trouble maintaining relationships with teachers and other students; inappropriate behavior in normal circumstances; a tendency to have physical symptoms in reaction to personal issues or trouble at school.

Individualized education plan: A plan mandated by federal law that is drawn up by a child’s parents, teachers and other school staff; it addresses unique learning issues and sets educational and functional skills goals.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Education, Disability Rights California