Learning Disabilities Glossary


[heading style="1"]Glossary of Terms for Learning Disabilities[/heading]


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Making changes to school curriculum in order to better

serve children with special needs or learning

differences.  Accommodations can include a variety of

modifications including but not limited to test

presentation, extended time, different testing locations,

and differentiation of how material is presented and

taught to students.


ADHD-Combined Type (ADHD-C)

ADHD-Combined Type is a subcategory of ADHD.  It is

characterized by having symptoms of hyperactivity,

impulsivity and inattention that differ from the

developmental level of the child for at least the

previous six months.


ADHD-Not Otherwise Specified (ADHD-NOS)

ADHD-Not Otherwise Specified is a subcategory of

ADHD.  It is diagnosed when the impulsivity, inattention

and hyperactivity symptoms are present but the person

does not meet the specifications for the other

diagnoses of ADHD.


ADHD-Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive (ADHD PH-I)

ADHD-Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive is a

subcategory of ADHD that is diagnosed when the

characteristics of impulsivity and hyperactivity are met,

but characteristic of inattention is lacking.


ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive (ADHD-PI)

ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive is a subcategory of

ADHD that is diagnosed when the characteristic of

inattention is met, but the characteristics of

hyperactivity and impulsivity are lacking.


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IVTR)

The classification of mental disorders written by the

American Psychiatric Association.  This manual is used

by various health care professionals and insurance

companies across a wide range of settings.



A circumstance or event that precedes a behavior.



Uneasiness of the mind, typically shown by

apprehension, worry and fear.



The action of attending or concentrating on one task

for a period of time.


Attentional Bias

The preference a person has to pay attention to certain

objects, thoughts and activities that are of interest to



Behavior Management

Strategies and techniques used by classroom teachers

in order to manage the behavior of the students in the

classroom and reduce classroom disruption.


Behavioral Contract

A contract between a child or adolescent and an adult

or school.  This contract explains the desired behavior

that will be increased, as well as the reinforcer that will

be given when that happens.  In addition, inappropriate

behavior is often listed, including the consequences for

the behavior.


Child Behavior Checklist  (CBCL)

A behavioral rating scale used by parents and teachers

to evaluate behavior and social skills in a standardized



Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit 

Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)

A non-profit organization committed to helping both

people with ADHD and their families.


Classroom Management

Strategies and techniques used by people in a

professional setting or school in order to maintain

surroundings that are advantageous to leaning and

success in the classroom.


Cognitive Restructuring

Changing negative thinking brought about by earlier life




Two or more disorders occurring in the same person.


Complex Syndrome

A specifically identified combination of problems that

occur together in ways that are predictable.


Comprehensive Assessment

An assessment process evaluating a studentʼs

complete skill set, including behaviors, skills, as well as

emotions.  This is also known as a full and individual




Focusing on a specific thought or action.


Conduct Disorder (CD)

A behavioral disorder that is characterized by behavior

problems, including noncompliant and impulsive

behavior, aggressive behavior towards both people

and/or animals, theft and other destructive actions.


Contingency Plan

A strategy used to give reinforcement to a student for

targeted behaviors based upon clear expectations.

The student has been told what the expected behavior

is, as well as the reinforcement that will be given for

appropriate behavior.


Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

Organization of people, including teachers and

parents, working toward improving the education of

children with disabilities and/or talents and gifts.  This

group advocates for governmental policies, as well as

helping to set professional standards and providing

professional development and resources for people

with disabilities.


Daily Behavior Report Card (DBRC)

A method of communication between teachers and

parents every day in which the behaviors of the child

throughout the day are reported.  It helps to inform

parents of childʼs progress so they are able to create

realistic educational goals, as well as decipher if the

teacherʼs methods are effective.


Differential Reinforcement

Reinforcement of one behavior and not another.



When attention is difficult to sustain, and when it is

challenging for a person to maintain focus on one

subject or activity.  The inability to resist switching

attention from one object or event to another, so that it

disrupts to a personʼs concentration.  Also, constantly

having to attend to many different objects in the same

area, and having a challenging time deciding which are

the most important.



A specific learning disability affecting both spoken and

written language caused by an unexpected difficulty in

reading.  Dyslexia is characterized by spelling

challenges, word retrieval while speaking and a lack of

fluency, causing reading to be slower and require more

effort than is typical.


Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

FAPE stands for Free Appropriate Public Education,

which was put into place as a result of the

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with

Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA).  It is

defined as “the provision of regular or special

education and related aid and services that are

designed to meet individual needs of handicapped

persons as well as the needs of non-handicapped

persons are met, and based on adherence to

procedural safeguards outlined in the law.”  All children

and students are given the right to have a free

appropriate public education.


Functional Impairment

Difficulties which interfere with a personʼs ability to

function in major life activities, including social

situations, in school or employment and in the

community.  Functional impairment can be shown in

the areas of bathing and grooming, dressing, social

skills and peer relations, as well as feeding and taking



Heterogeneous Disorder

A disorder which presents itself differently from one

person to another, including the presence and severity

of symptoms and secondary behaviors.


High Stakes Testing

A test of high importance, which will help to make

educational decisions in the future for the examinee.

For example, licensure to practice a skill.



When a person is unusually active given the

circumstances, it characterized by excessive

restlessness and movement.



A very intense form of concentration that is hard to pull

someone away from.



Acting before thinking of the consequences; acting in

the spur of the moment and without thinking.



The inability to direct attention to a specified object or

task in, also being easily distractible.


Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)

An evaluation given to a student by a professional that

does not work for the school district.  Parents have the

right to these evaluations if they disagree with the

schoolʼs evaluation.


Individual Education Program (IEP)

An Individualized Education Program is an academic

plan required for all students participating in special

education services in public school.  It includes

educational goals based on the strengths and

challenges that are found in the evaluation process.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA)

The current special education law in the United States,

which requires all states to provide a free appropriate

public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive

environment to children and students who have



Interpersonal Communication

Expressing ideas, thoughts and feelings to another

person.  There are many ways a person can improve

their communication skills, including increased

knowledge of social situations, practice and personal




A structured way of putting into effect new skills,

behaviors, and knowledge through an increase in using

behaviors that are appropriate.


Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The idea stating that students with disabilities should

be educated in the same environment and alongside

their typically developing peers, as well as have access

to the same educational and social activities.  Pullout

and separation programs are determined by need and

on an individual basis.


Maladaptive Behavior

Inappropriate behavior or misbehaving, a behavior that

has a negative impact on the person who is exhibiting it.


Mixed Rate of Instruction

Changing the rate material is introduced and taught

dependent on the students level of understanding.

When students are understanding at a high rate, the

material is presented quickly.  However, when students

are having a more challenging time grasping the

concepts, the material is taught at a slower pace.



Changes made in the general curriculum or

environment to meet the needs of a student that are

made when the expectations of the curriculum are

outside of a studentʼs ability.  Modifications are clearly

outlined in a studentʼs IEP, and vary between students

depending on the individual studentʼs need and



Natural Reinforcer

A stimulus that naturally occurs in an environment and

maintains or increases a specific desired response or

behavior.  Natural reinforcers are often associated with

social situations.


Negative Self-Talk

Inner dialogue that includes a mix of negative thoughts,

partial truths and distortions of reality that continue to

bring about negative emotions including those of guilt,

fear, anxiety and pessimism.  These thoughts are often

self-sabotaging and negatively affect a person.  This

dialogue can appear in times of increased stress or

emotional turmoil.


Nondiscriminatory Evaluation and Identificationfor

Special Education

An evaluation given to determine whether a student

has a disability and, if so, whether they qualify for

special education services.  This evaluation tests a

certain educational area instead of being a general test

of intelligence.  The purpose of the assessment is to

make sure that the student is placed in the appropriate

educational setting.  In addition to standardized tests,

the evaluation also reviews other information including

observations of physical development, culture,

language and adaptive behaviors in order to place

each student appropriately.


Peer Rejection

When someone is excluded from a social relationship

or interaction by peers.


Planned Ignoring

Providing no attention to negative and maladaptive

behavior in order to deliberately and cognitively reduce

its frequency.


Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS)

A process teaching and reinforcing the positive

behaviors of children in elementary and secondary

schools.  It includes behavioral management strategies

which are suitable for the classroom as well as other




Using reminders of expectations and appropriate

behavior prior to situations where negative behavior is

thought to occur.


Prereferral Intervention

Using evidence-based academic or behavioral

strategies before referring a student to special



Progress Monitoring (PM)

Monitoring how a student is doing by keeping track

of behavior, recording data and transferring the data

to a graph for a visual representation.


Prosocial Behavior

An act indicating a sense of empathy, caring and social



Psychoeducational Testing

An assessment process that helps to identify cognitive

strengths and challenges of students.  It also gives

information that helps to confirm or disconfirm mental

health diagnoses, including developmental delays and

attention disorders.


Replacement Behavior

A planned behavior used to replace a less desirable behavior.


Response to Intervention (RTI)

A multilevel prevention system that combines on going

assessment and intervention, helping to maximize

student accomplishment as well as minimize and

reduce behavioral issues and problems.  RTI is

completed by identifying at risk students, progress

monitoring and choosing and carrying out interventions

based upon evidence based practice.



An individual being able to effectively communicate

their own wants, needs and desires on their own




Monitoring, recording and reinforcing oneʼs own

behavior and actions.



Showing and acting with control in situations with

appropriate behavior and actions.  It is the ability to

regulate oneʼs own behavior.  Examples of selfregulating

behavior are impulse control, directing attention, delaying

gratification and controlling mood.


Sensory Integration Disorder (SID)

A neurological disability in which the brain and nervous

system are unable to receive, process and integrate

information coming in from the senses, causing

learning and behavioral problems.


Shifting Attention

Being able to change attention from one activity or task

to another.


Skill Deficit

A below expected performance of a skill.


Specific Learning Disability (SLD/LD)

A federal government categorization of disabilities to

define a certain group of neurobiological disorders that

significantly interfere with a personʼs ability to achieve

proficiency in a variety of areas.  These areas include

oral language, mathematics, executive functioning,

reading, written language and socialization.


Speech or Language Impairment

A communication disorder that affects a studentʼs

performance educationally, including articulation

disorders, stuttering or a language impairment.


Tangible Reinforcer

A tangible item used as a reinforcer in order to

increase or maintain targeted behavior.  For example,

a favorite food, toy or book.


Target Behavior

A specific behavior chosen to increase in frequency (if

it is a positive behavior) or decrease in frequency (if it

is a negative behavior).


Token Economy System

A student earns tokens for exhibiting the desired

behavior.  The tokens are exchanged at a later time for

a reinforcer which is typically selected by the student.


Working Memory

A system in the brain that temporarily stores and

manipulates the information needed for much more

complex tasks, including language comprehension,

learning and reasoning.