Alphabet Soup: An Intro to Special Ed

alphabetsoupAlphabet Soup: An Intro to Special Ed

Special Ed…IEP…ARD…FAPE…LRE – Parents come to us dizzy and intimidated when they begin to navigate the uncharted territory of special education.  Travelers in a foreign land, they feel they are the only ones who don’t speak the native language.

If you have a child who is being considered for special services, you may have already begun to hear any number of acronyms and confusing terms. 

Below is a brief glossary of commonly used terms and a few pointers for navigating the special education system.

Special Education – Special instruction that is designed to meet the unique, specific needs of a child with a disability.  This includes students with speech problems, learning disabilities, autism and in many cases dyslexia and ADHD.

ARD (Admission, Review and Dismissal) – A committee meeting of experts knowledgeable to your child, your child’s disability, and appropriate educational interventions.  YOU, as the foremost expert on your child, are a vital and equal member of that committee.  After your child has been identified as a candidate for special education services, the committee meets to determine whether a disability exists and develops an IEP (see below).  An ARD is held when a student enters a special program and is reviewed annually.

IEP (Individualized Education Program) – A legal document which details the ways that the school will serve your child’s special needs.  It includes measureable goals and objectives and a timeline for meeting them.  As a parent, you play an important role in the design of your child’s IEP and all decisions MUST have your approval.

FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) – Ensures that all students receive special education and related services as described in an IEP.

LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) – Students with disabilities are educated with nondisabled students to the maximum extent possible.   For most students, this will mean that they spend most of the day in the classroom and go to a resource room for a few hours a week.  This could also mean that they receive special assistance exclusively in the regular classroom.

Helpful Tips

Be prepared – Before the ARD meeting, write down any questions or requests and bring them with you.  Be ready to sign many forms.

Don’t go alone – If both parents cannot attend, bring a friend who has gone through that process.  There are also professional advocates in San Antonio that will attend your child’s ARD meetings and give you guidance in getting the best help for your child.

Don’t feel rushed – These meetings are routine for the school personnel, who may forget that they are not routine for you.  Take your time, ask questions, take notes. If necessary, ask that another meeting be held before final decisions are made.

Don’t be intimidated – Remember: you are the foremost expert on your child and have a say in all decisions regarding your child’s education.  If your child has a learning disability, it is their right to receive a quality education that meets their needs.  As your child’s advocate, you and only you can make these changes happen.

For more information: Click HERE for access to the NEISD handbook to special education services and the ARD process, or visit WrightsLaw to read about your child’s rights regarding his education.

To find out how we can help your family overcome the struggle with learning difficulties, give us a call at (210) 495-2626, or

JOIN US and other parents at our Parent Information Meetings on Tuesday nights at 7:30 pm.  This is an opportunity to ask questions and explore possibilities about how to best help your bright but struggling child.


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