New Resource Helps Parents and Educators Get on the Same Page About IEP Terms

By The Understood Team on Jun 28, 2017

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) sent a letter to the states with a clear message. It reminded them that schools can use specific terms for learning disabilities in evaluations and IEPs. In fact, ED said schools should use those terms if it helps to provide appropriate supports and services for students.

It’s an important conversation for parents and educators to have. But they may not know where to begin, or how to approach it. That’s why 12 national organizations, including Understood and our managing founding partner the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), have gotten together to create a resource to help guide the conversation.

The 10 other organizations, which represent a wide range of educators, are:

  • AIM Institute for Learning & Research
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Council for Learning Disabilities
  • Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children
  • Eye to Eye
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center

The goal of the resource is to help parents and schools to use the same language when talking about a child’s issues. Parents often use specific terms for their child’s issues. They might talk about their child’s , or , for instance.

Schools tend to use the term “specific learning disability.” That’s one of the conditions covered under special education law. But there’s no reason why they can’t also use the exact names.

Using the same language can cut down on conflict and confusion when parents and schools are talking about special education services. And that can lead to getting the best possible help for a child’s specific needs.

“It’s so important for parents and educators to share an understanding of a child’s needs and strengths. It allows them to more easily work together to design a great education program,” says Lindsay Jones, chief policy and advocacy officer at NCLD.

“We’ve identified a misunderstanding in language. It may seem small, but it’s caused some significant communication problems for parents and educators. And it’s gotten in the way of their good work,” Jones adds.

“NCLD is proud to join with these amazing organizations to help all of us speak about this issue,” she says. “Together, we can reach a common understanding to help all of our kids move forward and thrive.”


Get answers to frequently asked questions about the ED guidance letter. Read about one parent’s campaign to get her child’s school to use the term dyslexia. And hear what experts say about using terms like dyslexia in IEPs.

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    The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.