Thursday, October 1, 2009


Whenever I enter a new environment (like college, new job, PTA) it seemed that knowledge of a new language is needed. I don’t mean Spanish, French or any other foreign language. I mean plain old English with a lot of acronyms and confusing words. People accustomed to this language typically sling it around rarely giving any thought to how newcomers might feel. When tossed strange words from this language that everyone but you understands, you may feel out of place, even isolated and stupid.

Here’s a list of some WAP’s (Words, Acronyms and Phrases) that I have come across over the past several years with the definition, in my own words. If you have some to add, I welcome your additions.

Assistive Technology – This includes all the computer equipment, special devices and technical aides that may be used to assist your child in communicating with others.

Cognitively Impaired – This word seems to be replacing mentally retarded, but has the same meaning without the negative connotation that mentally retarded has become over the last few decades.

DD – Developmentally Disabled. A lot of kids are lumped into this category as a diagnosis when none can be found.

Early Intervention – Children from birth to three years old who qualify based on disability receive services through the county. These services may be free or based on a sliding scale, depending on where you live.

IEP – Individual Education Plan. Once a child with special needs reaches three years old, the school system handles services. An IEP is a legal document developed by the parents and school to guide the child’s education.

IFSP – Individual Family Service Plan. While your child is in the Early Intervention program, they will have an IFSP, a document guiding the services your child and family receive.

Inclusion – In the school system, there are several types of classrooms in which children can participate. Inclusion usually defines a class that has both typical and special needs children. The teacher and/or assistant will be trained to teach this kind of classroom.

Main Stream – This is the same as Inclusion, but for some reason “Inclusion” is the updated word to use.

Medicaid – Based on financial need of the family, this is a government funded health insurance for children and adults who qualify.

MR – Mentally Retarded. These words are still used, but not as often. Severely, profoundly and moderately seem to be used in conjunction with MR.

OT – Occupational Therapist. These professionals work with fine motor skills in fingers and hands, arms and upper body. Their focus may be on eating, drinking and writing.

PT – Physical Therapist. These professionals work with gross motor skills in legs, torso and upper body. Their focus may be on crawling, sitting and walking.

Self-Contained – In the school system, this is a class with all special needs children.

SLP – Speech Language Pathologist. These professionals work with helping people to communicate by talking, sign language, using pictures and/or a communication device.

SSI – Social Security Income. Based on financial need of the family and disability of the individual, this is government funded assistance to be used for an individual’s needs.
This list is by no means the end to this new language. It is a starting point for a new family trying to figure it all out. And when I am at a meeting and some crazy word enters the discussion, I now ask “What is it that you just said?”

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