The Special Education system in Ontario has a language of its own. If you are the parent of a child who has been recently identified as exceptional by the school board, you can get lost in the language during your first school meetings. There are many acronyms that are used by school administrators and school staff and most often they don’t think about the fact that parents may not understand their “language”. So it’s up to the parents to become knowledgeable about the language of special education. In this article, I am going to explain the meanings of ten of the most important acronyms in special education.IEP – Individual Education Plan.The IEP is a document that lists the strengths and needs, and the programs, services, accommodations and supports that are required by a particular student. It lists the annual goals in each alternative or modified subject area, as well as the learning expectations for each term, which are determined by the student’s strengths and needs. A student does not have to be formally identified as an exceptional student to receive an IEP. But if the student is formally identified by an IPRC, it is a requirement of the Regulation 181/98 of the Education Act that they receive an IEP.IPRC – Identification, Placement and Review Committee.The IPRC is composed of at least three persons, one of whom must be a principal or supervisory officer of the school board. At annual meetings, where the parents are invited to attend, the committee decides whether or not the student should be identified as exceptional and if so, which category of exceptionality. They also decide on an appropriate placement for the student. The parents can either agree to the decisions, or appeal the decisions.OEN – Ontario Education NumberParents will notice the OEN on school documents such as the report card. A unique OEN is assigned to every student across the province by the Ministry of Education. The same number will follow the student through his or her elementary and secondary education and will be indicated on all of his or her school records.OSR – Ontario Student RecordThe OSR is a record of a student’s educational progress through school. The contents are to be used by school staff for the purpose of “improvement of instruction” of the student, according to the Education Act. Parents are to be told about the purpose of the OSR and its contents. They must be allowed to have access to all of the information contained in the OSR.EQAO – Education Quality and Accountability OfficeEQAO is an arm’s-length agency that provides information about student achievement in Ontario, based on periodic assessments. This is basically to see how the teachers, the school boards, and the educational system in general are performing. When students are in grade 3 and again in grade 6 they are required to take reading, writing, and math tests administered by the EQAO. They are also required to take a math test in grade 9. However, the principal is authorized to exempt students from taking any or all of the tests if they are unable to participate for reasons such as a developmental disability.SERT- Special Education Resource TeacherThere is usually one in every school. As the name implies this teacher is a resource for regular classroom teachers. He or she consults with classroom teachers regarding students who have IEPs and are placed in the regular class. In fact the SERT is usually the lead person in charge of developing the IEP for these students. Sometimes small groups of students are withdrawn from the regular class to a resource room for more intensive instruction in math and language. This class is run by the SERT.EA – Educational AssistantEAs are assigned to classrooms, either regular class or small placement, to support students as part of a multidisciplinary team. They also help teachers with non-instructional tasks. In some school boards, EAs may have the same duties as described below for SNAs.SNA – Special Needs AssistantThe SNA supports students with special educational needs, usually in a special education classroom, under the supervision of a special education teacher. In addition to helping with their learning needs, duties may include assisting with the students’ safety and physical needs, including hygiene and feeding, as well as assisting with therapy sessions.ABA – Applied Behaviour AnalysisABA methods are best known for treating people with autism and other developmental disabilities.ABA methods are based on scientific principles of learning and behaviour to build useful repertoires of behaviour and reduce problematic ones. The undesired behaviour(s) are clearly defined and recorded, and the antecedents and reinforcers of the undesired behaviour(s) are analysed. Individualized programs are developed based on this information. The teacher must collect and analyze the data on an ongoing basis in order to measure the student’s progress in each of the program areas. The program must be altered as necessary to maintain or increase a student’s success.TEACCH – Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped Children.Intervention strategies include clear and explicit expectations, physical and visual structure, schedules, work systems and task organization. The goal is to allow children with autism to develop skills so that they can be independent of direct adult prompting.These ten acronyms are just the tip of the iceberg. Take some time to learn some of the “language” of Special Education and you will be a better advocate for your son or daughter with special needs.