Acronyms 101

Most fields of endeavor develop a short-hand method of speaking and writing specific to their industry, called "acronyms". An "acronym" is a word formed using the first letters of each word in a compound term.  The fields of Developmental Disabilities and Special Education are no different. But the use of these terms by professionals and experienced advocates can be both confusing and overwhelming to those just being introduced to one or both of these fields.

Below is a list of a few terms to assist people as they navigate this complex world of new and confusing terms. This list is by no means covers all of the terms to which you may be exposed, but tries to cover some of the more basic terms.

When you are in a meeting in which these acronyms are being used by professionals, do not hesitate to ask them to stop and explain an unfamiliar term. Remember, they had to learn these terms just as you are.

  • DMH-Department of Mental Health

  • DDD-Division of Developmental Disabilities

  • DESE-Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

  • IDEA-Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

  • ADA-Americans with Disabilities Act

  • FAPE-Free and Appropriate Education

  • LRE-Least Restrictive Environment

  • IEP-Individualized Education Plan

  • Voc Ed- Vocational Education

  • ADD/ADHD- Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • BD- Behavior Disorder

  • OCD- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  • LEA- Local Education Agency

  • SEAP- Special Education Advisory Panel

  • ASL- American Sign Language

  • OT- Occupational Therapy

  • PT- Physical Therapy

  • SP- Speech Therapy

  • ABA- Applied Behavioral Analysis

  • PBS- Positive Behavior Supports

  • DOJ- Department of Justice

  • OCR- Office of Civil Rights

  • SSDI- Social Security Disability Income

  • SSI- Supplemental Security Income

  • PON-  Priority of Need

  • PON Score- Number between 1 and 12 assigned (by the Division of Developmental Disabilities) to determine the priority of need with 12 indicating the greatest need for services

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