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Resources for families and caregivers

Find local and state resources and access our glossary of disability-related terms and phrases.

Local and State Resources

Browse local nonprofits for services supporting children and youth with complex healthcare needs throughout San Francisco.
San Francisco Unified School District

Special Education Department

California Department of Education

Special Education Resources

Disability Rights California

Publication Resources


The disability world is full of words and acronyms and it can be hard to keep them straight. We have developed this glossary of words and their meanings to help decode documents, forms, and the written language of disability.

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Advocate: Someone who takes action to help someone else (as in “educational advocate”); also, to take action on someone’s behalf.

Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ): A developmental screening tool that pinpoints developmental progress in children between the ages of one month to 5 ½ years. Available in two formats ASQ-3 (developmental) and ASQ-SE-2 (social emotional)

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation and telecommunications.

Apgar: Each newborn is examined and evaluated at 1 minute and 5 minutes after delivery. The system of evaluation, called the Apgar score, is a method of evaluating the overall well-being of the newborn infant.

Appeal: A written request for a change in a decision; also, to make such a request.

Area Board: Located throughout the state. Area Boards were established to monitor and review the service delivery system for persons with developmental disabilities in each region. There are 13 in California.

Assessment: The observing and testing of children in order to identify their strengths and needs, to develop appropriate educational programs, and to monitor progress.

Assessment plan: The description of the battery of tests (psychological, achievement, language, etc.) to be used in a particular student’s assessment.

At-risk: A term used to describe children who have, or could have, developmental problems that may affect later learning.

Attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD): A behavioral disorder characterized by short attention span, excessive impulsiveness, and inappropriate hyperactivity. Symptoms usually occur to varying degrees depending upon environmental factors.

Audiological services: A related service; includes identifying children with hearing loss and providing services that will help children with hearing losses maximize their strengths and abilities.

Auditory processing: The ability to understand and use information that is heard; both words as well as other non-verbal sounds.

Autism: A disability; characterized by severe language and communication defects, lack of normal relatedness, bizarre movements, self-stimulatory patterns, lack of normal handling of toys and other objects, and lack of most normal functional skills.



Bayley Scales of Infant Development: A widely used infant scale that provides a diagnostic measure of an infant’s mental abilities. The purpose of the Bayley is to verify the nature and extent of a child’s developmental delay.

Behavior disorder: A disability; a behavior that causes a child to have difficulty learning or getting along with others. The causes of this disorder may vary greatly



California Children Services (CCS): California’s Title V program for children with special health care needs. (Title V is the federal funding source.) CCS arranges, directs and pays for medical care, equipment and rehabilitation for CCS-eligible conditions. Eligibility rules apply.

Cerebral Palsy (CP): A neurological movement disorder characterized by the lack of muscle control and impairment in the coordination of movement. The disorder is usually a result of injury to the brain during early development in the uterus or at birth. Cerebral Palsy is not progressive. Symptoms may include; muscle weakness in infancy, drooling, speech impairment, difficulty in maintaining bladder and/or bowel control, and seizures.

Child Health and Disability Prevention Program (CHDP): A preventative health program that provides early no-cost health care and information to children and youth. Eligibility rules apply.

Child Protective Services (CPS): A branch of the Department of Human Services charged with the investigation of charges of abuse against children.

Chronologically, age-appropriate: Making the activities, behaviors, or settings of a disabled child as similar as possible to a non-disabled child of the same age.

Community Advisory Council (CAC): A group of parents of children with disabilities, members of the community, students and special education professionals who advise the school board and school district administration about special education programs.

Community-based instruction (CBI): A model for delivery of instruction in which IEP goals are met in a “natural”, age-appropriate setting. For example, math, sequencing, travel, and social skills may all be developed in the setting of a trip to the grocery store.

Community Behavioral Health Services (CBHS): The agency designated to provide mental health assessment and services to students with special needs

Compliance complaint: The specific issue and/or resolution process involved when a school district is accused of violating educational law.

Counseling: A related service; includes parents and children receiving assistance from social workers, psychologists, and/or guidance counselors.



Department of Developmental Services (DDS): The state agency that governs California’s Early Start program, as well as other statewide programs for children and adults with disabilities. DDS provides services and supports to persons with developmental disabilities through 21 Regional Centers throughout California.

Department of Rehabilitation (DR): A state and federally funded program offering a variety of services for individuals with disabilities and employers looking to hire qualified candidates. Department of Rehabilitation services are tailored to each person to help him or her reach their employment goal. Individuals with disabilities and counselors work together to determine which services will provide the best support to prepare for, find and retain a job.

Designated Instruction and Services (DIS): Sometimes called related services; specialized instruction and/or support services identified through an assessment and written in an IEP as necessary for a child to benefit from special education (e.g. speech/language therapy, vision services, etc.).

Developmental delay: A term used to describe the development of children when they are not able to perform the skills that other children of the same age usually are able to perform.

Developmental history: The progress a child has made acquiring skills or milestones (such as reaching, rolling, crawling).

Developmental skills/milestones: Actions (such as reaching, rolling and crawling) that a child is expected to perform within a given age range.

Developmental tests: Standardized tests that measure a child’s development as it compares to the development of all other children at that age.

Due Process: The procedures used to make sure parents and educators make fair decisions about the identification, assessment and placement of children with disabilities; due process rights are guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)



Early Childhood Specialists: A childhood development counselor, someone who usually has a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in early childhood development, related to early childhood education and/or development.

Early Intervention: Services and programs for infants and young children (under 3 years old) who are experiencing delay in reaching developmental milestones, have disabilities or who are at-risk for developing handicapping conditions.

EPSDT — Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment: Mandatory Medicaid (Medi-Cal) benefits and services for Medicaid (Medi-Cal) eligible children and adolescents under age 21; designed to ensure children’s access to early and comprehensive preventative health care and treatment. State Medicaid programs (Medi-Cal) must provide EPSDT benefits.

Early Start: California’s term for early intervention services provided under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Early intervention program: A program in which problems that have been discovered in a child’s development are remedied before the child’s later development and learning are seriously affected.

Emotionally disturbed (ED): A disability; having a behavior problem which prevents learning and/or getting along with other people. The behavior must have continued for at least six months and be severe. (Formerly SED “seriously emotionally disturbed”.)

Entitlement: The legal right to certain services and benefits.

Evaluation: A way of collecting information about a child’s learning needs, strengths and interests.

Extended school year (ESY): Special education and related services in excess of those provided during the regular academic year.

Fair hearing: A formal meeting held by an outside individual to resolve a disagreement about regional center services or a child’s educational program.



Family Resource Center (FRC): Provides information, education and support to families of children with special health care needs. In San Francisco, Support for Families of Children with Disabilities is the Family Resource Center.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): One of the key requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Requires that an education program be provided for all school age children (regardless of handicapping condition) without cost to families.

Full Inclusion: An opportunity for students with disabilities to attend their neighborhood schools and participate full-time in regular classroom programs with their age-group peers. Inclusive education is not a program, but an evolutionary process in which the needs of the individual students are addressed by general and special education staff who help provide the necessary supports to meet the student’s needs.



Goals: A list of skills and/or behaviors that a parent, teacher and child will be aiming for over the next year. They are based on the child’s needs.

Golden Gate Regional Center (GGRC): One of 21 Regional Centers across the state, which provide services to and service coordination of eligible children and families.



Head Start: A federally funded preschool program that services children from low income families to meet the child’s educational, social, health, nutritional and emotional needs. (Ten percent of the class is reserved for children with special health care needs.)

Healthy Families: California’s State Child Health Insurance Plan to provide health insurance for low-income children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medi-Cal. Eligibility rules apply.

Health and nursing services: A related service; health-related services provided by a school nurse or other trained professional.

Hearing impaired (HI): A disability; a hearing loss that interferes with the ability to understand or use spoken language and that affects learning in school.

High Risk Infant Interagency Council (HRIIC): San Francisco’s local interagency coordinating council responsible for addressing coordination of early intervention services, public awareness and outreach, in-service training. Also acts as a clearinghouse for information.



Identification: The referral to the school district of a child who might be eligible for special education services.

Identification and Assessment (I and A): The process by which students’ special education needs are evaluated.

Inclusion: Being part of a whole. For children with special needs, to be part of activities and experiences with typical peers (including classrooms).

Individualized Education Program (IEP): A plan of services for children receivign special education services through IDEA.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP): A plan of services and support for Early Start eligible children and their families, developed based on service needs. The plan includes services necessary to meet the unique needs of the child and family, beginning and end dates of services, and the way in which the services will be delivered.

Individualized Program Plan (IPP): The plan outlining services a child will receive from the Golden Gate Regional Center.

Individualized Transition Plan (ITP): An educational plan designed to facilitate a student’s moving from one setting to another (e.g., from one classroom or school to another, or from school to work). Transition planning begins at age 14.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The federal law that mandates and regulates special education services for all children with disabilities ages 0-21.

Informed consent: A parent’s written permission to assess his/her child, to provide services to the child, or to place the child in a special education setting.

Institutional deeming: Allows children with disabilities to qualify for Medi-Cal without regard to parent’s income or assets. Eligibility rules apply.

Intake: The process an agency uses to determine if a child is eligible for the services they offer.

Interagency: Between or among agencies.

Interdisciplinary team: A team emphasizing interaction among a variety of disciplines.

Integration: The joining of two groups that were previously separated; in this case non-disabled children and children with disabilities. For example, a child in a special day class has opportunities to interact and learn with non-disabled peers; these interactions can occur in the regular education classroom, or during non-academic activities such as recess, lunch or physical education



Language delay: A delay in the development of a child’s ability to use or understand language.

Lanterman Act: California law that establishes the rights of persons with developmental disabilities to services and supports they need and choose. This law is administered through the Department of Developmental Services and services are provided through the California Regional center system.

Lead agency: The state agency in charge of overseeing and coordinating early intervention services. In California, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) is the lead agency.

Learning disability (LD): A disability; a child’s regular education classroom performance is significantly below expected levels; also a disability category containing the currently used labels of severely learning disabled, and mentally handicapped.

Least restrictive environment (LRE): A term meaning that children with disabilities must be educated (to the maximum extent appropriate) with children without disabilities.

Limited English proficiency (LEP): Refers to students whose primary language is other than English. A student may be eligible for both bilingual and special education.

Low-incidence disability: A state-defined disability that qualifies for certain extra funding; includes visual and/or hearing impairments.



Mainstreaming: A term referring to the time during which a special education student participates in chronologically age-appropriate regular education activities, either academic or non-academic (e.g., math and reading or lunch, recess and art).

Mediation: A meeting of parents and school district personnel aimed at reaching an agreement regarding the child’s educational program. This is also a part of the fair hearing process with the regional center.

Medical Therapy Unit (MTU): Also called Medical Therapy Program (MTP). The unit providing assessment and remediation services by occupational therapists, physical therapists and adaptive physical education teachers to children who have fine and gross motor problems that are interfering with their educational process. Offered through California Children Services.

Medi-Cal: California’s public program that pays for health and long term care services for low-income Californians, as well as others with very high medical expenses. Medi-Cal offers two types of coverage: Fee for Service and Managed Care. Eligibility rules apply. Also known as Medicaid.

Medi-Cal Waivers: These waivers allow some children with special needs, whose parents are over income limits, to qualify for Medi-Cal benefits. Waivers are administered by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) or by the In-Home Operations division of Medi-Cal. Eligibility rules apply.

Multidisciplinary: The involvement of two or more disciplines or professions in the provision of services.

Multi-disabled: A disability; having two or more disabilities

Multidisciplinary Team: Under state law, refers to the involvement of two or more disciplines or professions, and the parent or guardian, in the provision of integrated and coordinated services, including evaluation, assessment and IFSP development.



Natural Environments: Early intervention services provided in the natural environment to the maximum extent appropriate, including home and community settings in which the infant or toddler without disabilities participate.

Non-public school (NFS): A private placement under contract with the district and certified by the state, to service pupils with disabilities whose needs can not be served by the special education programs offered within the SFUSD.



Objectives: The steps to be accomplished to reach the child’s goal(s). Objectives serve as a guide for planning and carrying out learning activities.

Occupational therapy (OT): Therapy; to assist the child with severe balance and coordination problems, perceptual motor deficits, and difficulty in the performance of daily living skills; given when assessment shows that motor and perceptual difficulties interfere with classroom performance.

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP): Special education office of the US Department of Education.

Other health impaired (OHI): A disability; having a chronic health problem which affects learning in school.

Orientation and mobility (O&M): A related service; a child with visual impairments is trained to know where his/her body is in space and to move through space.

Orthopedically handicapped (OH): A disability involving the neuromuscular skeletal system that affects the ability to move, as in paralysis or cerebral palsy.



Part C: The part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that mandates and regulates early intervention services for infants and toddlers ages birth to three.

Parent counseling: A related service; parents receive help and support in understanding the special needs of their child.

Parent Rights: An entitlement granted under law such as the right to appeal or the right to full access.

Parent training: A related service; parents receive specific training in skills required to implement their child’s IEP

Payor of last resort: A term used to describe a situation where funds are not to be used to satisfy a financial commitment for services that would be otherwise paid for from another public or private source. For example, funds for early intervention may only be used for early intervention services that an eligible child needs but is not currently entitled to under any other federal, state, local or private source.

Perceptual motor skills: The ability to perceive a situation, evaluate it, and make a judgment about what action to take (e.g., copying shapes or crossing a street).

Physical therapy (PT): A related service; therapy to remedy mobility and gait and to modify strength, balance, tone and posture; given when assessment shows a discrepancy between gross motor performance and other educational skills.

Placement: The classroom, program and/or therapy that is selected for a student with special needs.

Preschool: Public or private educational programs for children ages 3 to 5.

Program Placement: The educational setting or site for delivery of special education services; placement is included in the IEP and occurs after the IEP is written.

Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI): The agency appointed under federal law to protect the civil, legal and service rights of Californians with disabilities.

Public Agency: An agency, office or organization that is supported by public funds and serves the community at large.

Psychological services: A related service; includes psychological testing and psychological counseling for parents and children.



Referral: A recommendation for assessment to determine if a specialized service is required and at what level.

Related services: Transportation and developmental, corrective and other support services that a child with disabilities requires in order to benefit from education. Examples are speech pathology and audiology, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, counseling services, interpreters for the hearing impaired, and medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes.

Regional Centers: Mandated by the Lanterman Act to provide case management services, coordinate purchase of services, and provide access to services in the community for persons with developmental disabilities. These centers are unique to California.

Resource Specialist Program (RSP): Students who can participate in regular education may also receive special education instruction in the RSP. These students can receive services within the classroom, or can be “pulled out” of the regular education classroom for special assistance during specific periods of the day or week and are taught by credentialed teachers with resource specialist authorization.

Reverse mainstreaming: When non-disabled children go to a special education classroom to play and learn with children who are disabled.



San Francisco Unified School District: Also known as SFUSD.

Section 504: Part of the federal Rehabilitation Act that prohibits discrimination in the education of children and youth with disabilities; vocational education; college and other post-secondary programs; employment; health, welfare and other social programs; and other programs and activities that receive federal funds

Service Coordination: Activities carried out by a service coordinator/case manager to assist and enable a child and his/her family to receive services.

Severe cognitive disability (SCD): A disability; having a moderate delay in the ability to learn and to function independently in the everyday environment; a moderate delay is defined as a rate of development and learning 25-50 of what is expected of a child the same age.

Severe Disorder of Language (SDL): A disability; difficulty understanding language or using language to the extent that it interferes with language. Also a disability category containing the currently used labels of severe disorder of language, hearing handicapped, and language delay.

Severely disabled (SD): A general disability category containing the currently used labels of mentally handicapped, handicapped, emotionally disturbed, autistic, and multi-handicapped.

Special day class: Special education service setting comprised entirely of special education students.

Special Education (SPED): Instruction or education that is required to meet the needs of children with special needs that cannot be supplied through modification in the regular education program.

Special Education Intake Unit (SEIU): The intake center within Special Education Services which processes the referrals and conducts the assessments of children referred for special education services.

Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA): The county office from which some special education services are funded; SFUSD is both a local school district and the county office for San Francisco.

Special needs: Children with disabilities who require special adaptations made to their instruction or environment in order to learn.

Specific learning disabilities (SLD): A disability; a chronic condition that selectively interferes with the development, integration and/or demonstration of verbal and/or non-verbal abilities.

Speech therapy: A related service; helps children learn to speak and use language; speech therapy is given by a speech pathologist or a speech and language therapist.

State Department of Education: Also referred to as SDE in federal law.

Student success team (SST): A regular education process designed to make preliminary modifications within the regular education program of a student not succeeding in class. Each SST is to meet on a weekly basis.



Timeline: Time limit.

Transition: A time in a person’s life when she/he moves from one educational program to another (for example, from an infant program to preschool, or from high school to work.)

Transition Plan: A part of the IFSP which is done when a child is 2.6 years old. It is developed by the families, regional center service coordinator, public school personnel, and other members of the multi-agency team. The Transition Plan includes specific steps to help families and their children through the process.

Travel training: Training to enable a student to be independent on public transportation.

Vision services: A related service; instruction that helps children with visual impairments to maximize their visual abilities.

Visual motor skills: The ability to adjust movement based on what is seen; includes eye-hand coordination (activities such as cutting and handwriting) as well as gross motor skills (like kicking and throwing).

Vision impairment (VI): A disability; a vision loss affecting the ability to learn in school.

Vocational education (Voc Ed): Education beginning at middle school through age 21 in which special education students participate in an adequately and appropriately supportive work model that may include off-site job training.


The disability world is full of acronyms and it can be hard to keep them straight.  We have developed this list of acronyms and their meanings to help decode documents, forms, and the written language of disability.


American Academy of Pediatrics


American Bar Association


Refers to California law related to behavioral assessment and mental health services.


Americans with Disabilities Act


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder


American Medical Association


Assistive Technology


Community Advisory Committee


California Children Services


California Department of Education


Child Health and Disability Prevention Program


Children’s Health Insurance Program


Community Behavioral Health Services


Child Care Inclusion Challenge Project


Children’s Medical Services


Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985


Child Protective Services


Continuous Quality Improvement


Children with Special Health Care Needs


Children’s System of Care


Comprehensive Child Crisis Services


Department of Children, Youth and Family Services (San Francisco)


Developmental Disability


Department of Developmental Services


Department of Human Services


Designated Instruction and Service


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders


Emotionally Disturbed


Early Intervention (usually refers to services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or risk factors.)


Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (Medicaid benefits for children)


Extended School Year


Free, appropriate, public education (refers to special education law)


Federal Poverty Level or Federal Poverty Rate


Family Resource Center


Family Voices


Health Care Financing Administration (federal agency responsible for Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP)


Hard of Hearing




Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996


Help Me Grow


Health Maintenance Organization


Interagency Coordinating Committee


Intensive Care Management


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (federal law governing special education)


Individualized Education Program


Individualized Family Service Plan


In-Home Supportive Services


Learning Disability


Local Education Agency (school district)


Local Planning Area


Licensed Practical Nurse


Least Restrictive Environment (provision of IDEA)


Maternal and Child Health


Managed Care Organization


Managed Care Plan


Masters of Arts degree


Medical Doctor


Marriage and Family Therapist


Master’s degree in Science


Master’s degree in Social Work


Medical Therapy Unit


National Association for the Mentally Ill


No Child Left Behind


National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

NG TUBE             

Neo-gastric Tube


Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


National Institute of Mental Health


Non-Public School


Office of Civil Rights (Federal)


Other Health Impaired


Office of Special Education Programs (Federal)


Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (Federal)


Occupational Therapist


Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (State program that protect the rights of people with mental health needs and developmental disabilities.


Primary Care Provider (or Physician)


Pervasive Developmental Disorder


Public Health Nurse


Purchase of Services


Preferred Provider Organization


Physical Therapist


Parent Training and Information Centers (funded through IDEA)


Resource Specialist Program


Special Day Class


State Education Agency


Severe Emotional Disturbance


Special Education Local Planning Area


Support for Families of Children with Disabilities (San Francisco’s FRC and PTI)


San Francisco Unified School District


Speech and Language Impairment


Social Security Administration


Social Security Disability Insurance


Supplemental Security Income


Supplemental Security Income – Disabled Children’s Program (usually called Children’s SSI)       


Student Study Team


Traumatic Brain Injury


Visually Impaired


Women, Infants and Children (supplemental food program)

Families, Caregivers & Parents

Your feedback matters!

Have you experienced challenges with coordinating care from a doctor, therapist, or social worker? Have you felt as though you do not have equal access to these services as others?  We’d love to hear your experiences and ideas for solutions.

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