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Teaching to Diversity glossary of terms

This glossary has been produced by representatives of the three Provincial Specialist Associations (TIE-BC, LATA and ESL). A special thanks to Gerry Petretta of LATA for her contribution to developing this glossary. When teaching students with a diversity of needs, it is helpful for overall understanding to have a common language. In the development of this glossary, we have attempted to include as many terms as possible. If there are terms which you feel could be included in this glossary to assist in more effective sharing, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please contact us at diversity@bctf.ca  

See also the following glossaries from the Ministry of Education’s site:

A B C D E F G H IK L M N O P Q R S T U V W X  Y  Z 


1701 Form 

This form is required from each school district by the Ministry of Education. On it all students receiving “special” services must be listed to receive additional funding. There are several sub-categories for this funding including various categories of special education designation, aboriginal learners, and those for whom English is an additional language or dialect. (See also ESL/D) The form must be submitted by September 30 for inclusion in that budget year.

NB: Learners may be designated in more than one category and receive funding for all of them – e.g. ESL/D, Aboriginal, Special Education designations, etc.

1701 form and instructions PDF file; Acrobat Reader required. 

Academic Communicative Competence 

The ability to use the academic language of school and subject matter to express concepts and ideas at a level appropriate for the age/grade of the learner.

Active Vocabulary 

For additional language learners (see below) this consists of the vocabulary the learner can understand and use independently. (see for comparison “passive/receptive vocabulary”)

Adapted Program 

Retains the learning outcomes of the prescribed curriculum, but adaptations are provided so the student can participate in the program. These adaptations can include alternate formats (e.g., Braille, books-on-tape), instructional strategies (e.g., use of interpreters, visual cues, and aids), and assessment procedures (e.g., oral exams, additional time). Students on adapted programs are assessed using the standards for the course/program and can receive full credit for their work. School personnel should document the adaptations provided for the student. (from Orchestrating Academic Success by Dawn Reithaug).

Additional Language Learners 

Since many learners for whom English is not the home language, in fact speak more than one language already, this term is used alternatively with ESL – English as a Second Language.


The ministry recognizes there are circumstances under which a student may be unable to demonstrate his or her learning on provincial exams using standard procedures and formats. Adjudication is the process that determines if a student qualifies for adapted exam conditions. Adjudication falls into two categories: predictable, and unpredictable circumstances.

Anecdotal Records 

Jotted comments about student behaviors that teachers observe on an ongoing basis. These records contain information about what teachers see and hear as they interact with students to assess their oral and written work.

Angelman Syndrome  A neurological disorder in which severe learning difficulties are associated with a characteristic facial appearance and unusual motor behaviour.
Annual Instructional Plan 

The AIP, also known as an AEP – Annual Education Plan, is the core document that, together with the Ministry of Education ESL Standards Matrices (or some local variation of these) tracks the progress of additional language learners.

Anxiety Disorders 

Having feelings of anxiety that are so severe they interfere with daily living. Children may worry all the time even when there is no cause for worry. They may even worry about how much they worry. Anxiety disorders begin at any time but most often appear at early school age. Anxiety disorders can also be mistaken for language or learning disabilities.  

Click here for case studies and further information Mental Health: Classroom strategies and case studies  

Anxiety disorders include the following:  

  • Acute stress disorder is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, but it is restricted to the month following the trauma. 
  • Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety about daily life events (e.g., car repairs, community events). 
  • Agoraphobia without history of panic disorder is associated with avoidance of places or situations due to a fear of what may happen if escape is not possible (e.g., diarrhea).  
  • Panic disorder with and without agoraphobia (recurrent, unexpected panic attacks accompanied by fear of future attacks and may involve avoiding places or situations associated with the attacks).  
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder is associated with frequent, unwanted intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses and/or repetitive, excessive behaviors that serve to decrease the anxiety associated with the obsessions.  
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by the reliving of a traumatic event and is associated with increased anxiety following reminders of the event.  
  • Separation anxiety disorder is characterized by an excessive and continuing state of anxiety and fear when separated from parents or other caregivers. 
  • Social phobia is excessive concern or avoidance of social situations due to fears of embarrassment or negative evaluation. 
  • Specific phobia is an excessive and unreasonable fear of an object (e.g., dog, needles) or a situation (e.g., heights, seeing blood) and is often associated with avoidance.  
Asperger's Syndrome (AS)  Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It's important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences. Those with AS have a normal IQ and many individuals (although not all), exhibit exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. Because of their high degree of functionality and their naiveté, those with AS are often viewed as eccentric or odd and can easily become victims of teasing and bullying. While language development seems, on the surface, normal, individuals with AS often have deficits in pragmatics and prosody. Vocabularies may be extraordinarily rich and some children sound like "little professors." However, persons with AS can be extremely literal and have difficulty using language in a social context.

The gathering, organizing and recording of evidence and information related to student performance.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) 

A neurological disorder requiring a clinical diagnosis based on criteria outlined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM IV). Students with AD/HD demonstrate significant impairment related to inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity compared to average children of the same age.

Teaching Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Resource Guide for Teachers

Audiologist  Measures hearing ability and provides services for auditory training; offers advice on hearing aids.
Authentic Assessment 

Performance-based assessment, which is focussed on “real-world” contexts and allows students to demonstrate their understanding of content in a variety of ways.


The syndrome of autism is a condition characterized by a marked disorder of communication and a severe disturbance of intellectual, emotional and behavioural development. It is a syndrome defined and diagnosed through the observation of behaviours. The syndrome is caused by an underlying physical dysfunction within the brain or central nervous system, the exact nature of which is as yet unknown.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 

Refers to a broad definition of autism including the classical form of the disorder as well as closely related disabilities that share many of the core characteristics. ASD includes the following diagnoses and classifications:  

  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), which refers to a collection of features that resemble autism but may not be as severe or extensive;  
  • Rett's syndrome, which affects girls and is a genetic disorder with hard neurological signs, including seizures, that become more apparent with age;  
  • Asperger syndrome, which refers to individuals with autistic characteristics but relatively intact language abilities; 
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, which refers to children whose development appears normal for the first few years, but then regresses with the loss of speech and other skills until the characteristics of autism are conspicuous. Although the classical form of autism can be readily distinguished from other forms of ASD, the terms autism and ASD are often used interchangeably. 
Basic Interpersonal Communicative Competence (BICS) 

Refers to the language necessary to participate in day-to-day conversations where context provides many clues as to meaning. (see CALP for comparison)


An interpretation of a performance standard according to age, grade, or developmental levels.


The ability to function equally well in two different cultural environments - a goal of equitable education for ESL/D learners in British Columbia.


The ability to use two languages with equal proficiency, both socially and academically.

Bipolar Affective Disorder  Chronic medical condition that results in shifts in mood, energy and functionality. More severe than normal ups and downs, episodes occur spontaneously. Moods fluctuate between periods of depression and excessive or hypomania. Bipolar typically presents in late adolescence or early adulthood; however, symptoms can present in childhood.  There is a 15% suicide rate attached to this disorder. 

The ability to fuse discrete sounds or phonemes into recognizable words.

Brain-based Learning 

This learning theory is based on the structure and function of the brain. As long as the brain is not prohibited from fulfilling its normal processes, learning will occur.

Case Manager  Usually, the person appointed by the School Based Team to supervise the development of an IEP for a specific student with special needs. Responsibilities include organizing and chairing meetings, acting as the school liaison for matters concerning that student, and seeing that IEP goals are met.
Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAP Disorder)  Refers to a difficulty distinguishing between similar-sounding words, usually in a noisy environment.  
Cerebral Palsy (CP)  A term used to describe a group of disorders affecting body movement and muscle co-ordination. The medical definition of CP is "a non-progressive but not unchanging disorder of movement and/or posture, due to an insult to or anomaly of the developing brain."
Cerebral = "of the brain"
Palsy = "lack of muscle control"

Methods of recording observations about learning. Lists of items are checked off as they are observed, and are completed for individual students or in groups of students.

Chromosomal Disorders  Genetic disorders caused by an abnormal chromosome number or changes that affect entire chromosomes or chromosome segments. These disorders can cause problems with growth, development and function of the body’s systems.
Common examples include:
- Prader Willy
- Down’s Syndrome
- Fragile X
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Angelman’s
Cloze Passage 

Method of assessing how well students use context clues to construct meaning in text. Specified words are ‘blanked out of a passage and students are instructed to fill in the missing words. The missing words may be randomly selected (every nth word) or may focus on a particular linguistic element (verbs, adjectives, nouns, etc.)

Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) 

Consists of the language of basic communication (BICS) PLUS the ability to work with academic concepts and skills. This refers to the language of academic learning such as the language of discussion, textbooks and academic writing. Research tells us that even sophisticated, well-educated ESL learners may need several years to approach proficiency in CALP.

Collaborative Consultation  A process in which people work together to solve a common problem or address a common concern. A successful collaborative process is characterized by the following features: it is voluntary; there is mutual trust and open communication among the people involved; identification/clarification of the problem to be addressed is a shared task; the goal is shared by all participants; each participant’s contribution is valued equally; all participants’ skills are employed in identifying and selecting problem-solving strategies; and there is shared responsibility for implementation and evaluation of the program or strategy initiated.
Communicative Competence 

The ability to communicate effectively in a variety of social and academic situations. (see “social communicative competence” and “academic communicative competence”)

Co-morbidity  Presentation with more than one mental health condition. For example, eating disorders are often associated with depression and/or OCD. See also concurrent disorders. 
Comprehensible Input 

Language is made comprehensible by virtue of the use of visual aids, familiar context and carefully adjusted input. Ideally learners receive comprehensible input at their zone of proximal development. (see below)

Compulsions  A compulsion is a thought or behaviour that a person uses over and over again to prevent or reduce anxiety, discomfort or distress. The goal of a compulsion is not to provide pleasure or gratification. (For this reason, behaviours such as gambling, overeating or sexual acts are not considered compulsions even though they may feel "compulsive" to the person engaging in them).

Many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder are aware that their compulsions are unrealistic or excessive. However they feel driven to use their compulsions to manage their anxiety/discomfort or to prevent something bad from happening (e.g., checking the stove to make sure an element doesn't burn the house down). Sometimes the compulsions are performed in a set way with rules, even if the rules don't make much sense to the person (e.g., washing hands exactly 10 times counting down from 10 to 1). Compulsions are always excessive. Children with obsessive-compulsive disorder are most likely to have the checking, washing or ordering type compulsions. Sometimes compulsions can occur without obsessions and this may be more likely in children (e.g., compulsions to touch or tap certain surfaces or objects). People are more likely to engage in compulsions at home or when alone than when they are with friends, teachers, people they work with or even strangers. Often a person feels compelled to repeat a compulsion if they are interrupted or until it "feels right".
Concurrent Disorders 

Mental disorders paired with addiction and or substance abuse or dependence. For example, depression may be paired with alcohol abuse or addiction. Some signs may include symptoms which overlap making diagnosis difficult. Substance abuse or dependence can lead to the magnification of mental health disorders.  

See also co-morbidity.

Content-based language learning 

An approach to language instruction that integrates language and content learning so that students are acquiring both, curriculum based knowledge and skills and the language of instruction, simultaneously. This is considered the optimal form of instruction for ESL/D learners.


Guidelines, rules or principles by which student responses, products, or performances are judged.

Criterion-Referenced Assessment 

Types of measurement used to evaluate a student’s learning in relation to the student’s success in meeting stated objectives, outcomes, expectations or benchmarks.

Culturally biased 

Material that has cultural knowledge that cannot be assumed to be common to all students.

Culture Shock 

The complexity of feelings experienced when the learner is suddenly thrust into an environment where the taken for granted signs and signals of interaction are no longer valid or effective.

Cumulative Record 

A document that gives evidence of growth over time.

Curriculum Based Assessment 

Method of measuring the level of achievement of students in terms of what they are taught in the classroom.

Cystic Fybrosis  A congenital, chronic disease of the mucous glands which affects the pancreas and causes digestive and pulmonary disorders.
Depression  A whole body illness involving the whole body and the whole person: mood, thought and behaviors. Normally it begins during adolescence; however, it can show up in children as well. Untreated, depression is the leading cause of teen suicide.

Symptoms include sadness, anxious or empty mood, irritability, agitation, aggression, fatigue, hopelessness, a negative outlook, sleep disturbance and eating disturbances.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)  The determination that a child is showing evidence of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is made when a child lacks the motor coordination necessary to perform tasks that are considered to be appropriate for his/her age, given normal intellectual ability and the absence of other neurological disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). A child may demonstrate significant difficulty with self-care tasks (e.g., dressing, using utensils); with academic tasks (e.g., handwriting, organizing seatwork, gym class); with leisure activities (e.g., sports, playground activities, social interaction) or with a combination of the above.
Developmental Disability  Individuals with below average intellectual functioning which originates during the developmental period (0-18 years) and is associated with impairments in adaptive behaviour (the ability to adjust to various circumstances). They may have normal body structure. They usually have a limited attention span, perceptual problems (auditory, visual or tactile), fine and/or gross motor skills deficits, and may have behaviour problems.
Diabetes  A metabolic disorder affecting the way the body uses digested food for growth and energy. Diabetes will often be the cause of a disability. A diabetic person will usually have medication on him at all times, which he will usually administer himself. If a diabetic goes into a coma get him to a hospital as soon as possible.
Diagnostic Assessment 

Is used to determine the current status of a particular student or group of students in relation to a part of the curriculum, or the capacity to function in the English language, in order to decide how to approach a new concept or skill.


A variety of a language with marked differences that lean to the informal and colloquial, particularly when compared to the formal language of textbooks (see Standard English). Learners who speak English as a second Dialect (ESD) are also eligible for additional support for language development.

Differentiated Instruction  A purposeful practice of adapting teaching and learning to accomodate students' differing learning styles and needs.
Direct Service 

Assistance provided to students with additional learning needs in which the support person works directly with the student to develop targeted skills or concepts.

Dogwood Certificate  The diploma issued to students who fulfill graduation requirements in either the regular Secondary School Graduation Program or the Adult Education Program.
Down Syndrome  A chromosomal abnormality. People with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes rather than 46. This causes abnormal fetal growth which results in fewer body and brain cells than people without Down syndrome. This, in turn, affects mental and physical development.

People with Down syndrome exhibit a number of physical characteristics that can have an impact on their ability to perform some activities. People with Down syndrome generally have reduced physical growth and poor respiration. They often have congenital heart conditions due to an undeveloped circulatory system. They have a high degree of muscle hypotonia (muscle floppiness) resulting in impaired coordination, balance and posture. People with Down syndrome generally have inadequate ligament structure around their joints, and poor perceptual-motor abilities (balance).

Eating Disorders  Mental illnesses which can begin in childhood but often present in adolescence, almost excusive to developing countries with an abundance of food. Characteristics include excessive focus on weight and body image. Anorexia and bulimia nervosa are serious, life threatening disorders. To become thin, a student with anorexia will restrict food intake while a student with bulimia will binge on food and then purge or throw up food. Signs and symptoms include; signs of starvation, hair loss, yellowish appearance of the palms, and pre-occupation with body image.
Educational Consultant  Gives education evaluations, familiar with school curriculum but may have a background in special education issues.
Educational Therapist  Develops and runs programs for learning and behavior problems.
English as a Second Language or Dialect (ESL/D) 

Students who speak English as a second or additional language (or dialect) who need instruction in a situation where English is the language of instruction. This may include learners born in Canada. Also the common name for the program of support for these learners. 

Epilepsy  A neurological disorder now called seizure disorder. Seizures may range from being very mild (virtually unnoticeable) to severe (resulting in loss of consciousness and violent spasms). Most seizures can be controlled by medication.
ESL PSA  www.bctf.ca/ESLPSA 

The interpreting of the data that has been collected about student performance.

Explicit Teaching 

Planning an activity or experience so that the students become consciously aware of a concept or skill, usually done through questioning, reciprocal teaching, modeling or direct instruction accompanied by student exercises and drills.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) 

A term that describes the full range of disorders and effects that can occur in a person whose mother drank during pregnancy.

The disorders encompassed in FASD include FAS, Partial FAS, Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD).

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE) are terms describing a medical condition diagnosed by a physician for individuals who have had a significant prenatal exposure to alcohol.

For teaching strategies, see www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/fas/ 

For more information see the Public Health Agency of Canada website

Formative Assessment 

Ongoing collection of data used to determine if expectations are achieved. (anecdotal records, checklists, learning logs, portfolios, student-self evaluation., etc.)

Form  See 1701 form.
Fragile X  An inherited abnormality of the x chromosome which causes deficits ranging from moderate to severe mental retardation to milder learning disabilities similar to those experienced by children with attention deficit disorders. Features commonly associated are: severe language delays, behaviour problems, autism or autistic-like behaviours, poor eye contact, hand flapping and other self stimulatory behaviours, hyperactivity, delayed motor development and poor sensory skills.
Frustration Level 

The level at which the student reads with less than approximately 90% accuracy in decoding or less than 60% accuracy in comprehension (see also independent and instructional levels)

Function words 

The linguistic “markers” students need to connect newly learned content words into meaningful sentences – prepositions, articles, conjunctions, etc.


A student is considered gifted when s/he possesses demonstrated or potential abilities that give evidence of exceptionally high capability with respect to intellect, creativity, or the skills associated with specific disciplines. Students who are gifted often demonstrate outstanding abilities in more than one area. They may demonstrate extraordinary intensity of focus in their particular areas of talent or interest. However, they may also have accompanying disabilities and should not be expected to have strengths in all areas of intellectual functioning. In addition, learners who are ESL may also be gifted learners.

Gifted Education: A Resource Guide for Teachers

Graduation Concerns 

Adjudication: (chapter 8)

Graduation Program 

Dogwood Diploma: (chapter 5) for students currently in Gr. 10, 11, 12 enrolled in the Graduation Program and on a path leading to a Dogwood Diploma.

Adult Dogwood Diploma: (chapter3) the student must be at least 19 years of age and must take at least three of their courses leading towards graduation as an adult.

Grapheme  Printed letters or groups of letters that represent the sounds (phonemes) that make up words in a spoken language.
Graphic Organizer 

A visual representation of key concepts or information such as a chart or diagram. Such a visual may be used to support the comprehension of new content being learned or to help students organize and present or record data. (Alternatively called key visuals or visual tools.)

Guided Reading 

A small group, explicit reading instructional strategy during which homogeneous groups of children work with the teacher to build and practice successful reading strategies. All group members are working with text that has been carefully selected to match their developmental reading level. The focus is to facilitate the children’s successful use of reading strategies, confirming for the child “I can do this by myself.”

Hearing Impairment  a) Deaf - A deaf person is one who cannot hear sounds below 55 decibels in his best ear.
b) Hard of Hearing – a person with any level of hearing loss, from mild to profound, whose primary method of communication is the spoken language. They have a hearing loss to the extent that makes difficult, but does not preclude, the understanding of speech through the ear alone, with or without a hearing aid. The hard of hearing tend to seek to remain in the mainstream of society.
Holistic Rating Scale 

A scoring procedure yielding a single score to assess overall competence based on the fit of a response to a set of pre-established criteria or characteristics of performance at each score point level.

Homebound Education 

The purpose of homebound education services is to enable students to continue their education program while absent from school for periods during the school year because of illness or related medical/psychiatric reasons.

pg. 34 - 37


The education of all students within their neighbourhood school. Schools and classrooms are seen as communities of learners in which people with diverse backgrounds and abilities work and learn together.

Indirect Service 

Support provided for teachers or students with special learning or language needs which does not involve working directly with the student on skill or concept development, but rather with other factors that impact the student or learning environment, such as curriculum planning, liaison meetings, or adapting materials. Also known as consultative service.

Individual Education Plan (IEP)  

A written plan, developed for a student, which describes the program modifications and/or adaptations for the student and the services that are to be provided. It serves as a tool for collaborative planning among the school, the parents, the student (where appropriate) and, as necessary, school district personnel, other ministries and/or community agencies. www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/ppandg.htm 

IEP Ministerial Order  PDF file; Acrobat Reader required. 

 Individual Education Planning for Students with Special Needs 

 Parents' Guide to Individual Education Planning  

Informal Assessment 

Any screening tool that allows the teacher to observe or interact with learners in a “real-life” context. This is usually done via checklists or some form of note-taking.

Instructional Reading Level 

The level at which the student can decode a text with 90% -94% word recognition or comprehend with at least 75% accuracy.

Integration  A major strategy used to achieve an inclusive philosophy. Integration sees students with special needs included in educational settings with their peers who do not have special needs, and provided with the necessary accommodations and adaptations.
Integrated Case Management Plan (ICMP)  Integrated support plans developed for students with special needs through the collaborative efforts of school support personnel, government ministries, health-care personnel and/or community agencies.
Intellectual Disabilities 

A student is considered to have an intellectual disability if intellectual functioning is more than two standard deviations below the norm on an individually administered Level C assessment instrument of intellectual functioning, and there is delayed adaptive behaviour and functioning of similar degree. Students can experience intellectual disabilities across a range: mild to moderate to severe to profound

Students with Intellectual Disabilities: A Resource for Teachers 

Key Visual 

A graphic organizer, such as a chart or form that organizes and represents ‘key’ or important information in a visual format. (also known as graphic organizers or visual tools)

Knowledge Framework Approach 

An approach to integrating the instruction of language and content focused on clusters of thinking skills: description, classification, sequence, principles, choice, and evaluation. The approach links language, thinking and content via learning activities.

Language acquisition 

The psycholinguistic process which enables every human being to gain fluent control of an exceedingly complex system of communication – their first/home language. In short, the learning of a language through exposure as opposed to explicit instruction.

Language development 

The explicit exposure to and teaching of language to build skill and vocabulary levels.

Language style 

Also termed “register”, the variety of ways of using language depending on the role of the speaker, audience, appropriate format and topic. E.g. a conversation with peers uses a different language style from an expository essay – even if the topic is the same.

Learning Assistance  A school based, non-categorical service designed to support teachers and their students. Clientele may embody the full range of diversity, ranging from mild to moderate learning and adjustment needs. In smaller districts, this could embrace students with both low and high incidence disabilities, depending on the number of students and the number of specialists the district is able to hire. (Manual of Policies and Procedures and Guidelines Special Education Services of B.C.)
Learning Disability (LD) 

Refers to a number of disorders that may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning. As such, learning disabilities are distinct from global intellectual disabilities.

Teaching Students with Learning and Behavioral Differences: A Resource Guide for Teachers

A Guide to Learning Disabilities for the ESL Classroom Practitioner 

NB: Because of the length of time it takes to acquire an additional language, these learners may exhibit some characteristics similar to those with learning disabilities. Much care must be taken to differentiate between normal stages of language acquisition and learning disabilities. This is particularly relevant in terms of reading and writing skills, which tend to lag far behind oral language skills.

Learning Disabilities Specialist  A teacher with specific training and credentials to provide educational services to students with learning disabilities and their teachers.

The ability to function socially, academically and culturally in a language. (In reading instruction the term may be used strictly to refer to the ability to read and write.)


Recognizing and regulating one’s own thought processes (thinking about thinking). During the reading process, the reader knows, applies, monitors and regulates the reading strategies.


A term proposed by Ken Goodman to describe the deviations from the text or comprehension during oral reading. It is felt that these are not random errors but misconceptualized attempts by the reader to make sense of the text. Therefore, miscues can give significant insight into the reader’s processing and comprehension of text.

Miscue Analysis 

Method of gathering information about how students process text. Rather than simply counting the errors made, the errors or miscues are analyzed in terms of how they affect the student’s ability to construct meaning.


Changes made to a student’s program or instruction which reflect a completely personalized education plan or significantly alter the learning outcomes of the prescribed course or subject.

Modified Program  A modified program has learning outcomes which are substantially different from the prescribed curriculum, and specifically selected to meet the student’s special needs.

The smallest unit of meaning in a language. Free morphemes are meaningful on their own (e.g. book), while bound morphemes require at least one free morpheme to make meaning. E.g. book + s = books


The smallest meaningful units of sound. For example, ‘er’ in “teacher” indicates “one who teaches.” Also known as morphemes.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)  A progressive disease of the nervous system which affects the transmission of nervous impulses from brain to spinal cord. It may be mild and then worse, and then become mild again. Symptoms include: limb weakness, loss of balance, easy fatigue, incoordination of limbs.
Muscular Dystrophy  This disability is a wasting away and weakening of the muscles that control body movements. Muscular dystrophy is almost always progressive, although some forms cause more rapid muscle deterioration than others. The most common type is Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It only affects boys and the first symptoms occur between the ages of two and six. The child begins to walk on his toes and develops a waddling gait. He also has difficulty running and getting up from increasingly frequent falls. He may appear to have a protruding abdomen or, as the disease progresses, an apparent enlargement of the calf muscles. This usually progresses rapidly and within a few years the child becomes unable to lift his arms over his head or to walk without difficulty.
Neurologist  Looks for possible damage to brain functions (medical doctor).
Nonverbal Communication 

All that communicates beyond the literal meaning of the words spoken. This includes gestures, intonation, stance, proximity, touch, eye contact, etc. How individuals communicate nonverbally is based on a combination of social and cultural values, which vary from one person to the next and from one context to the next. Great care must be taken to interpret these manifestations appropriately.

Nonverbal learning disorders (NLD)  A neurological syndrome consisting of specific assets and deficits. The assets include early speech and vocabulary development, remarkable rote memory skills, attention to detail, early reading skills development and excellent spelling skills. In addition, these individuals have the verbal ability to express themselves eloquently. Moreover, persons with NLD have strong auditory retention. Four major categories of deficits and dysfunction also present themselves:

• motoric (lack of coordination, severe balance problems, and difficulties with graphomotor skills) and visual-spatial-organizational (lack of image, poor visual recall, faulty spatial perceptions, difficulties with executive functioning* and problems with spatial relations).

• social (lack of ability to comprehend nonverbal communication, difficulties adjusting to transitions and novel situations, and deficits in social judgment and social interaction).

• sensory (sensitivity in any of the sensory modes: visual, auditory, tactile, taste or olfactory)

*definition of executive functioning: neuropsychological functions including, but perhaps not limited to, decision making, planning, initiative, assigning priority, sequencing, motor control, emotional regulation, inhibition, problem solving, planning, impulse control, establishing goals, monitoring results of action, self-correcting. From www.behavenet.com/ 
Norm Referenced Assessment 

Type of measurement used to evaluate a student’s learning in relation to a normed group such as other students within the class, or across classes, schools, or a segment of a population.


A term used when referring to the world of numbers and their application to everyday life to suggest fluency in mathematical operations and application of mathematical concepts.

Observational Data 

Data gathered through teacher monitoring of a student to determine the level of performance.

Obsessions  Unwanted ideas, thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again and create discomfort or distress such as anxiety, guilt or shame. Some people are "obsessed" with something that they enjoy (e.g., a sporting event, food, collectibles, a particular person, etc.) but these types of thoughts are typically associated with positive emotions and ARE NOT obsessions. In other words they occur on a daily basis and create lots of anxiety, distress, or discomfort. Obsessions are more than excessive worries about real life problems.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 

An anxiety disorder which can begin in childhood, characterized by irrational fears, intrusive thoughts and rituals which are repeated with significant frequency. These rituals are time consuming to perform. Other symptoms include perfectionism, particularly around school work, constant questioning and asking for reassurance, and doing something exceedingly slowly in order to feel it has been done properly.

Classified in the DSM-IV as an anxiety disorder that is characterized by distressing intrusive thoughts and/or repetitive actions that interfere with the individual's daily functioning. www.ocfoundation.org/whatisocd.aspx 

Occupational Therapist  Helps improve motor and sensory functions to increase the ability to perform daily tasks.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder   Oppositional and defiant behaviors are a normal part of development in two and three year olds. These behaviours also present in early adolescents. When openly hostile and uncooperative behavior is so frequent, consistent and severe it stands out in a classroom compared with other same age children, it affects a child’s schooling, ability to make friends, and their entire family. Signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder include frequent temper tantrums; arguing with adults; questioning rules; refusing to comply with requests and rules; being touchy, easily annoyed or angry; and revenge seeking. About 16% of school age children and youth present with ODD. It is often most noticeable at school and at home.

The ODD child/youth should have a complete evaluation. Often ODD presents with other mood disorders like depression and anxiety disorders, which will also need treatment. In some cases medications may be helpful.

Passive vocabulary 

(also receptive vocabulary) What a learner can recognize or understand in both oral and print contexts. (see active vocabulary to compare)

Pediatrician  Provides medical services to infants, children, and adolescents; trained in overall growth and development including motor, sensory, and behavioral development (medical doctor).
Performance Indicators 

Provide a specific description of an outcome in terms of observable and assessable behaviors.

Performance Standards 

An established level of achievement, quality of performance, or degree of proficiency.

The B.C. Performance Standards are available for the following foundation skills: Reading, writing, Numeracy and Social Responsibility.


Small discrete spoken sounds of a language that help to distinguish one word from another. These units of sound affect meaning but do not have meaning in and of themselves.

Phonemic Awareness 

The awareness that sounds make up spoken words and the ability to discriminate the individual sounds.


The predictable relationship between the sounds (phonemes) of spoken language and the letters and spellings (graphemes) that represent those sounds in written language.

Phonics Instruction 

A way of teaching reading focusing on teaching children to understand the relationships between the sounds of the spoken words they hear and the letters of written words they see in print.

Phonological Awareness 

The oral language ability to segment and analyze spoken words in several different ways (e.g., syllables, onsets and rhymes).

Physiotherapy/Occupational Therapy (PT/OT) 

Physiotherapy is a professional health discipline primarily directed toward the prevention and alleviation of movement dysfunction to promote maximal independence for the student in his/her home, school and community.

Occupational therapy is a professional health discipline that utilizes the analysis and application of activities specifically related to performance in the areas of self-care, productivity, and leisure. In a school setting, occupational therapists work to promote, maintain, and develop the skills needed by students to be functional in a school setting.

Pg. 33 http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/special_ed_policy_manual.pdf#page=31

Portfolio Assessment 

A method of gathering student work samples for the purpose of evaluating student knowledge and learning.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder   May occur when a child is exposed to a traumatic event such as death, threatened death, serious injury or is involved with someone close in their life that has been exposed to these factors. This exposure creates an extreme sense of horror, helplessness and fear.  Disorganized and agitated behavior is evident.  
Prader Willi Syndrome  A rare genetic disorder, major presenting symptoms are obesity and overeating.
Productive language 

The language a learner is able to produce independently. (see receptive language to compare)

Provincial School Completion Certificate  The diploma issued to students on a modified or modified/adapted program who, at the time of graduation, have met the learning outcomes as reflected in their IEPs.
Psychiatrist  Diagnoses and treats severe behavioral and emotional problems and may prescribe medications (medical doctor).
Psychologist  Administers and interprets psychological intellectual and educational tests; assists with behaviour management and/or program planning, provides counseling; consults with parents, staff, and community agencies about educational issues.
Psychologist (Clinical)  Provides psychological and intellectual assessment and treatment for mental and emotional health.
Psychometric Assessment  Specialized assessment of intelligence, personality, and information processing completed by, or under the direction of, a psychologist.

A support person assigned to read material to a student with special needs to enable him/her to work with or demonstrate understanding of content material.

Reading Inventory 

A checklist or questionnaire for gathering information about a student’s reading ability, interests, behaviors, etc.

Reading Recovery 

A registered trademark for an early intervention reading program developed by Marie Clay that uses highly trained teachers to provide intensive, daily instruction to students at risk in reading.

Receptive Language 

The language a learner can understand but not yet produce effectively. (see productive language to compare)


Learners who have come to Canada to escape war or other forms of persecution. These learners (and their families) may require a number of additional social and learning supports due to their traumatic history.

The Ministry of Education Special Programs has produced a document, “Students Who are Refugees: A Resource Package for Teachers – Focus on the Kosovar Refugees, which is available from Office Products Centre (1-800-282-7955).

Rett Syndrome  A rare degenerative brain disorder which only affects females. Recognizable symptoms are: rapid deterioration of speech and hand use from1 1/2 to 3 years, delayed or no walking, shakiness in arms, legs and body, poor balance, teeth grinding and facial grimacing. These symptoms progress to severe dementia with autistic like behaviours. During adolescence spasticity, loss of mobility and poor circulation develop.

A set of general criteria used to evaluate a student’s performance in a given outcome area. They consist of a fixed measurement scale (e.g., 4-point) and a list of criteria that describe the characteristics of products or performances for each score point.

Running Record 

Is a tool for coding, scoring and analyzing a student’s miscues while reading aloud. The analysis can inform instruction, evaluation, reporting and grouping.


Support for learning through instruction, modeling, questioning or feedback that is adjusted to the learner’s needs, by providing ‘just enough’ support to encourage independent strategy use. This concept is based on Vygotzsky’s (1978) theory of the ‘zone of proximal development’.

School-Based Team  

A ‘within-school’ problem solving team comprised of the support professionals working together to devise and coordinate support for classroom teachers and students with special needs.

School Completion Certificate  

Awarded to students who complete the goals and objectives stated in their Student Learning Plan (SLP) or Individual Education Plan (IEP), as agreed upon by the student, parent and school administration.

Students do not need to graduate in order to qualify for a School Completion Certificate. They may be on an adjusted or modified Grade 12 Program.

School/Educational Psychologist  Gives and interprets psychological and educational tests; assists with behaviour management, provides counseling; consults with parents, staff, and community agencies about educational issues.

A support person assigned to a student with special needs to ‘take dictation’. The scribe transcribes or makes a written copy of the student’s spoken words to enable him/her to work with or demonstrate understanding about content concepts.


The phonological processing ability to break words into their component phonemes or sound parts.


Ongoing process in which students get to know themselves as learners by reflecting on their own performance, products, thinking and learning.

Self Harm  The deliberate attempt to physically injure oneself.  Self harmers have no intention of killing themselves; nonetheless, self harm is serious as it may lead to critical self injury.  Self harm is a way of coping with emotional distress and may include hair pulling, scalding, banging, self poisoning and cutting.  Self harmers want to keep their practices secret, making it difficult to detect.  Refusing to wear short sleeves, many unexplained scars, cuts or burn marks are indications of self harm.  In addition self harmers may voice concerns that they are patronized and not listened to.
Separation Anxiety Disorder  Severe panic-like episodes that begin when the child is separated from a parent or caregiver. SAD results in the child having difficulty participating in age appropriate school related and other activities like presentations, birthday party’s sleepovers and summer camp. The child may even refuse to attend school and have tantrums when left at school. Children suffering from this disorder may appear cold towards their peer group and have difficulty maintain friendships.
Social Communicative Competence 

The ability to use natural speech communication in a variety of social situations, including the classroom. (see academic communicative competence to compare)

Sotos Syndrome  Also known as Cerebral Gigantism, is a brain condition resulting in developmental delays in early childhood. At present, the diagnosis is made by observing physical characteristics and developmental delays in early childhood.
Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures And Guidelines  

This resource conveys policies, procedures, and guidelines that support the delivery of special education services in British Columbia's public schools.

The purpose of this manual is to provide a single point of reference regarding legislation, ministry policy and program standards to assist school boards in developing programs and services that enable students with special needs to meet the goals of education. The manual also contains procedural information to assist in accessing programs and services provided at the provincial level. It is intended primarily for the use of administrators, school-based teams and special educational professionals, but may also prove of interest to other professionals within the education, social service or health care communities, to parents and to members of the public at large.

ESL learners are funded under the umbrella of Special Education but documentation and information is located at :

Special Education Teacher  This video clip was created by the Teachers of Inclusive Education - British Columbia. It gives a very good overview of the roles and responsibilities of the special education teacher in supporting students with special needs. It demonstrates the continuum of service, and the breadth of service as students develop and change over the school years.

Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) 

Communication professional who is educated and trained to evaluate and treat speech and language disorders. They can assist with individuals who may have: delayed speech develoment, delayed oral language development, voice impairments or loss, and stuttering or other fluency disorders. Individuals with: learning disabilities, communication disorders, autism, deafness or hearing loss or nonverbal individuals could benefit from treatment from an SLP.
Spina Bifida  This is a congenital defect in the development of the spine. A section in the vertebrae of the spinal column fails to completely form around the spinal cord. The severity of the disability will depend on the size of the opening of the spine, on whether the spinal cord and its coverings have pushed through the opening, and on the positioning of the opening on the spine. Paralysis and loss of sensation extend down from the point of the opening. The higher the opening is on the back, the greater the disability will be. The disability can range from mild muscle weakeness to total paralysis in limbs.
Spinal Cord Injuries  Spinal cord injuries usually result in paralysis of the arms, trunk, legs or any combination depending on the point of injury to the spinal cord. Nerves from the spinal cord pass down into the segments of the spinal column and injury affects innervation of the nerves into the muscles. The higher up the spine the level of injury, the greater the restriction of body movement. A paraplegic is one who has the legs paralyzed, while a quadriplegic has both the arms and legs affected.
Standard English 

The variety of English that is used in textbooks and by most educated English speakers, though they may speak another variety/dialect of English in social and community contexts.

Standardized Test 

Norm-referenced test designed to measure academic progress, or what students have retained in the curriculum.

Student Review Meetings  Besides meeting to plan for individual student needs, School Based Teams often meet on a regular basis to discuss and review groups or classes. Periodic, scheduled student review meetings facilitate the collaboration of school principal, learning assistance teachers, classroom teachers and other support staff. The strong advantage is that the principal and staff members work together to become informed about the strengths and needs of all students’ in the group and are able to share the decision making to best meet the needs of the class or group. General review meetings most often take place at the beginning and/or end of the school year.
Suicide   “Intentional, self-inflicted death.” Suicide is seen as a problem solving solution to intense emotional pain. Suicidal ideation is the product of disordered thinking, or disordered mood found within the context of  mental disorders. Most people who think of suicide do not want to die. Nonetheless, all talk of suicide or any suicidal behavior should be taken seriously. Death by suicide is three times more common in males than in females. Symptoms include: loss of interest in school activities, including things that were once important, social isolation or withdrawal  and an inability to concentrate. In addition, destructive and risky behaviour such as alcohol and or drug abuse are all behavioural characteristics that can lead to suicide.
Summative Assessment 

Collection of data on which to judge the student’s achievements in relation to some standard of excellence or in relation to some body of knowledge (scoring rubrics with exemplars, subject area tests, projects, etc.)

Teacher (Special Education)  This video clip was created by the Special Education Association of BC. It gives a very good overview of the roles and responsibilities of the special education teacher in supporting students with special needs. It demonstrates the continuum of service, and the breadth of service as students develop and change over the school years.
Teacher Assistance Team (TAT) 

A group of teachers who meet to support a colleague by brainstorming options to address a specified challenge or problem, a concept built on the premise that teachers have the expertise to deal with most educational situations when they work together.


British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language


Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages


A set of questions or situations designed to permit an inference about what an examinee knows or can do in an area of interest.

Tourette’s Syndrome 

A condition of the brain (neurological) that causes people to make sounds, words, and body movements that are beyond their control (tics). Tourette's disorder is also known as Tourette's syndrome.

Transition  The passage of a student from one environment to another at key points in his or her development from childhood to adulthood. Transition planning is the preparation, implementation and evaluation required to enable students to make major transitions during their lives – from home or pre-school to school; from class to class; from school to school; from school district to school district; and from school to post-secondary, community or work situations.
Universal Design for Learning 

UDL is a framework that can help you turn the challenges posed by increasing learner diversity into opportunities to maximize learning for every student. Drawing upon new knowledge of how the brain works and new technologies and media now available for teaching and learning, UDL frames a systematic approach to setting goals, choosing or creating flexible materials and media, and approaches to assessment

Similar to Differentiated Learning 

 For more information, see www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ 

Verbal Rehearsal 

Self-questioning or prompting to activate memory.

Visual Imagery 

The process of forming mental images while reading, writing, listening to a story or recalling an event.

Visually Impaired  Normal vision represents 6/6m (20/20 feet). A visual acuity of 6/60 m means that the visually impaired person sees at 6m what a person with normal vision sees at 60m. 6/60 vision is defined as legal blindness and gives access to specific government services and allowances. Legally blind persons, however, may have residual vision and function with visual aids. For this reason, educational services may classify the students as partially sighted or functionally blind.
Weschler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT II)  This achievement test measures all of the standard achievement areas: reading recognition, reading comprehension, spelling, written language, math calculation, and math reasoning. Generally, this test is a measure of academic skills, independent of speed. See alpha.fdu.edu/psychology/WIATII_descrp.htm 
Zone of Proximal Development 

A level slightly beyond the learner’s current language proficiency, but within reach given contextual support such as graphic organizers and cue words.

Updated June, 2015

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