Whether you have been a part of the special needs community for a long time, or have just joined, there are many terms, jargon and acronyms that can be confusing. Below you will find some definitions that we hope will help you find your way. Hear or read something that is not on the list but needs to be? Let us know!

    • IEPIndividual Education Plan. This is the Title V plan for every child with special needs. These plans are supposed to be updated annually (or more frequently if needed). IEP meetings should include parents, teachers, any individuals who provide supportive services to the student and, if appropriate, the student themselves. At a minimum, every three years the IEP should include a full re-evaluation of all of the student’s strengths and needs.


    • Medicaid – Federally mandated, state run program of medical coverage and other services (see Waiver definition below). Income and asset rules apply.


    • Medicare – Federal program of medical coverage available only to those who receive SSDI. A premium may apply.


    • Medicaid Buy-In – Available in some states, this is a medicaid program in which an individual who meets disability criteria but does not meet the income and asset criteria may pay a small premium and retain Medicaid.


    • Self-Determination Funding – This is the most recent state-based trend for funding of services for individuals with special needs. It is called different things in different states, but the basic philosophy is that the individual and their family have the best idea of the services which are needed for the individual with disabilities. The individual with disabilities is provided a monthly stipend with which they can purchase the services which they deem necessary. These services can include vocational programming, transportation, respite care, physical home adaptations and many other services. This is also considered a waiver program.


    • SGASubstantial Gainful Activity – The term used by Social Security indicating the maximum income someone can earn and still receive benefits.


    • SSDISocial Security Disability Income. Applicant must prove disability from a vocational standpoint. Income rules apply.


    • SSISupplemental Security Income. Applicant must prove disability from a vocational standpoint. Income and asset rules apply.


    • Title V: Education – This is a U.S. Department of Education policy which promotes informed parental choice in education of children with Special Needs. This legislation provides funding to the individual states to administer Title V programs. This funding is designated to ensure that each student receives an individually developed education plan and the necessary supportive services as outlined in that plan. This is the source of the IEP (see above).


    • Title V: Medical – Title V of the Social Security Act requires states to provide preventive medical care and case coordination to children with significant medical needs. Through Medicaid, children with medical needs are entitled to well-child checkups, immunizations, some equipment and supplies and service coordination, as well as Early Intervention for those children aged 0-3. Most of these services are provided by the each state’s Maternal and Child Health Program.


    • Transition – Federal Law requires each school district to provide transition services to all special education students. While a transition plan can begin as early as age 15, the focus of these services is for the student between ages 19-21. Transition services can include vocational evaluation, job trials, job training programs, teaching appropriate work behaviors and any other skills necessary to allow the individual to reach their full potential for employment.


  • Medicaid Waiver – A mechanism by which a state can be reimbursed by the federal government for providing services to individuals with special needs. In order to qualify for waiver services, the individual must have Medicaid. Individual states may impose other enrollment criteria on specific waivers, such as an diagnostic, geographic or age restrictions. Many states are converting all of their residential and vocational services to waiver programs in order to maximize federal reimbursement to the state.There are many different types of Medicaid Waivers which vary from state to state. Some examples of Waivers are:


  • Katie Beckett Waiver – Also known as the Children’s Medical Waiver, Katie Beckett waiver is a program which pays for the supportive medical care needed to keep a child with severe medical needs living in their family home, rather than in an institution. These waivers generally provide nursing care and supportive technology.
  • MR/DD WaiverMental Retardation/Developmentally Disabled Waiver – This waiver provides supportive services to allow an individual with developmental disabilities to remain in their own home. These waivers frequently include respite care, vocational programs and architectural adaptations to the home.
  • Senior Services Waiver – This waiver allows senior citizens to avoid nursing care when they have no severe medical needs. Senior waivers can provide adult day care, transportation and companion care.


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