Glossary of Terms

Families are often in situations where professionals use terms or abbreviations that are unfamiliar. When this occurs families should always ask for an explanation of the terms or abbreviations. This clarification is important so that families understand exactly what is being recommended for their child. The following glossary is a brief listing of commonly used terms. Many of the terms refer to agencies and processes unique to Maryland. The glossary is divided into two sections: Education and Mental Health. We hope the glossary is helpful as you navigate systems of care for your child.


Assessment: The process of testing and measuring a child’s skills and abilities. Assessments include aptitude tests, achievement tests, and screening tests. The information is used to assist in determining if the child is a student with a disability.

DORS (Department of Rehabilitation Services): A department of the Maryland State Department of Education that promotes the employment, economic self-sufficiency, and independence of individuals with disabilities. A representative of DORS should be part of the child's transition planning team as a child and family anticipate the child graduating from high school to the world of work. DORS can provide access to vocational training and supported employment after a child leaves school.

Due Process Hearing: A formal way to resolve a dispute between you and your child's school system about your child's special educational program. In Maryland, the hearing is run by an administrative law judge through the state Office of Administrative Hearings. You can submit a request for a hearing by submitting a written request to your child's school system. It is preferable that you have an attorney with you at a due process hearing; the school system will.

ED (Emotional Disability): A special education category for children with emotional or behavioral disabilities.

ESY (Extended School Year Services): Educational services provided beyond the regular school year for children who may regress or need continued services to maintain skills during the summer or during times when school is not in session.

Evaluations: Procedures (defined by federal and State regulations) to gather information used to determine if a child has a disability and thereby is eligible for special education and related services.

FBA (Functional Behavioral Assessment): A problem-solving process for addressing disruptive or problem behavior. The process looks beyond the behavior itself and tries to identify specific social, emotional, environmental or cognitive factors that cause the behavior and interventions to directly address the behavior. After the FBA, a behavior management plan is developed to address the specific behaviors.

IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act): The federal law that guarantees all children with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate public education.

IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation): Testing conducted by a qualified personnel who is not employed by a child’s school system. Families have a right to request an IEE at public expense if they disagree with the evaluation conducted by the school system. On request the school system will provide information about where to obtain an independent evaluation and the agency criteria. The school system is not required to pay for an IEE if they believe that the evaluation they conducted is appropriate.

IEP (Individualized Education Program): An individualized plan that is developed for each child in special education. The IEP describes goals and the services that a child will receive in order to achieve the goals. This document is legally binding. Families have a right to participate in developing the IEP.

IEP Team: The multidisciplinary team of people who make special education decisions about a child, including eligibility for special education, recommendations for testing to be done, development of the IEP, determination of placements and annual reviews. The parent is a member of the IEP team. Parents may bring an advocate with them to the IEP meeting as well as any other person, such as a therapist, who knows the child and can speak on his/her behalf.

Inclusion or Mainstreaming: Special services that a child needs are to be provided in the regular classroom to the maximum extent possible, so that the student is “included” with his/her peers.

Infants and Toddlers Program: A statewide program that requires services for children from birth through three years of age, including an individualized family services plan (IFSP) and case management. This program is mandated by federal law. In Maryland, the Infants and Toddlers Program operates under the Maryland State Department of Education. Local jurisdictions may operate the Infants and Toddlers Program from the Department of Education or other agencies such as the Health Department.

LMB (Local Management Board): A committee in each county and Baltimore City responsible for planning and developing services and supports for children in their jurisdiction.

IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan): A plan that describes the services an infant or toddler with special needs less than three years of age and his/her family will receive. The plan is developed through the Infants and Toddlers Program in collaboration with the family.

LRE (Least Restrictive Environment): A child has the right to be educated in an environment that is least restrictive. This means that a child can be in a regular school and classroom with non-disabled peers. Supports and services must be provided to ensure that the goals of the IEP can be achieved. It also means that the child should be able to attend his/her neighborhood school unless the IEP requires another arrangement. Services should be provided in separate classes or schools only when the nature or severity of the disability prevents achievement of a satisfactory education program in a regular classroom.

Mediation: The process of having an impartial, trained person, called a mediator, help you and the school system reach an agreement about your child's special education program and services. Either you or the school system can request mediation. It is voluntary and both parties must agree to it.

MSDE (Maryland State Department of Education): The state agency responsible for monitoring local departments of education and ensuring that local departments comply with federal and state laws.

Non-public Placement: If an IEP team agrees that a child needs to be educated in a more restrictive setting, they may recommend a non-public placement. These are schools designed to meet the needs of various special education populations, and have been certified by the Maryland State Department of Education. The school system pays all of the costs for a non-public placement, including transportation to and from the school.

Records: Files maintained by the local education agency containing information about your child including: academic performance, behavior, screening and assessment results, program needs, and other related services. You have a right to examine your child's records and the information contained in them.

Related Services: Those services that must be provided to your child so that he/she can benefit from special education instruction. These services may include transportation, speech pathology, counseling, physical therapy, psychological services, recreation, medical services, and more.

Screening: The initial process of reviewing your child's situation to see if he/she may be disabled and in need of special education services. You, a teacher, or a health professional may refer your child for screening. The request for screening should be in writing and submitted to the principal of your child's school. If the screening shows "deficits" or delays, the child will be referred for an assessment.

Section 504: A federal law that requires "reasonable accommodation" of a disability. Section 504 can be used to address special education issues that may not be covered by the Special Education Law, IDEA. Examples of accommodations are preferential seating, extended time for tests, and freedom from distractions.

Transition Services: Transition services are those services provided by the local education agency or other agencies such as Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) to prepare and support the child as they move from education into the world of work, continuing education, and independent living. Beginning at age 14, the IEP for each student with a disability must include a statement of needed transition services for the child, including instruction, related services, employment, and other post-school adult living objectives. Referrals are to be made to the appropriate agencies for the youth to receive services.

Mental Health

Assessments: An assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of the child conducted by a professional. The assessment should include a review of the child’s physical and mental health status, intelligence, school performance, peer relations, social skills, and family situation. An assessment may include testing to evaluate some of these factors.

Care Management Entity: A structure that serves as an entry point for children with intensive needs so that they can achieve the goals of safety, permanency, and well-being through intensive care coordination using a wraparound service delivery model and the development of home and community-based services.

DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition): A manual of mental health disorders developed by the American Psychiatric Association, used by professionals to understand and diagnose mental health problems. Often a DSM-IV diagnosis is required in order for a child to be eligible for certain mental health services.

EPSDT (Early & Periodic Screening, Diagnosis & Treatment): Federal law requires the state to provide screening, diagnosis and "all medically necessary" treatment services, including mental health services, to all Medicaid recipients under 21 years of age. EPSDT is a way to obtain individualized treatment and support services necessary for children to remain at home and in their community, or to return there after a hospitalization.

Gray Zone Individuals: Individuals who by virtue of their income, family size, insurance and/or severity of need have all or part of their mental health care costs paid by the public mental health system based upon resources available in the Mental Hygiene Administration’s annual budget.

Local Care Team: A body established in each local jurisdiction in Maryland designated as a forum for families of children with intensive needs to receive assistance with the identification of individual needs and potential resources to meet identified needs, and for interagency discussion and problem solving for individual child, family, and systemic needs.

(LMB) Local Management Board: A committee in each county and Baltimore City responsible for planning and developing services and supports for children in their jurisdiction.

(MCHIP) Maryland Children's Health Program: A program in Maryland that provides health insurance coverage for children and pregnant woman based on family income. Applications are available at local Health Departments and other places like school health centers. For additional information, contact 1.800.456.8900 (Go to and click on “Health Care Programs.”)

MEDICAID/Medical Assistance: Medicaid is also called medical assistance. It is a state and federal health insurance program for certain low-income and disabled people. Eligibility for Medicaid is determined by case managers at the local Department of Social Services. Contact DHMH for information, (go to and click on “Health Care Programs.”)

Mental Health Problems or Mental Health Disorders: Mental health problems are real and affect one's thoughts, feelings, behavior and physical well-being. Children, adolescents and even infants can experience mental health problems. They can be severe and interfere with one's life and ability to function. Mental health problems are called "disorders" and common disorders include: depression, anxiety, phobias, attention-deficit disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, attachment disorders, bi-polar disorders, schizophrenia and more. There are many different causes of mental health problems such as:

  • Biological or physical factors such as a chemical imbalance
  • Environmental factors such as extreme stress, violence or abuse
  • Traumatic experiences such as death of a loved one

Psychological Testing: A range of tests administered by a qualified professional as part of an assessment for a child. Different types of tests are used to evaluate different things. Types of tests include:

  • Achievement Tests — designed to assess current performance in academic areas
  • Aptitude Tests — generally used to predict future performance
  • Intelligence Tests — measure the capacity of an individual to learn
  • Interest Inventories — indicates personal preference among interests and is used in career guidance
  • Objective Personality Tests — measure social and emotional adjustment
  • Projective Tests — responses to a series of words, questions or pictures interpreted by professionals

RTC (Residential Treatment Centers): A residential facility licensed by the state to provide intensive therapeutic care, supervision and education for children 24 hours a day/7 days a week. An RTC usually serves more than 12 children at a time.

RTC Medicaid Waiver: Children who are deemed eligible for a Residential Treatment Center level of services may be served in their home and community through the RTC Medicaid waiver. The waiver provides intensive supports, care coordination, and a wide array of services to treat the child in their community. Children must meet medical necessity criteria to be eligible for the waiver.

Respite Care: Services that provide temporary relief to the family or caregiver of a child with mental health needs. Respite care can be provided in-home or out of the home at a facility. Respite care services are intended to help the family care for the child at home and prevent the child from having to go to a residential program away from the family.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is a Federal income supplement program for people with disabilities, and a few other targeted populations. Children with "physical or mental conditions which can be medically proven and which result in marked and severe functional limitations,” may be eligible for SSI benefits if their family is of low income. Youth 18 and older are evaluated based on their own income, and not their family’s. Contact your local Social Security office for additional information or go to the Social Security website

TAY (Transition-age Youth) programs: Programs in certain jurisdictions, managed by the Public Mental Health System, that are designed to meet the needs of transition-age youth. The age limits differ from program to program. The programs vary from Residential Rehabilitation Programs to summer camps. For more information, see “Navigating the Transition Years.”

Therapeutic Group Home: A community home serving 5-10 children with mental health needs.

Voluntary Placement Agreement: In order to have financially covered services in an RTC or in the RTC waiver, a family who has a child with intensive mental health needs that has private insurance (or in certain other cases) must enter into a “Voluntary Placement Agreement” with the Department of Human Resources, arranged through the local Department of Social Services. In this instance, the family “voluntarily” places their child into the custody of DHR so that their child may access these intensive services. The family may have to pay child support to DHR in order to access services.

Wraparound Services: “Wraparound” is a team approach to supporting and servicing children with serious mental health and behavior problems and their families, by implementing a plan that provides services and supports that are “wrapped around” the child and family.