When I first started teaching, I was hired as an ESE teacher. I had ZERO experience with ESE. I didn’t even have a class in college about ESE. Sure, we had the normal differentiation classes, but nothing prepared me for the wonderful world of ESE and all of the acronyms within it.
I want to take a few moments to help you understand what ESE is and introduce you to many of the acronyms used in the program. Whether you have an ESE student in your class, are the parent of an ESE student, or just want to learn more about ESE, this is the post for you.
So, what does ESE stand for?
ESE stands for “Exceptional Student Education.”
What is ESE?
ESE is an “umbrella term” that covers a large scale of students. Many people tend to think that ESE is for students that have a learning disability, but ESE actually encompasses all exceptional students. The key word there is exceptional, which by definition means not typical. Students with learning disabilities, or gaps in their learning, are usually performing well below the “typical” student in their respective grade level. Students that are considered “gifted” are usually performing well above the “typical” student in their respective grade level. Therefore, ESE encompasses students with learning disabilities, as well as students that are considered “gifted,” because both sets of students are “not typical.”
As you can see, there are two sides to the world of ESE; the side with students that need help to reach the level of a typical student and the side with students that are performing above the level of a typical student.
Within the realm of ESE, there are a plethora of acronyms that can quickly become overwhelming. The first acronym you will typically hear, or see, is IEP, which stands for Individualized Education Plan. Please be aware that some of the information I am providing in this post may differ depending on where you live, but this post should give you a solid starting point.
To have an IEP, a student must have a primary exceptionality that they are classified as. There are many different classifications/programs within my district. I’m sure there are more that I am not aware of in other districts. Below I will detail the primary exceptionalities that are within my district.
Primary Exceptionalities (include, but are not limited to):
• DD: Developmentally Delayed
- In my district, Developmentally Delayed is an age restricted program. A student can be classified as Developmentally Delayed until they are six years old. After their sixth birthday, they must be dropped from the program, at which point they will no longer have an IEP. Or, more commonly, they are identified as having another primary exceptionality to replace the DD label. In order to replace the primary exceptionality proper documentation must be provided in the form of RTI (response to intervention) or medical documentation at a meeting called MRT (Multidisciplinary Referral Team).
• SLD: Specific Learning Disability
- This is the most common primary exceptionality in my district for students in general education/inclusion classrooms. This classification encompasses those students that were previously classified as DD and continued to receive services with an IEP by going through RTI (response to intervention). If a student does not currently have an IEP, and the general education teacher believes the student needs additional services, they would collect RTI (response to intervention) data to take the MRT (Multidisciplinary Referral Team) meeting in an effort to get the student an IEP.
• LI: Language Impaired
- In my district, students that are classified as having a language impairment receive services from a SLP (speech language pathologist). They are also eligible to receive services from an ESE teacher for academic support.
• SI: Speech Impaired
- In my district, students that are classified as having a speech impairment receive services from a SLP (speech language pathologist). They are not eligible to receive services from an ESE teacher for academic support. If the general education teacher feels that the student classified as having a speech impairment needs additional support in the form of academic services from and ESE teacher, the general education teacher must document RTI (response to intervention) data and go to a MRT (Multidisciplinary Referral Team) meeting to determine eligibility.
• OHI: Other Health Impaired
- In my district, students will be classified as OHI if they have documented RTI (response to intervention) data demonstrating a need for additional services and have a medical diagnosis such as ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder). ADD and ADHD are not the only medical diagnosis that fall under OHI, but they are the most common. I had a student on my caseload one year that had Osteogensis Imperfecta (Brittle Bone Disease).
• PI: Physically Impaired
- Students classified as PI are typically in a self-contained setting that is more accessible for their equipment (such as wheelchairs, braces, walkers, etc.). At my school, many of these students push into the general education classroom for part of the day.
• OI: Orthopedically Impaired
- I have had two students in my four years of teaching that have been classified as OI, both of which participated in a general education classroom with minimal support from me as an ESE teacher. They both received services for PT (physical therapy) and OT (occupational therapy).
• ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Students with an ASD classification can be in either a general education/inclusion setting, or a self-contained CSS (communication and social skills) setting.
• IND: Intellectual Disability
- In my district, students can be classified as IND after extensive testing has been completed to determine cognitive functioning. If a student is classified as IND they will most likely be on Access Points for State Standards. Students classified as IND can be in either a general education/inclusion setting, or a self-contained SLA (supported level academics) setting.
There a 3 main setting types for all students. These are general education, inclusion, and self-contained.
- General Education is a typical classroom.
- Inclusion is a general education classroom with some ESE students.
- Self-Contained is a classroom that contains a majority, if not all, ESE students.
Within those main setting types, there can be a number of services provided to students that fall into the realm of ESE. The main types of academic services in my district are called Support Facilitation and Resource Pullout.
- Support Facilitation is when the ESE teacher pushes into the inclusion classroom to provide assistance and small group learning activities to the students.
- Resource Pullout is when the student is pulled from their classroom to work in a small group for academic instruction, social skill instruction, speech therapy, language therapy, occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), etc.
All of this leads us to the LRE, which means Least Restrictive Environment. The ultimate goal is for all students to be in the least restrictive environment, which is general education/inclusion. However, sometimes it is not possible for a student to participate in a general education/inclusion setting. This is where resource pullout becomes the next option, followed by self-contained.
Self-contained can be categorized into several different classrooms, such as:
- PI: Physically Impaired
- CSS: Communication and Social Skills
- SLA: Supported Level Academics
- PLA: Participatory Level Academics
What about gifted students?
If you recall, there is another side of ESE that encompasses students that perform well above the typical student in their respective grade level. We usually refer to these students as “gifted.” Within the gifted program, the students will have an EP, which stands for educational plan. The educational plan provides the plan the school is following to provide academic enrichment for gifted students. In my district, these students go to a separate school setting once a week for the gifted enrichment class. This definitely looks different from district to district though.
I hope that I have helped you gain a better understanding of ESE. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me via a comment, email, or through social media.
If your district has different acronyms or meanings for the acronyms, please let me know in a comment below and I’ll update my post to include that information.