Special Needs

Utah PTA Special Needs Committee

Children with special needs and their parents and teachers are an important part of PTA. This group faces a unique set of challenges and they deserve our support and recognition. All special needs are not the same. Some are purely physical and others are cognitive or behavioral or a mixture. What is appropriate for one person with a special need may not be appropriate for another. Different children may need different accommodations to fully participate.

We have formed a Utah PTA Special Needs Committee, a coalition of special needs groups, parents and teachers. The goal of this committee is to assess what elements, programs, and resources are needed for local PTA units and for special needs schools to help meet the needs of the families and teachers of children with special needs across the state and to help them feel included and valued. 

PTA Mom Gains Support for Special Needs Students at National PTA Convention

Karen Conder’s quest to make a difference began the day she realized she wasn’t alone.

As a veteran fourth-grade teacher and a mother of a son who has autism, Karen has always had a special interest in the experience students with disabilities have at school. But when she met other parents who shared her same concerns, she decided to do something about it. Five years later, Karen found herself standing in front of the National PTA with an overwhelming vote in support of a proposed resolution that aims to support students with disabilities at school.

“I would like to change the culture,” Karen said. “That is my goal. To not have people automatically go, they have a disability, they can’t do as much. I want people to see them as real people with abilities.”

Karen was appointed as Utah PTA’s Special Needs Specialist in 2013, and she gathered together members of the community and advocates for those with disabilities to brainstorm how they could best help students with special needs succeed. They were inspired by a report from the Utah State Office of Education that determined that one way to improve the academic performance of special education students was to have higher expectations of them.

Karen’s passion for kids inspired her in 2016 to begin crafting a resolution in support of students with disabilities, which the Utah PTA approved last year. Last week, Through Karen’s resolution, with the support of the Utah PTA, the National PTA also resolved to have high expectations for students with disabilities, collaborate with the entire school community to include children with disabilities in all activities and support funding for ongoing training and professional development for teachers who work with students with disabilities in the general education classroom. The resolution was overwhelmingly approved by the voting members of the National PTA with a vote of 470 to 19.

“Hopefully this will make a difference,” Karen said. “I feel like people are starting to listen and saying this is important.”

See Fox13’s story on Karen’s work here and contact your local PTA organization for ways you can help make a difference in your own community. Congratulations, Karen!

PTA Special Needs Representatives Information

Special Needs Representative is an important position on local PTA boards

Does your local PTA Board have a Special Needs Rep?

A Special Needs Rep can help students with disabilities and their families to be connected and more fully included and to enjoy the benefits of associating and participating with others in the school community.


Topics Include:
What the job of PTA Special Needs Rep IS
What the job of PTA Special Needs Rep is NOT
How to get started as the Special Needs Rep
An important note on Privacy and Respect
The main points of focus for the Special Needs Rep


Guide to Helpful Special Education Acronyms

Educators and others in the special education community will use an acronym to describe a service, disability or agency. Here is a list of commonly used acronyms:

ADA         Americans with Disabilities Act
ADD         Attention Deficit Disorder 
ADHD         Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
APE         Adaptive Physical Education
AE         Age Equivalent
AIS         Academic Intervention Services
ASL         American Sign Language
AT         Assistive Technology
BIP         Behavior Intervention Plan
BOCES         Board of Cooperative Educational Services
BOE         Board of Education
CPSE         Committee on Preschool Special Education
CSE         Committee on Special Education
DD         Developmental Disability
ED         Emotionally Disabled
ESEA         Elementary and Secondary Education Act
ESY         Extended School Year Services 
FAPE         Free and Appropriate Public Education
FBA         Functional Behavioral Assessment
FERPA         Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
IAES         Interim Alternative Educational Setting 
IDEA         Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 
IEP         Individualized Education Program 
IEE         Independent Educational Evaluation 
IHO         Impartial Hearing Officer 
IQ         Intelligence Quotient 
LD         Learning Disabled 
LRE         Least Restrictive Environment 
NCLB         No Child Left Behind
OHI         Other Health Impaired 
OT         Occupational Therapy
PDD         Pervasive Developmental Disorder
PT         Physical Therapy 
RR         Resource Room
RtI         Response to Intervention
SAI         Specialized Academic Instruction
SED         State Education Department
SEIT         Special Education Itinerant Teacher Services
SETRC         Special Education Training Resource Centers
SGI         Small Group Instruction
SI         Speech Impaired
TBI         Traumatic Brain Injury
TDD         Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf
UDL         Universal Design for Learning
VESID         Office of Vocational & Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities
VI         Visually Impaired 
VR         Vocational Rehabilitation