What's in a word?
What does “sped” mean? Can there be a consensus about its meaning?
A group of special educators with whom I correspond has been discussing the meaning and history of the word "sped."
Many folks will aver that "sped" is an alternative past tense or past participle version of "speed," as in, "She sped by the tree." That is true. But there are additional definitions.
Of course, readers of SpecialEducationToday surely recognize the word as an abbreviation for "special education" and, indeed, even some dictionaries (e.g., the online version of Merriam-Webster) provide that definition.
Jim, one of the correspondents, asked if any of us cared to define "godsped," which he indicated was not a typographical mistake.
As did correspondent Cynthia, some recognized a related word, "godspeed," because it was memorably used to wish John Glenn, the late senator and astronaut, well as he began his space flights.
Ever the researcher, Bryan added to the discussion by looking up "sped" in an etymological dictionary. He reported that that the word came from a "Middle English phrase God spede ('may God cause you to succeed'), from God ('God') + spede, singular subjunctive of spedan ('to prosper'), from Old English spēdan, from spēd('success')."
Replying to Bryan, Kelley celebrated his connection between "sped" and "success." She recommended that special educators ought to "incorporate [Bryan's finding] into our branding...."
And another correspondent suggested that "sped" might merit inclusion in the Urban Dictionary.
As a follow along on Bryan’s notes, I checked one of my favorite sources about word histories and learned this:
This image confirms Bryan’s observations about the history of “sped.” He likes replication as a scientific action. I do, too. Yay.
To be sure, some folks use different terms (“spled” or “speced”), but it is worthwhile to connect back to the definition of “sped” or the different terms. That is, there is still the fundamental question of the meaning of “sped.” I think I found that definition, and I think most US special educators will recognize it.
(1) Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including—
(i) Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and
(ii) Instruction in physical education.
(2) Special education includes each of the following, if the services otherwise meet the requirements of paragraph (a)(1) of this section—
(i) Speech-language pathology services, or any other related service, if the service is considered special education rather than a related service under State standards;
(ii) Travel training; and
(iii) Vocational education.
Please note the organization reflected in the outline: First, it’s “specially designed instruction, at no cost….” Second, it includes additional services as needed. Special education is not about the location where the services happen; it’s about the “specially designed instruction!”
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). SpEd. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/SpEd.
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