Glossary


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ABA – The abbreviation for Applied Behavior Analysis. See Applied Behavior Analysis.

Adaptive Behavior – The ability to adjust to new situations and to apply familiar or new skills to those situations. For example, a two-year-old is displaying his ability to adapt when he says, “Mine!” to the child who is attempting to take his toy. A five-year-old shows adaptive behavior when he is able to use the same table manners he uses at home at a friend’s house.

Advocate – An individual who represents or speaks out on behalf of another person’s interests (as in a parent on behalf of his or her child).

Age-appropriate intervention – Materials and activities designed to teach the child with special needs are appropriate for the child’s typically developing same-age peers. For instance, a toy designed for use with typically developing one-year-old children should not be used with a child who is eight years old, but who has the developmental abilities of a one-year-old.

Annual Goal – A statement of the desired outcome of early intervention services or education for a specific child. Annual goals for early intervention are selected by the child’s parents and the child’s early intervention multidisciplinary team and are stated on the Individualized Family Service Plan. Annual goals for education also are developed by a team that includes the child’s parents, and are stated in the Individual Education Plan (IEP). Objectives may also be stated to provide developmentally appropriate activities and measurement of progress toward attainment of the goal.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) – Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is not a particular treatment or therapy. ABA is the name of a professional field that uses principles of learning to increase performance of socially desirable behaviors. It always relies upon the collection of objective data to measure performance and the effectiveness of an intervention. ABA is used in industry, business and education as well as in the field of disabilities. The term “ABA” is sometimes used to refer to a one-on-one therapy that is named discrete trial training, however it can also be applied using an incidental teaching approach. Some educational professionals as
well as parents will use the term ABA when referring to discrete trial training. See Discrete Trial Training.

Asperger’s Disorder – Condition found in the DSM-IV-TR manual under Pervasive

Developmental Disorders. The essential features are severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests and activities. Additional criteria are listed in the DSM-IV-TR.

Assistive Technology – Special items or equipment used to increase, maintain or improve one’s functioning abilities. The term covers items such as computers, pencil holders, specialized switches and calculators.

Audiologist – A specialist who determines the presence and type of hearing impairment. An audiologist conducts hearing tests and makes recommendations for hearing aids.

Audiology – The study of hearing and hearing disorders.

Audiometric Testing – Tests to measure the ability to hear sounds of varying frequency (pitch) and intensity (loudness), thereby revealing any hearing impairment. Results are then recorded on an audiogram. Also known as audiometry.

Augmentative Communication – Any method of communicating without speech, such as by signs, gestures, picture boards, or electronic or non-electronic devices. These methods can help individuals who are unable to use speech or who need to supplement their speech to communicate effectively.

Autism – Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects functioning of the brain, autism and its associated behaviors occur in approximately 25 of every 10,000 individuals. This means that at least one out of every 500 children born will have autism. It is important to note that some children with mental retardation, fragile X syndrome, psychiatric disorders, sensory deficits such as vision or hearing impairments, and certain rare neurological diseases have autistic-like characteristics, but do not have autism. In older literature, autism may be called infantile autism or Kanner’s syndrome. See Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder – A term encompassing the condition(s) known as pervasive developmental disorder(s). See Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

Behavior Intervention Plan – A written document that becomes part of the IEP and which identifies problem behaviors; sets goals for decreasing unwanted behaviors and increasing desired behaviors; and outlines interventions to use when specific behaviors occur. Sometimes called a behavior management plan.

Behavioral Assessment – Gathering (through direct observation and by parent report) and analyzing information about a child’s behaviors. The information may be used to help the child change unwanted behaviors. Variables that are noted include when a behavior occurs as well as its frequency and duration. See Functional Assessment of Behavior.

Cognitive – Referring to the developmental area that involves thinking skills, including the ability to receive, process, analyze and understand information. Matching red circles and pushing the button on a mechanical toy to activate it are examples of cognitive skills.

Communication – The developmental area that involves skills which enable people to
understand (receptive language) and share (expressive language) thoughts and feelings. Waving goodbye, using spontaneous single-word utterances and repeating five-word sentences are examples of communication skills.

Communication Aid – A nonverbal form of communication such as gesture, sign language, communication boards and electronic devices (for example, computers and voice synthesizers).

Communication Board/Book – A board or book with pictures or symbols that a child or adult can point to for expression of his or her needs.

Communication Disorder – Difficulty with understanding and/or expressing messages. Communication disorders include problems with articulation, voice disorders, stuttering, language disorders and some learning disabilities.

Descriptive assessment – A type of functional assessment which is based on direct observation of the behavior in the natural environment.

Developmental Delay – The term used to describe the condition of an infant or young child who is not achieving new skills in the typical time frame and/or is exhibiting behaviors that are not appropriate for his or her age. Some children who are developmentally delayed eventually have a specific diagnosis of a particular developmental disability. Other children with delays catch up with their typically developing peers.

Developmental Disability (DD) – a severe chronic disability that: is attributed to a physical or mental impairment, other than the sole diagnosis of mental illness, or to a combination of mental and physical impairments; is manifested before the individual attains the age of 22; is likely to continue indefinitely; results in the inability to live independently without external support or continuing and regular assistance; reflects the need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic care, treatment, or other services that are planned and coordinated for that individual.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) – The fourth edition of the reference manual published by the American Psychiatric Association, for which the text was revised in 2000. The DSM-IV-TR appears to be the most widely used manual of diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders in the United States. Under the heading of Pervasive Developmental Disorders, the manual lists and describes Autistic Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (including Atypical Autism).

Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus Vaccine (DPT) – An immunization against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus that is usually given to infants and young children. Research suggests that consideration should be given as to whether or not the pertussis vaccine should be administered to some children, specifically infants with a non-stable neurological disorder, such as seizures, or infants who have had a serious reaction to a prior DPT shot.

Discrete Trial – A method for teaching desired behaviors, skills or tasks. The skill being taught is “ broken” down or sequenced into small, “discrete steps” that are taught in a highly structured and hierarchical manner. Discrete trials consist of four parts: (a) the instructor’s presentation (the instruction) (prompt if needed), (b) the child’s response, (c) the consequence, (e.g., reinforcement or correction) and (d) a short pause between the consequence and the next instruction (between-trials interval). The instruction should be clear, concise, phrased as a statement, and given only once.

Early Intervention – Individualized services for infants and toddlers who are at risk for or are showing signs of developmental delay.

Echolalia – The repetition of speech that is produced by others (a relatively common symptom of autism). Echoed words or phrases can include the same words and inflections as were originally heard or they may be somewhat modified. Immediate echolalia refers to words immediately repeated or repeated a brief time after they were heard. Delayed echolalia refers to the repetition of speech much later – even after days or years.

Environmental modifications – Environmental modifications are not direct instruction, but are therapeutic adaptations that are intended to reduce barriers to instruction.

Epilepsy – Sometimes called a seizure disorder. Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent seizures that are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can occur for many reasons, including damage to the brain due to infection, injury, birth trauma, tumor, stroke, drug intoxication and chemical imbalance. Epilepsy is usually treated with antiepileptic drugs. It is estimated that about one third of individuals with autism have seizures at some time during their lifetime. Also see Seizure.

Experimental (functional) analysis – A type of functional assessment in which the effects of various consequences are experimentally tested on the behavior.

Expressive Language – The ability to communicate thoughts and feelings by gesture, sign language, verbalization, or written word. Compare to Receptive Language.

Extinction – Eliminating or decreasing a behavior by removing reinforcement from it.

Functional Behavior Analysis– The process of systematically determining the function of behaviors, usually inappropriate, that are displayed by people. Behaviors are defined, measured and analyzed in terms of what happened before and after their occurrence. Over time the events before and after the behavior occurs are systematically changed in order to determine the function of the behavior for the person displaying it. Sometimes an inappropriate behavior can have a communicative function. A temper tantrum can sometimes be communicating “I am upset”, or “I am bored”. Sometimes a functional analysis of behavior is conducted for research purposes, but it can also be performed in order to develop behavior interventions and supports that address the display of challenging or inappropriate behavior. See Functional Assessment of Behavior.

Functional Assessment of Behavior – It is similar to the functional analysis of behavior, but it differs in that those events before and after the behavior are not systematically changed in order to prove the function of the behavior. Based on the information gathered a judgment is made about the possible communicative function of the behavior(s). Functional Assessments are usually performed in order to develop behavior interventions and supports that address challenging or inappropriate behaviors. See Behavioral Assessment and Functional Behavior Analysis.

Functional intervention – A behavioral intervention that addresses the reinforcer or purpose of a problem behavior.

Generalization – The ability to take a skill learned in one setting, such as the classroom, and use it in another setting like the home or community.

Hand-Over-Hand – Physically guiding an individual through the movements involved in a fine motor task. Helping someone to grasp a spoon and bring it to his or her mouth is an example of hand-over-hand guidance.
Hyperactivity – Abnormally increased motor activity, resulting in difficulty with concentrating on one task or sitting still. Due to their overactivity and impulsivity, children who are hyperactive often have difficulty with learning, even if they score in the normal range on IQ tests. Hyperactivity can occur with attention deficit disorder, mental retardation, seizure disorder, sensory deficit disorders (such as hearing impairment) or other central nervous system damage. Also known as hyperkinetic.

Incidental teaching – Incidental teaching typically involves child-directed activities. The instructor observes and interacts with the child and uses any naturally occurring opportunities to provide relevant instruction (e.g., the child indicates that he wants a drink by pointing to the refrigerator, and the instructor models the correct language).

IEP – The abbreviation for Individualized Education Program. See Individualized Education Plan.

Inclusion – The general concept of including people with disabilities in all aspects of life, such as (but not limited to) education, community living, employment and recreation. See Least Restrictive Environment.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) – A written statement of a child’s current level of > development (abilities and impairments) and an individualized plan of instruction, including the goals, the specific services to be received, the people who will carry out the services, the standards and time lines for evaluating progress, and the amount and degree to which the child will participate with non-handicapped peers at school. The IEP is developed by the child’s parents and the professionals who evaluated the child. It is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for all children in special education, age’s three years and up.

MMR – The abbreviation for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine. Thought by some to cause autism in some children.

Motor Skill – The learned ability to perform movements, such as holding the body in an upright position to sit, using the hands to manipulate small items, scooping food onto a spoon and bringing the spoon to the mouth, and moving the lips and tongue to articulate different sounds.

Non-functional intervention – A behavioral intervention that does not directly address the reinforcer or purpose of a problem behavior.

Nonverbal Communication – Any form of or attempt at unspoken or “physical” communication. Examples are temper tantrums, gestures, pointing and leading another person to a desired object.

Occupational Therapy (OT) – Therapeutic treatment aimed at helping the injured, ill or disabled individual to develop and improve self-help skills and adaptive behavior and play. The occupational therapist also addresses the young child’s motor, sensory and postural development with the overall goals of preventing or minimizing the impact of impairment and developmental delay. The therapist also promotes the acquisition of new skills to increase the child or adult’s ability to function independently.

Parent-Professional Partnership – The teaming of parents and teachers, doctors, nurses, therapists and other professionals to work together to facilitate the development of children and adults with special needs.

PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) – See Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

Peer-mediated – Using trained single and multiple peers to promote social interaction and academic skills in children with disabilities.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) – A diagnostic category in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) that includes Autistic Disorder. The DSM uses the term Pervasive Developmental Disorder to refer to a “severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development: reciprocal social interaction skills, communication skills, or the presence of stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities.” Sometimes doctors use the abbreviation PDD alone when diagnosing a child who has some, but not all, of the symptoms of autism.

Physical Therapy (PT) – Therapeutic treatment designed to prevent or alleviate movement dysfunction through a program tailored to the individual child. The goal of the program may be to develop muscle strength, range of motion, coordination or endurance; to alleviate pain; or to attain new motor skills. Therapeutic exercise may include passive exercise (in which the therapist moves and stretches the child’s muscles) or the child may actively participate in learning new ways to acquire and control positions and movement.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) – Is a communication training program for helping children with autism acquire functional communication skills. Children using PECS are taught to give a picture of a desired item to a communicative partner in exchange for the item, thus initiating a communicative act for a concrete outcome within a social context.

Pivotal response training – Is a set of procedures designed to increase motivation and promote generalization. It was developed to overcome problems of stimulus overselectivity and motivation. The intervention focuses on a set of specific procedures that increase responsivity to simultaneous multiple cues. The logic of teaching pivotal target behaviors is that educators might indirectly affect a large number of individual behaviors.

Prognosis – An estimate of the course and outcome of a disease or other condition, including the chances of recovery.

Prompt – Input that encourages an individual to perform a movement or activity. A prompt may be verbal, gestural or physical. An example of a prompt is tapping beneath one’s chin as a visual reminder to the child to close her mouth to prevent drooling. Also known as a cue.

Qualitative Developmental Assessment – An evaluation of the quality, rather than the quantity, of a child’s cognitive skills.

Receptive Language – The ability to understand what is being expressed, including verbal and nonverbal communication, such as sign language. Compare to Expressive Language.

Regression – Reverting to a more immature form of behavior or decreased skill level. For example, a child who resumes sucking her thumb after a substantial period (months or years) of no thumb-sucking. Regression is usually felt to be an unconscious protective mechanism.

Reinforcement – A behavior modification technique used to increase the likelihood of a desired response or behavior. Positive reinforcement is accomplished by immediately strengthening or rewarding a desirable behavior. The reward can be a social reinforcer, such as praise or a hug, or it can be material, such as a sticker or cookie. One form of negative reinforcement is to withdraw a privilege.

Resource Specialist – A teacher who provides special education instruction to children who are taught by regular classroom teachers for the majority of the school day. Sometimes called resource teachers.

Screening Test or Tool – An evaluation tool designed to identify children who are at-risk for having or developing a developmental disability. This is different from a diagnostic tool that is used to determine if a person has, or does not have, autism.

Seizure – Involuntary physical movement or changes in consciousness or behavior brought on by abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain. See Epilepsy.

Seizure Disorder – Refer to Epilepsy.

Self-Injurious Behavior (SIB) – Abnormal behaviors that are harmful to oneself, such as head- banging or scratching or biting oneself. See Self-Stimulation.

Self-Stimulation – Defined as abnormal behaviors that interfere with the individual’s ability to pay attention or participate in meaningful activity, such as head banging, watching the fingers wiggle or rocking side to side. It is often referred to as “self-stimming” or “stimming.” Unpurposeful play with a toy can be self-stimulating, such as repetitively spinning the wheels of a toy truck instead of exploring the different ways it can be used. In children, self-stimulation is most common when there is a diagnosis of mental retardation, autism or a psychosis.

Sensory Impairment – A problem with receiving information through one or more of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, etc.). For example, deafness is a sensory impairment.

Sensory Integration – The ability of the central nervous system to receive, processes, and learn from sensations in order to develop skills. The sensations include touch, movement, sight, sound, smell and the pull of gravity.

Sensory Stimulation – Any arousal of one or more of the senses. For example, a play activity that includes touching strips of shiny cellophane, listening to them crinkle, and watching while a bright light is shining on them against a contrasting background might be fun and stimulating for a child with visual impairment.

SIB – The abbreviation for self-injurious behavior. See Self-Injurious Behavior.

Spectrum Disorder – A disorder, such as autism, that appears with a wide range of
characteristics and functioning. At one end of the spectrum of autism individuals tend to have many challenging behaviors. At the other end individuals generally have greater cognitive abilities and can communicate relatively well with spoken language.

Speech Therapy – Therapy to improve the individual’s speech and language skills, as well as oral motor abilities.

Stereotypic behavior – Repetitive motor movements that occur frequently; examples include body rocking, hand flapping, and object manipulation.

Stimulus preference assessment – Any systematic method used to predict which stimuli will function as positive reinforcers for a child’s behavior.

Strategies – A group of interventions (techniques) that share a common approach.

Task Analysis – Process of breaking a skill down into smaller steps.

Technique – A specific intervention (e.g., reinforcing appropriate behaviors).

Verbal Behavior – A behavioral approach to teaching communication skills to children with autism and other developmental disabilities, based on B.F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior.