Dictionary of Terms

  ABA

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a science in which procedures are systematically applied to improve socially significant behavior to a meaningful degree. An ABA program is a systematic teaching approach that involves breaking skills down into small, easy-to-learn steps. Praise or other rewards are used to motivate the child, and progress is continuously measured so the teaching program can be adjusted as needed. ABA is widely recognized as the single most effective treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder and the only treatment shown to lead to substantial, lasting improvements in the lives of individuals with autism.

ADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR

The ability to use past experience and current appraisal to adjust to new situations.

ADI-R

Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) is a questionnaire used as a diagnostic tool for autism.

ADOS-G

Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale-Generic (ADOS-G) is a research based observation study used in the diagnosis of autism.

  ADVOCATE

A supporter who speaks, or argues on another’s behalf. Many parents advocate for the rights of their children with ASD. Some parents bring advocates with them to IEP meetings to help negotiate services.

ANNUAL GOAL

A statement of the learning expectations for a student’s school year, as listed in their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Annual goals are set by an IEP team that includes the child’s parents and educators.

APHASIA

A loss of the ability to produce or understand language.

APRAXIA

A motor planning deficit marked by a loss of the ability to execute or carry out voluntary movements, despite having the desire and physical ability to perform these movements.

ASD

Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Includes the range of autism disorders defined in the DSM-IV-TR as the following: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD NOS).

ASPERGER’S SYNDROME

A form of autism characterized by normal language and IQ, impaired social skills and restricted interests and activities. Aspergers is often thought of as a high functioning form of autism.

ASSESSMENT

See EVALUATION.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Special items or equipment used by persons with disabilities to improve their functioning abilities. (i.e. Computers, pencil holders, calculators, etc.)

ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER (ADD)

A neurological disorder characterized by severe difficulty listening to and following directions, impulsivity, distractibility, and sometimes hyperactivity (ADHD)

AUDIOLOGIST

A specialist who diagnoses and treats hearing impairments.

AUGMENTATIVE COMMUNICATION

Any method of communication used by those who have difficulty producing words. Augmentative communication methods range from low-tech picture boards or sign language to complex computerized devices.

AUTISM

A developmental disability characterized by delays in social and communication skills, with restricted or repetitive behaviors.

Back to Top   BEST PRACTICE

A technique or method that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result. A commitment to using best practices means using all available knowledge and technology to ensure success. ABA is considered a “best practice” intervention for autism.

Back to Top   CARS

Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) is a research-based tool used to help educators and clinicians recognize and classify children age 2 and up with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

CHILDHOOD DISINTEGRATIVE DISORDER (CDD)

A rare type of pervasive developmental disorder in which typically developing children between the ages of three and four suddenly lose previously acquired social and communication skills.

CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST

Licensed mental health professional trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders such as ASD. They may also work with patients using behavioral or other therapies.

COGNITIVE

The brain processes of understanding or knowing. Cognitive skills include thinking, analyzing and comprehending information.

COMMUNICATION

The exchange of information between people using gestures and language.

CURRICULUM

A series of planned instruction used to teach specific knowledge and skills.

Back to Top   DAILY LIVING SKILLS

The ability to perform routine self-care tasks such as dressing, toileting, eating and grooming.

  DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONE

A standardized set of functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children can perform by a certain age. Pediatricians use milestones to check how infants and children are developing, and to screen for developmental disorders.

  DISCRETE TRIAL INSTRUCTION

A teaching method used in ABA intervention programs that presents a specific task to the learner using multiple practice trials. Each trial, or discrete trial, is one cycle of instruction that includes an instruction, a prompt, response and reward.

  DUE PROCESS HEARING

An independent hearing held to resolve a dispute between a parent and a school district over the education of a child with a disability. Parents have the right to request a due process hearing if they feel the needs of their child are not being met by the district, as mandated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Back to Top   EARLY INTERVENTION

A system of public and private services (including education, therapy and social assistance) established to meet the needs of children from birth to age three who have or are at risk for developmental delays.

  ECHOIC

An echoic is verbal behavior that is controlled by someone else's verbal behavior with point-to-point (1:1) correspondence (e.g., saying ball when someone else says the word ball).

ECHOLALIA

Repetition of previously heard words, phrases or sounds. Repetition can be immediate, or may occur days or weeks or even years later (delayed echolalia).

  EVALUATION

Test or observations used to assess a child’s strengths and weaknesses. A child must undergo a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary evaluation before they can receive special education services (aka “assessment”).

EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE

The ability to communicate thoughts, feelings, or needs to others using verbal behavior (gestures and sign language), speech or writing.

EXTINCTION

Eliminating or decreasing unwanted behaviors by ceasing to reinforce or reward them.

Back to Top   FADING

An ABA technique that involves gradually removing any extra help, hints or prompts used to teach a skill until the child can do it all by himself.

FAPE

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is a government mandate that requires school districts to provide education and services that are free of cost and appropriate for all children, regardless of the child’s abilities.

FUNCTIONAL ASSESSMENT

Central to ABA, this process involves the steps taken to answer the question, “why is he doing that?” A child’s behavior is analyzed by observing what happens before, during, and after the behavior occurs. Interventions are developed based on the outcome of the assessment.

Back to Top   GENERALIZATION

The ability to take skills learned in one setting, like the classroom, and use them in other situations or settings, such as around the house or out in public. The demonstration of skills learned in one setting, then in another setting without explicit training.

GESTURAL COMMUNICATION

Gestures like pointing or waving, eye contact, facial expressions and other body language that is used to communicate a response.

Back to Top   HAND-OVER-HAND PROMPT

A technique in which the therapist physically guides a student through the performance of a given behavior by placing his hand over the student’s hand to help him demonstrate a response (e.g., guiding the student to make the letter B).

HYPERSENSITIVITY

The feeling of being overwhelmed by everyday, common stimuli of sound, sight, taste, touch or smell. Normal sensations can seem painful or unbearable to someone who is hypersensitive.

HYPOSENSITIVITY

An extreme lack of awareness of sensory stimulation.

Back to Top   IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that guarantees all children with disabilities will receive early intervention services and free and appropriate public education (FAPE) that meets their unique individual needs.

  IEP

Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a written yearly plan for children 3-21 that describes in detail the programs and services the local education agency has agreed to provide to eligible school children with disabilities.

  IFSP

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a written plan that documents and guides the early intervention process for disabled children up to age 3 and their families.

  INCLUSION

An educational placement option in which a child with a disability participates as much as possible in general education classes and other activities. Inclusion is based on the belief that children with disabilities benefit from interacting with typically developing peers who demonstrate appropriate social and language skills. (i.e., “mainstreaming”).

  INTRAVERBAL

intraverbal is a verbal operant that is under the control of another person’s verbal behavior (e.g., saying “I’m fine,” when someone asks, “How are you?”). Examples include answers to questions and conversational exchanges.

Back to Top   LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT (LRE)

The educational setting as close to the environment of peers that still allows a child with disabilities to succeed. An LRE can range from support within a general classroom to placement in an institution. Under IDEA, options like inclusion must be considered before choosing a more specialized learning setting.

  LISTENER BEHAVIOR

Following instructions from others (e.g., walking toward someone when told “Please come here”).

LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY (LEA)

The agency responsible for providing special educational services on the local (school district, city or county) level.

Back to Top   MAINSTREAMING

See INCLUSION.

  MAND

A mand is a verbal operant that is under control of conditions of deprivation (not having something you want), or aversive stimulation (something that is uncomfortable that you want to stop). A mand is a request for something (e.g., asking for an item that you need to complete an activity, asking for information, or asking for something to stop).

M-CHAT

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) is a screening tool designed to be used by pediatricians to identify young children who are at risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

MENTAL RETARDATION

An intellectual disability characterized by significantly below average mental ability (low IQ) and by limitations in the ability to function in areas of daily life (such as self-care, communication and social interaction).

MOTOR SKILL

Any action that involves the purposeful movement of muscles in your body to complete a task. Gross motor skills are larger movements like crawling, running and jumping. Fine motor skills are smaller actions like holding a pen to write, or using the tongue and lip muscles to make sounds.

Back to Top   NEUROLOGIST

Diagnoses and treats disorders of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, muscles and nerves). A child neurologist is trained to understand childhood medical disorders and the special needs of the child and family.

Back to Top   OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST (OT)

Treats individuals who have physical, neurological, emotional and developmental disabilities. Works to improve the child’s coordination and fine motor skills, focusing on practical, daily living skills like self-feeding and getting dressed.

Back to Top   PERSEVERATIVE BEHAVIOR

Redundant repetition of word(s) or action(s) without stopping or moving on.

PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER (PDD)

The official term used by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-EV-TR) to classify Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED (PPD -NOS)

A catchall label for individuals with ASD who don’t meet the specific diagnostic criteria for any of the other pervasive developmental disorder classifications.

PHYSICAL THERAPIST (PT)

Helps develop and improve muscle strength, coordination and large motor skills.

PLACEMENT

The process of choosing an appropriate educational setting for a special needs child.

  PROMPT

A verbal, gestural or physical cue that helps the person to perform a specific movement or activity. In ABA, a therapist may prompt by placing his or her hand over the child’s hand to help him complete a task (e.g., pointing at an object).

  POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

The act of rewarding someone after they perform a desired behavior to motivate them, increasing the likelihood that this behavior will be repeated. Rewards can include praise, food, toys and other incentives.

Back to Top   RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE

The ability to understand and interpret what is being communicated, including spoken language, writing and nonverbal communication such as gestures and sign language.

  REINFORCERS

Any consequence following a behavior that increases the probability of that behavior being repeated. Potential reinforcers may include social interaction (e.g., praise, high fives), physical interaction (e.g., tickles, hugs), access to preferred items (e.g., toys, snacks), or breaks from work.

  REPETITIVE BEHAVIORS

Repeating actions (rocking, spinning, hand-flapping), speech (repeating the same sound or words), or activities (lining up cars, opening and closing doors) often seen in children with ASD. Often, these behaviors are restricted to a limited number of actions. These behaviors may be “self-stimulatory.”

RETHINK

An innovative web-based curriculum aimed at empowering parents and teachers with the tools necessary to teach children with autism. The curriculum provides video demonstrations of ABA-based teaching interactions.

Back to Top   SCREENING TEST OR TOOL

An assessment tool (such as ADI-R, ADOS-G, CARS and CHAT) designed to identify children who are at risk for having or developing a developmental delay.

  SEIT

Special Education Itinerant Teacher. An aide assigned to help a child in the classroom by giving them individualized attention and support.

SELF-INJURIOUS BEHAVIOR

Behavior that is harmful to oneself, including head banging, scratching and biting.

  SELF-STIMULATORY BEHAVIOR

Abnormal, repetitive body movements or repetitive movement of objects. Often called “stimming” by parents because the behavior appears to be “self-stimulatory.” Examples include: flapping hands, repeating sounds, staring at lights or fans, blinking, wiggling fingers in front of eyes, rubbing surfaces, rocking, spinning, placing unusual objects in mouth, and smelling or sniffing objects.

  SHADOW

See SEIT

  SPEECH THERAPIST

Assess deficits in speech, language and cognitive-communication. Works with children to improve these skills.

STIMMING

See SELF-STIMULATORY BEHAVIOR.

Back to Top   TACT

A tact is a verbal operant that comes under the control of a particular object or event or property of a particular object or event (e.g., labeling a “ball” when you see a ball).

THEORY OF MIND (TOM)

The capacity to understand that others have different beliefs, desires and feelings than our own. (i.e. seeing things from another person’s point of view).

TREATMENT PLAN

A document that details a patient’s course of therapy.

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