Spectrum Warriors: Life Through The Autism Spectrum


Bellow you will find a detailed list of terms that you will or have come across on your journey through Autism.

ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis): A method often used to treat children with autism spectrum disorders in which environmental stimuli are manipulated in order to produce a desired response. By breaking complex skills into small steps, children can systemically learn to respond and behave in socially appropriate ways.

Asperger’s Syndrome: An autism spectrum disorder characterized by average to above-average cognitive function, deficits in communication and social language (pragmatics) and, sometimes, a limited range of interests or obsessive interest in a particular topic, such as weather, train schedules or car models.

Auditory memory: The ability to receive information presented orally, and to interpret, store, and retrieve it.

Autism: A condition marked by developmental delay in social skills, language, and behavior which is often present in children with varying degrees of severity.

Baseline: The congenital level of function by a child before instruction is introduced.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Encompasses the following five disorders: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not otherwise specified.

Behavior Modification: The use of empirically demonstrated behavior change techniques aimed to improve behaviors.

Behavioral Therapy: The systematic application of behavioral theory, including the use of conditioning and reinforcements, in the treatment of a disorder.

Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS): A test developed at TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-handicapped Children) to diagnose autism. A child is rated in fifteen areas of ability.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: A rare form of pervasive developmental disorder in which normally developing children suddenly lose language and social skills after age three.

Cognitive Ability: An individual’s intellectual ability or the aggregate skills of knowing and understanding.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A treatment approach combining cognitive theory and behavioral concepts, leading to behavioral changes through the understanding of how thoughts influence behaviors and learning how to change through patterns.

Congenital condition: A condition existing at birth.

Developmental Delay: A slower rate of developmenl in comparison to the majority of children of the same age.

Developmental Disability (DD): A condition that prevents physical or cognitive development.

Developmental Milestone: The acquisition of a skill that is associated with a certain age, e.g. sitting up; saying first words.

Dyspraxia: The brain’s inability to plan muscle movements and carry them out.

Echolalia: The involuntary and usually meaningless repetition of phrases or words just heard.

Electroencephalogram (EEG): The recording of electrical impulses in the brain that can be used to diagnose some neurological conditions, such as seizures.

Expressive Language: Any spoken language, vocalizations, gestures or other means by which a person is able to communicate.

Fine motor skills: The use of one’s hands for manipulating objects and performing activities.

Functional Behavioral Assessment: A process based largely on observation in which problem behaviors are addressed and analyzed.  Causes and functions of the behavior are identified. Then a behavior intervention plan (BIP) based on a specific, individualized profile is developed and, ideally, implemented across settings in order to minimize or stop inappropriate behaviors.

Gross Motor Skills: The use of one’s large muscles to move, such as walking, running, hopping and jumping.

High-functioning Autism (HFA): Although not officially recognized as a diagnostic category, HFA refers to individuals with ASDs who have near-average to above-average cognitive abilities and can communicate through receptive and expressive language.

Hypersensitivity: Excessive, often painful reaction to everyday auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli such as bright lights or loud noises.

Hypertonia: Increased tension or stiffness in the muscles.

Hyposensitivity: A marked absence of reaction to everyday stimuli.

Hypotonia: Decreased tension or floppiness in the muscles.

Inclusion: The concept that students with disabilities should be integrated with their non-disabled peers; also referred to as mainstreaming.

Incontinence: Lack of bladder or bowel control.

Individual Transition Plan (ITP): A plan to facilitate the transfer of a student from one setting to another, such as a different classroom or school.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP): An educational plan that outlines special education and related services specifically designed to meet the educational needs of student with a disability.

Learning Disability: Difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaker, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities.

Mainstreaming: The concept that students with disabilities should be integrated with their non-disabled peers. (Also referred to as inclusion).

Mental Age (MA): An assessment of intellectual functioning based on the average standard for children of the same chronological age.

Motor planning: The ability to think through and physically carry out a task.

Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD): A neurological condition characterized by strong verbal, memory, and reading skills and weaker visual-spatial, motor, and executive functioning as well as some challenges in social interactions.

Neuro-motor: A process involving both the nervous system and muscles.

Objectives: The intermediate steps in an IEP that must be taken to reach the annual goals.

Oral motor: A process involving the nerves and muscles in and around the mouth.

PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not otherwise specified): An autism spectrum disorder characterized by the presence of some, but not all the defining symptoms of autism

PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System): A means by which people use pictures to communicate their interests, needs, and spontaneous thoughts, ask and answer questions and schedule activities.

Performance I.Q.: The score derived from various non-verbal tests, such as visual-spatial activities and object assembly

Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD): The official classification for Autism Spectrum Disorders that is documented in the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  Included in this group are Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NSS).

Receptive Language: The comprehension of spoken and written communication and gestures.

Regression: The loss of skills that have already been learned.

Respite Care: Care provided by an individual or institution to a child with a disability so that the primary caretakers, usually the parents, can have a break. Sometimes respite care is funded by state agencies.

Rett’s Disorder: Features reduced head growth and usually profound cognitive delays. It is an extremely rare genetic disorder that only affects girls.

Self-help skills: Daily skills such as self-feeding, dressing, bathing, and other tasks that are necessary to maintain health and well-being.

Self-stimulatory behaviors: Also called stereotypy, and present in both autistic and neuro-typical individuals, these are repetitive body movements, such as flapping arms or rocking back and forth, or repetitive movements of objects, like spinning wheels or opening and closing doors.

Sensory Integration Therapy: A therapeutic approach that incorporates the use of sensory materials and physical input in order to help children increase focus, regulate moods and tolerate frustration and environmental change as well as reduce negative reactions to stimuli, such as noise, crowded spaces or textures of food or fabric.

Sensory Processing Disorder:  Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.

Sensorimotor: Activities that involve learning through movement and the senses.

Shaping: a way of adding behaviors to a person’s repertoire.  Shaping is used when the target behavior does not yet exist.  In shaping, what is reinforced is some approximation of the target behavior. Approximation means any behavior that resembles the desired behavior or takes the person closer to the desired behavior.  Successive approximations are steps toward the target behavior, the behavior you want to shape.

Special Education (SPED): Specialized and personalized instruction of a disabled child, designed in response to educational disabilities determined by an evaluation

Supported employment: Work done by people with cognitive, physical, or emotional challenges involving an adapted environment or additional support staff.

Tactile defensiveness: Extreme physical sensitivity to certain textures and sensations.

Theory of Mind: The cognitive ability to recognize that one’s feelings, perceptions, beliefs and desires differ from those of others.  Theory of Mind enables us to assign “state of mind” to others and react and respond to feelings.

Verbal I.Q.: The score resulting from various tests involving verbal tasks, such as understanding written material and answering general knowledge questions.

Visual Spatial Skills: Skills that are nonlinear, sequential and are dependent upon processing shapes, colors and pictures, rather than language.

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