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.

Administrative Hearing - A formal process with a neutral person, a hearings officer, who listens to the evidence and arguments of the parents/family and the agencies and decides who is right and who must do what.

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.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) - Applied behavior analysis 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.

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.

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 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.

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 Disabilities Administration (DDA) - This Maryland agency funds services to people with mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy and related disabilities. (This description is based on the State definition of developmental disability, which is used to determine who receives particular services through DDA funds.)

Developmentally appropriate intervention - Teaching of skills acquisition is targeted at the child's current developmental level, looking at the child's current abilities across developmental domains (communication, social, cognitive, adaptive behavior, fine motor, gross motor). This practice relies upon principles of child development, with the expectation that skills acquisition typically occurs in a predictable sequence, even though the rate at which individual children learn may vary. For instance, it is generally expected that children will learn to use one or two word sentences before they will progress to three or four word sentences.

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.

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

Evaluation - Procedures used by qualified professionals to determine a child’s initial and continuing eligibility which focus on determining the status of the infant or toddler in all of the developmental areas: cognitive, social/emotional, physical (including vision and hearing), communication, and adaptive.

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

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.

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.

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

IFSP - The abbreviation for Individualized Family Service Plan for children under three years of age. See Individualized Family Service 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.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) - A written plan describing the infant�s current level of development; the family�s strengths and needs related to enhancement of the infant�s or toddler�s development; goals for the infant and the other family members (as applicable), including the criteria, procedures and time lines used to evaluate progress (the IFSP should be evaluated and adjusted at least once a year and reviewed at least every six months); and the specific early intervention services needed to meet the goals (including the frequency and intensity and method of delivering services, the projected date of initiating services and the anticipated duration of services). The IFSP is developed and implemented by the child�s parents and a multidisciplinary early intervention team (IFSP Team). The name of the person > responsible for implementation of the IFSP, the case manager, should be listed on the IFSP. If it is likely at age three that the child will require special education services, a transition plan should also be stated in the IFSP. The Individualized Family Service Plan is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for all infants receiving early intervention services. Refer to Early Intervention.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - A federal law passed in 1997 that reauthorizes and amends the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142). Part C of the law focuses on services to infants and toddlers who are at-risk or have developmental disabilities.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) - The educational setting that permits a child with disabilities to derive the most educational benefit while participating in a regular educational environment to the maximum extent appropriate. It is presumed that a child with a disability will be educated in the general education classroom, with appropriate supports, unless the IEP Team deems another setting as more appropriate. LRE is a requirement under the IDEA.

Mediation - An informal process in which a trained impartial person may help parties in conflict resolve their differences and find a solution satisfactory to all sides.

Medically Fragile - Referring to an infant or child whose health status either is unstable or renders him at risk for developmental delay, often due to poor health.

Mental Retardation - According to the American Association on Mental Retardation, �Mental retardation refers to substantial limitations in present functioning. It is characterized by significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with related limitations in two or more of the following applicable adaptive skill areas: communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics, leisure and work.� In other words, someone with mental retardation performs significantly below his age level in both intellectual functioning (intelligence) and adaptive behavior. Mental retardation is the most common developmental disorder, affecting about two to three percent of the total population.

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.

Multidisciplinary - The involvement of two or more disciplines or professions in the provision of integrated and coordinated services including evaluation and assessment activities, and the development of the IFSP.

Natural Environments - Settings that are natural or normal for the child’s age peers who have no disability. This may include the home, neighborhood, or community settings. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.