abductionmoving the limbs away from the body

adaptive developmentdevelopment of the child in comparison to other children the same age. This might include the child's ability to dress himself, feed himself, toilet training, how he/she plays with other children, how he/she plays alone, understanding dangers in crossing the street, how he/she behaves if mother leaves the room, etc.

ADA-Americans With Disabilities Acta civil rights law passed in 1990 that does not allow discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public service, and public accommodations

adaptive behaviorthe individuals ability to act appropriately in social situations and to take care of their personal needs

adaptive physical educationphysical education programs specified to meet the needs of special education students

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)student exhibits poor attention, distractibility, impulsitivity, and hyperactivity

age normsthe average performance of an individual in various age groups

advocatesomeone who takes action to help someone else (as in "educational advocate"); also, to take action on someone's behalf

amblyopiathe child does not use her eyesight in one eye (lazy eye)

amendmenta change, revision, or addition made to a law

anoxiaa lack of oxygen to tissues which causes cell death or damage

annual goalsyearly goals documented in the Individualized Education Plan

appeala written request for a change in a decision; also, to make such a request

appropriateable to meet a need; suitable or fitting; in special education, it usually means the most normal situation possible

apraxiadifficulty controlling voluntary muscular movements with usually no motor impairment

anxietyA feeling of panic which may cause palpitations, sweating, and increased pulse rate

articulation disordersdifficulty with the production of speech sounds

assessmenta collecting and bringing together of information about a child's needs, which may include social, psychological, and educational evaluations used to determine services; a process using observation, testing, and test analysis to determine an individual's strengths and weaknesses in order to plan his or her educational services

assessment teama team of people from different backgrounds who observe and test a child to determine his or her strengths and weaknesses

asthmaa breathing disorder

astigmatismblurred vision caused by uneven curvature of lens or cornea

asymmetricalone side of the body is different from the other

ataxicpoor balance

athetoidunwanted jerky repetitive movements

at riska term used with children who have, or could have, problems with their development that may affect later learning

atrophydegeneration of the muscles

audiogramthe written results in a graph form of a hearing test

audiologista specialist that tests and remediates hearing problems

auditory discriminationthe ability to detect differences in sounds

augmentative communicationspecial devices that provide an alternative for spoken language


baselinethe current level the child is functioning at before instruction

bilateralaffects both sides of the body

Braillea pattern of raised dots that are felt with fingers to help the blind read


categorizationthe ability to sort objects by function, color, size, group, etc.

cause and effectthe ability to understand that a specific actions can make something happen

cataractloss of vision due to a cloudy lens

Child Finda service directed by each state's Department of Education or lead agency for identifying and diagnosing unserved children with disabilities; while Child Find looks for all unserved children, it makes a special effort to identify children from birth to six years old

central nervous systemthe nerves that travel along the spinal cord to and from the brain

cerebral palsya disorder of the central nervous system which affects muscle movement

cleft palatean opening in the roof of the mouth

cognitivea term that describes the process people use for remembering, reasoning, understanding, and using judgment; in special education terms, a cognitive disability refers to difficulty in learning

compulsiona repetitive act that an individual can not consciously control

comprehensive service systemrefers to a list of 14 areas each participating state is to provide under early intervention services. These 14 points range from definition of developmentally delayed, to guidelines for identification, assessment, and provision of early intervention services for the child and family, and include timelines and quality control

conductive hearing lossa temporary or permanent hearing loss which occurs when something interferes with the passage of sound to the inner ear

confabulationa person replaces memory loss by a fantasy

congenitala condition that is present at birth

counselingadvice or help given by someone qualified to give such advice or help (often psychological counseling)

criterion referenced testchild is evaluated according to own performance, not in comparison to others


defense mechanismways an individual protects himself from emotions that are too uncomfortable

deficita level of performance lower than expected for a child

delusionthe person has an irrational belief that is associated with paranoia

developmentalhaving to do with the steps or stages in growth and development before the age of 18 years

developmental disabilitya condition that prevents a child from developing normally and often results in mental retardation or autism

developmental historythe developmental progress of a child (ages birth to 18 years) in such skills as sitting, walking, talking, or learning

developmental testsstandardized tests that measure a child's development as it compares to the development of all other children at that age

developmentally delayeda child who acquires skills after the expected age

diagnosisthe problem identified after an evaluation

disabilitythe result of any physical or mental condition that affects or prevents one's ability to develop, achieve, and/or function in an educational setting at a normal rate

down's syndromea child born with chromosomal abnormalities which often results in mental retardation

due process (procedure)action that protects a person's rights; in special education, this applies to action taken to protect the educational rights of students with disabilities

dyscalculiaa learning disability in which a child is unable to do math problems

dysfluencya break in the smooth flow of speech, stuttering

dysgraphiaa learning disability which impairs the child's ability to write

dyslexialearning disability which impairs the child's reading ability

early interventionistsomeone who specializes in early childhood development, usually having a Master's degree or Ph.D. in an area related to the development of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers


early intervention policiessee policy/policies

early intervention services or programsprograms or services designed to identify and treat a developmental problem as early as possible, before age 3 (services for 3-5 year olds are referred to as preschool services)

echolaliathe child echoes what ever is spoken

eligibleable to qualify

electroencephalogram (EEG)it measures the output of the brain

epilepsya brain disorder characterized by seizures or convulsions


etiologythe cause

evaluation(as applied to children from birth through two years of age) the procedures used to determine if a child is eligible for early intervention services; (as applied to preschool and school-aged children) the procedures used to determine whether a child has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services the child needs


fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)child may be born with low birth weight, severe retardation and physical problems due to mother drinking alcohol while pregnant

fine motorhand and finger small muscle movement

free appropriate public education [often referred to as FAPE]one of the key requirements of IDEA, which requires that an education program be provided for all school-aged children (regardless of disability) without cost to families; the exact requirements of "appropriate" are not defined, but other references within the law imply the most "normal" setting available


gait patternwalking pattern

grandmal seizuresevere epileptic seizure which often results in a loss of consciousness

gross motorcoordinated movements of all body parts


handicapsee disability

hemiplegiaparalysis on one side of the body

homebound instructiona teacher provided to students unable to attend school

hydrocephalusenlargement of the head resulting from excess cerebral spinal fluid in the brain

hyperactivityexcessive motor activity or restlessness

hyperopiafarsightedness-difficulty seeing near objects

hypertonicityincreased muscle tone

hypotonicitydecreased muscle tone


identificationthe process of locating and identifying children needing special services

inclusiondisabled children receive services in their home school and are placed in the same classroom with non-handicapped children

Individualized Education Program (IEP)a written education plan for a school-aged child with disabilities developed by a team of professionals (teachers, therapists, etc.) and the child's parents; it is reviewed and updated yearly and describes how the child is presently doing, what the child's learning needs are, and what services the child will need; (For children ages birth through 2 years, the IFSP is used.)

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)a written statement for an infant or toddler (ages birth through 2 years old) developed by a team of people who have worked with the child and the family; the IFSP must describe the child's development levels; family information; major outcomes expected to be achieved for the child and family; the services the child will be receiving; when and where the child will receive these services; and the steps to be taken to support the transition of the child to another program; the IFSP will also list the name of the service coordinator assigned to the child and his/her family

interdisciplinary teamvarious individuals from different disciplines that assess children's needs


juvenile diabetesexcessive sugar in the child's blood and urine which could cause visual impairments, coma, limb amputation, and death if untreated



language impairmentdifficulty understanding and/or using language

lead agencythe agency (office) within a state or territory in charge of overseeing and coordinating service systems for children ages birth through 2

learning disabilitya child with average or above average potential has difficulty learning in one or more areas (such as reading or math) and exhibits a severe discrepancy between their ability and achievement

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)an educational setting or program that provides a student with disabilities with the chance to work and learn to the best of his or her ability; it also provides the student as much contact as possible with children without disabilities, while meeting all of the child's learning needs and physical requirements

legally blinda visual field which is not greater than 20 degrees or visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye after correction

light perceptionability to detect presence or absence of light

light projectionability to tell where light is coming from

low visionimpaired vision but individual is able to read print with or without magnification devices


mainstreamingsome or all of the child's day is spent in a regular classroom

mental agethe level of intellectual functioning based on the average for children of the same chronological age

mental retardationthe child's intellectual level is measured below the average range usually below 70 on IQ tests

microcephalydevelopment of a small head with retardation usually occurring

motor developmentthe ability to move effectively within the environment

muscle tonethe amount of tension in the muscles at rest

multidisciplinarya team approach involving specialists in more than one discipline, such as a team made up of a physical therapist, a speech and language pathologist, a child development specialist, an occupational therapist, or other specialists as needed

multiple sclerosisdegeneration of the central nervous system due to a progressive deterioration of the protective sheath surrounding the nerves

myopianearsightedness-blurred vision with distant objects harder to see than near objects

muscular dystrophydestroys muscle tissue which leads to a progressive deterioration of the body


native languagethe child's primary language

neologismsa child makes up words that only have meaning to them

neonatalperiod between onset of labor and several months after birth

norm referenced testsa child's performance is compared to others the same age

nystagmusjerking of the eyes that can't be controlled


object permanencethe child is aware that an object still exists even when it is taken away

obsessionsa thought or action that a person does over and over again

occupational therapya therapy or treatment provided by an occupational therapist that helps individual developmental or physical skills that will aid in daily living; it focuses on sensory integration, on coordination of movement, and on fine motor and self-help skills, such as dressing, eating with a fork and spoon, etc.

opthalmologista medical doctor that deals with diseases and conditions of the eye

optometristexamines eyes and prescribes corrective lenses

orientation and mobility specialista certified teacher specializing in teaching the visually impaired to travel safely and efficiently

otitis mediamiddle ear infection

otolaryngologistan ear, nose and throat doctor


panic attacksymptoms of anxiety with no medical cause such as dizziness, palpitations, nausea etc.

paralysiscomplete or partial loss of feeling or movement

paranoiathe person is extremely suspicious of others

paraplegiathe lower half of the body is paralyzed

parent training and information programsprograms that provide information to parents of children with special needs about acquiring services, working with schools and educators to ensure the most effective educational placement for their child, understanding the methods of testing and evaluating a child with special needs, and making informed decisions about their child's special needs

partially sightedindividuals have sufficient vision to read print

perinatalthe period of time at or immediately following birth

perseverationrepeating an activity to an extreme that it interferes with other activities

petit mal seizuresa mild form of epilepsy with momentary lapse of consciousness

phobiaan irrational fear of something

physical therapytreatment of (physical) disabilities given by a trained physical therapist (under doctor's orders) that includes the use of massage, exercise, etc. to help the person improve the use of bones, muscles, joints, and nerves

placementthe classroom, program, service, and/or therapy that is selected for a student with special needs

policy/policiesrules and regulations; as related to early intervention and special education programs, the rules that a state or local school system has for providing services for and educating its students with special needs

postnatalperiod of time after birth

prenatalperiod of time before birth

private agencya non-public agency which may be receiving public funds to provide services for some children

private therapistany professional (therapist, tutor, psychologist, etc.) not connected with the public school system or with a public agency

program(s)in special education, a service, placement, and/or therapy designed to help a child with special needs

prosthesisartificial device that replaces a missing body part

psychologista specialist in the field of psychology, usually having a Master's degree or Ph.D. in psychology

psychosisperson has difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality

public agencyan agency, office, or organization that is supported by public funds and serves the community at large

Public Law (P.L.) 94-142a law passed in 1975 requiring that public schools provide a "free appropriate public education" to school-aged children ages 3-21 (exact ages depend on your state's mandate), regardless of disabling condition; also called the Education For All Handicapped Children Act, with recent amendments now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Public Law (P.L.) 102-119passed in 1991, this is an amendment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires states and territories to provide a "free appropriate public education" to all children ages 3-21; and provides funds for states and territories to plan a comprehensive service system for infants and toddlers (ages birth through 2 years) with disabilities


quadriplegiaall limbs are paralyzed


range of motionthe amount a person is able to move their joints and limbs

receptive languagethe understanding of spoken and written communication as well as gestures

related servicestransportation and developmental, corrective, and other support services that a child with disabilities requires in order to benefit from education; examples of related services include: speech pathology and audiology, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, counseling services, interpreters for the hearing impaired, and medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes

resource rooma room that serves the children's needs to learn specific skills within the least restrictive environment for part of the day


seizurea temporary burst of abnormal electrical activity in the brain

self contained classa classroom specifically for special education students

sensorineural hearing lossa hearing impairment that is usually permanent results when the inner ear or nerves which carry the sound waves to the brain are damaged

service coordinatorsomeone who acts as a coordinator of an infant's or toddler's services, working in partnership with the family and providers of special programs; service coordinators may be employed by the early intervention agency

services/service deliverythe services (therapies, instruction, treatment) given to a child with special needs

sign languageusing gestures instead of spoken words to communicate

spasticitytense contracted muscles usually seen in people with cerebral palsy

special educationsee special education programs and services

special education coordinatorthe person in charge of special education programs at the school, district, or state level

special education programs/servicesprograms, services, or specially designed instruction (offered at no cost to families) for children over 3 years old with special needs who are found eligible for such services; these include special learning methods or materials in the regular classroom, and special classes and programs if the learning or physical problems indicate this type of program

special needs(as in "special needs" child) - a term to describe a child who has disabilities or who is at risk of developing disabilities and who, therefore, requires special services or treatment in order to progress

speech/language pathologista person qualified to diagnose and treat speech and language disorders

speech/language pathologya planned program to improve and/or correct communication problems

spina bifidachild is born with an open vertebrae in the spinal column

stutteringdisturbance in the fluency of speech

strabismuscrossed eyes


tactile defensivenesschild overreacts or avoids any kind of touch

tremorconsistent and uncontrolled movements usually seen in people with cerebral palsy

total communicationeducating deaf students with a combination of speech and sign language



vision specialista certified teacher who specializes in meeting the needs of children with visual impairment

visual discriminationability to detect differences in objects, forms, letters or words

visual impairmenteyesight which cannot be corrected to normal

visual memorythe ability to remember visual stimuli by significant features on a short and long term basis

vocal abuse

screaming, yelling or overuse of the vocal folds

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