Abduction — the outward movement of a limb away from the body

Absence Seizures — sudden brief loss of consciousness with rapid recovery. They are usually associated with staring and repetitive eye blinking. Also know as petit mal seizures.

Accessibility — the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible.

Accommodations — removing obstacles that impede accessibility, thereby helping a person with disabilities function and participate in a typical environment.

Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) — the use of non-verbal techniques to communicate. Can include sign language, gestures, pictures, or a computerized device.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — a federal law that prohibits discrimination of the disabled by employers, public accommodations, public and private services, and in telecommunications. Failure to make reasonable accommodations is considered discrimination.

Adaptive behavior — the ability to adjust to new situations, tasks, environments, people, and objects. Also to learn new adaptive skills and apply them to other situations.

Adaptive equipment — physical props or supports to aid those with special needs. (i.e. corner chair, prone board, etc)

Adduction — the inward movement of a limb towards the body.

Advocacy — speaking on behalf of a person, cause, or group to support or promote their actions.

AFO (Ankle Foot Orthoses) — A partial leg brace made of lightweight plastic that is worn inside the shoe and ends at the calf.

Ambloyopia — also known as lazy eye – the loss or lack of development of central vision in one eye.

Ambulatory — the ability to walk

Anat Baniel Method (ABM) — see therapy section

Anomaly — departure from what is considered typical

Anticonvulsant (or Antieplieptic drug AED) — A drug used to control seizures

Articulation — the ability to move and control all parts of the mouth to make the sounds of a language.

Aspirate — to suck or draw in food or liquids into the lungs by inhaling. Children with CP often swallow improperly while drinking and getting a small portion in the lungs. Drinking through a straw helps prevent aspiration, as does thickening the liquid, or limiting the amount of each sip or bite.

Assessment — or evaluation – the process of determining a person’s developmental strengths and weaknesses by observation and testing by a team of professionals and parents.

Astigmatism — blurry vision due to either the irregular shape of the cornea, the clear front cover of the eye, or sometimes the curvataure of the lens inside the eye.

Asymmetrical — lacking symmetry- i.e. when one side of the body is different from the other.

ATA-Assistive Technology Act — An act which seeks to provide assistive technology to persons with disablilties so they can more fully participate in education, employment, and daily activities on a level playing field with other members of their communities.

Ataxic — unbalanced gait due to damage in the cerebellum

Athetoid — uncontrolled writhing movements

Atonic — lack of normal muscle tissue

Atonic (akinetic) seizure — seizure characterized by sudden loss of muscle tone.

Atrophy — to deteriorate or progressively weaken, refers to muscle tissue in children with CP

Auditory processing — being able to understand individual speech sounds quickly enough to comprehend the meaning of what is being spoken.

Augmentative communication — see AAC

Aura — a feeling or behavior that often precedes a seizure

Authentic behavior —based on the work of pediatrician Emmi Pikler and childhood educator Madga Gerber, this term refers to the child behaving and interacting with her environment in a genuine, honest, self-directed manner. This is opposed to performing or behaving a certain way in order to receive a desired response. The parent is encouraged to support the child’s authenticity as long as it does not harm another individual.

Autonomic Seizures — seizures accompanied by fear, anxiety, rapid heart beat. They often results in dilation of the pupils, paleness, flushing, and sweating.

Bilateral — relating to both sides

Botox – a medication made from the botulism toxin that is injected into stiff muscle groups to reduce stiffness

Brain plasticity — see Neuroplasticity

Brain stem — small portion of the brain located between the cerebellum and the spinal cord

Case manager — person responsible for coordinating services and information from a multidisciplinary team

Central nervous system — the brain and spinal cord. It mainly controls voluntary movement and thought processes.

Cerebellum — lower smaller portion of the brain that coordinates balance and muscle activity

Cerebral Palsy — click here

Cerebrospinal fluid — a clear liquid that constantly surrounds the spinal cord and flows through the ventricles of the brain. It acts as a protective cushion and nourishes the areas it surrounds.

Chroreoathetosis — a type of Cerebral Palsy that results in a variety of muscle tone and involuntary movements of the limbs.

Clonus — fast alternating relaxation and contraction of the muscles caused by spastic muscles.

Cognition — the ability to process and understand the surrounding environment (thinking)

Combat crawling — crawling while on stomach and using mostly your arms to pull the rest of the body forward

Complex partial seizures — seizures that cause a lowering of alertness and changes in behavior

Conductive Education — see therapy section

Contracture — decreased joint mobility due to a shortening of muscle fibers

Convulsion — involuntary contractions of the muscles due to abnormal electrical activity of the brain

Cortical visual impairment (CVI)—Cortical visual impairment (CVI) is a neurological condition that is the leading cause of visual impairment of children in the US and the First World and is commonly seen in people with cerebral palsy (1. Good, Jan, Burden, Skoczenski, & Candy, 2001, p. 56.). It is not an eye condition. Resulting from damaged or malformed visual pathways and/or visual processing centers of the brain, CVI presents very differently than other types of visual impairment. Whereas a typical visual impairment can be diagnosed with an eye exam and vision testing, CVI often presents with a normal eye exam that does not explain the individual’s significant lack of visual function

Cranio-sacral therapy — see therapy section

CT scan — an imaging test using radiation to see structures within the body.  It involves being placed in a small tube.  Time of the test is usually less than 10 minutes.

Cue — also known as a prompt. It is a visual, auditory or physical action that reminds a person to perform a behavior or activity.

Developmental delay — any delay in physical, cognitive (processing info/thinking), social, emotional, communication, or adaptive (self-help skills) development.  It is typically used as a label under IDEA to qualify children between 3-9 for special education service. The percentage of delay to qualify for these services varies from state to state.

Developmental disability — an impairment of any developmental area, before age eighteen, that is expected to be substantial and continue indefinitely. Ex: autism, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation.

Developmental milestone — age categorized developmental goals based on typical growth and development. Ex: talking in simple sentences by age two, walking while holding onto a prop by 7 to 8 months, etc.

Developmental optometrist (vision therapist) —

Developmental Pediatrician — a pediatrician that specializes in developmental milestones and assessing normal or abnormal child development

Diazepam (Diastat) — a medicine inserted rectally to stop prolonged seizures. It is often given by parents at home when a seizure does not stop in a specific amount of time established between the physician and the parent.  The medicine is otherwise known as valium.

Differentiation — a discrimination between things as different and distinct Diplegia — a type of Cerebral Palsy that primarily produces spasticity of the legs

Discretionary trust — a trust in which the trustee (the person responsible for governing the trust) has the authority to use or not use the funds for any purpose as long as it is used only for the beneficiary.

DME-stands for “durable medical equipment” which is supportive medical equipment used to improve the quality of life and independence of the user. Examples include wheelchairs, bathing chairs, standers etc..

Dynamic Stander —a type of durable medical equipment that supports the user in a standing position but it also has wheels that enable the user to move himself through space.

Dyskinesia — difficulty with sequencing and planning movements

Dystonia — slow, twisting, rhythmic movements

Early intervention — therapy and family instruction provided for children ages birth to three years old that is intended to minimize presentation of developmental delay.

Early interventionist — A person who arranges for a therapist to come to the house or meet at the family at a facility for treatment, provides family training to have the family incorporate practical ideas to improve child’s development in-between therapy sessions, and arranges for bi-yearly and yearly assessments and IEP updates.

EEG-Electroencephalograpm — a test that charts the level of electrical discharge from nerve cells in the brain.  It is used to test for abnormal brain/seizure activity.

Epilepsy — a recurring condition where the brain produces abnormal electrical discharges that causes seizures

Eye Patching — placing a patch over a child’s better eye to promote use of the weak eye

Equilibrium — a child’s sense or actual physical balance

Expressive language — verbal, written, or use of gestures to communicate

Extension — straightening the limbs or trunk.

Febrile Seizures — a generalized tonic-clonic (or grand mal) seizure brought on by sudden rise of body temperatures to 102 or higher. It is most common in children under age six. Duration is often less than five minutes.

Feeding tube — a tube of soft plastic used in feeding for those who have difficulty getting enough nutrition through regular eating.

Feldenkrais — see therapy section

Fine motor —using small muscle groups, such as face, hands, feet, fingers, toes. Fine motor skills include feeding, holding an object between thumb and fore finger (pincher grasp), turning/twisting, etc

Flexion — bending of joints

Floppy — loose movements and weak posture

Fluctuating tone — combination of loose and tight muscles in different areas

Flexor — a muscle controlling the bending of joints

Focal motor seizures — jerking of a few muscles without an immediate loss of consciousness

Form perception — the ability to recognize a pattern of parts making up a whole

G-therapy — see therapy section

Gag reflex — a reflex that can often be extra sensitive with those with Cerebral Palsy, to the point where the child may gag or choke when something touches their tongue or palate. Over sensitization of the oral reflexes are often addressed by occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, or physical therapist.

Gait — the way (or manner) in which a child walks

Gait Trainer — a device that acts like a walker but with supports to stabilize the hips and ankles to encourage good posture and placement of feet and legs while walking.

Grand mal seizure — see Tonic clonic seizure

Gross motor — using large muscle groups, such as legs, arms, and abdomen.  Gross motor skills include transitioning between postures, standing, walking, running, jumping, etc.

Habilitation — teaching new skills to those with developmental delays

Handicapped — broad category for having any type of disability, such as, sensory impairments, behavioral disorders, mental disorders, physical impairments, or multiple handicaps.

Head control — the ability to control movement of the head.

Hemiplegia — a type of cerebral palsy where only the right or the left side is affected.

High tone — tightness, or spasticity, of the muscles.

Hippotherapy — also called equine therapy – the use of horseback riding to improve a child’s muscle movements and range of motion. See therapy section for more details.

Hydrocephalus — a blockage of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid that increases pressure in the ventricals of the brain. Can cause brain damage. Often relieved by surgical insertion of a tube called a shunt to drain the fluid.

Hyperplasia — excessive growth of tissue

Hypertonia — increased tension in the muscles, also known as high tone.

Hypotonia — decreased tension in the muscles, also known as low tone.

IDEA — Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. A federal law passed in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. Free and appropriate education means that every part of the special education program is provided by public funds or, if there is no suitable public program available, the school district will pay the cost for the child to attend a private program that addresses the necessary services. Keep in mind that it does not provide for educational services that are not approved by the school district or governing agency. Least restrictive environment (LRE) involves having the child with special needs be included in an age typical classroom as much as their disability will allow them.  This can range from being fully involved in the classroom with extra time allowances or an aide, having a limited amount of time in the classroom with the rest of their education taking place in a special needs class, or a self-contained class with no time in a typical classroom other than school activities (gym, lunch, assemblies, music, recess, etc.).  Which LRE is most suitable for your child is often determined at the IEP meeting.

IEP — Individualized Education Program. Once the child is determined to be eligible for services by the school district (can be as early as age three), a written plan is developed by involved therapists, school professionals, and the parents to create learning goals and determine how the school district will provide for them. An IEP is reviewed once a year; however, the parent can also initiate an IEP meeting besides the annual required meeting, if they feel that their child’s goals should be changed or aren’t being addressed properly.

IFSP — Individualized Family Service Plan.  Pertains to children three and younger. Usually set up by an early interventionist (EI). The family and the EI discuss areas of development that the child needs improvement on, set goals, and lists different methods to work on improving those areas. It is updated at least every six months.

Inclusion — being included or involved in a typical classroom as much as the child’s disability will allow (see also least restrictive environment under IDEA).

Incontinence — lack of control of bladder or bowel movements.

Infantile cerebral palsy—

Infantile myoclonic seizures — sudden, short, involuntary muscle contractions in one or more muscle groups. Also known as jackknife seizures. Can last for a few seconds and can occur several times throughout the day.

Inhibition — movements and positioning which discourage muscle tightness.

Input — information received through any of the five senses that can be used to learn new skills.

Intellectual Disability- — a child who, before eighteen, has below average intellectual functioning and self-help behavior.

Interdisciplinary team — a team of professionals from varying fields (teacher, therapists, doctors) who evaluate a child and then develop a summary of the child’s abilities, progress, and needs in each of their areas of expertise to get a total picture of each area of the child’s life.

Intracerebral — within the brain

Intracranial — within the skull

Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy — a treatment for muscle spasticity. A small pump is inserted under the skin to release small amounts of the medication, baclofen, into the spinal fluid.

In utero — literally in the uterus, referring to the period during fetal development.

Involuntary movements — uncontrolled movements.

KAFO — (Knee Ankle Foot Orthoses) a long plastic leg brace, which supports the whole leg, and hinges at the knee.

Ketogenic diet — a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates and protein. Sometimes used to help prevent seizures.

Learned Helplessness — a psychological term used to describe people who have been in a situation where they cannot help themselves for a long amount of time or who have been told repeatedly they can’t do something. These people develop an attitude of helplessness that extends past the initial situation and instead of trying to do or learn a new skill later on in life, immediately give up because they assume they aren’t able to perform the task.

Learning disability — a child with normal intelligence who has difficulty processing certain types of information.

Least restrictive environment — allowing a special needs child to be made part of a regular school to the fullest extent possible

Low tone — decreased muscle tone.

Lower extremities — legs.

Mainstreaming — incorporating a child with special needs into a typical classroom. (see also inclusion)

Medicaid — a state and federal program that offers medical assistance for those eligible to receive Supplementary Security Income (SSI).

Midline — an imaginary reference line separating the right side of the body from the left. Most often used in doctor’s and therapy notes

Monoplegia — a type of cerebral palsy where only one limb is affected.

Motor — ability to move oneself

Motor delay — slower development of movement skills

Motor patterns — the way body and limbs work to make a sequenced movement, such as crawling

Motor planning — The ability to think through and carry out a physical task

MRI — Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Use of electromagnetic forces to make an image of the inside of a body

Muscle tone — the amount of resistance or tension to a movement in a muscle

Multihandicapped — Having more than one disability.

NAEYC — The National Association for the Education of Young Children

NCLB — No Child Left Behind

Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT) — see therapy section

Neurologist — a physician who specializes in disorders of the nervous system

Neuromotor — involving the nerves and muscles.

Neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections

Neurotransmitter — chemical substances in the brain that are used between nerve cells to carry, or transmit, signals from one nerve to another.

NICHCY —NationalDisseminationCenter for Children with Disabilities.  A central source of information on children with disabilities.

NICU — Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  A unit in the hospital designed to care for premature babies or babies born with urgent medical conditions.

Occupational therapist (OT) — therapists that help children and adults participate in the things they want and need through the use of everyday activities.

Optometrist — a doctor of optometry who studies and treats disorders of the eyes, vision, and surrounding tissues.  Not a medical doctor.

Orthopedic — relating to the joints, ligaments, bones, and muscles.

Orthopedist vs. Podiatrist — an orthopedist is a doctor who specializes in preventing or correcting problems related to the joints, ligaments, bones and muscles, whereas a podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in preventing or correcting problems related to the feet.

Orthopedic Disability/Handicap — an impairment that affects the bones, muscles, or joints as well as the ability to perform in other developmental areas. This particular label can be used for children with cerebral palsy to get special education services.

Orthotics — lightweight devices that provide stability at the joints or passively stretch the muscles. Can be made of plastic, metal, or leather.

Orthotist — a specialized professional who creates, measures, and fits orthotics

Osteotomy — an operation to cut and realign the bones. Ex: to change the angles of the femoral bone and the hip joint.

Parent Advocate —a parent with knowledge and/or training about special education law and who provides advocacy support to fellow parents facing obstacles obtaining an education and related accommodations for his/her child.

Parent to parent organization —an organization staffed by parents who provide support and resources to other parents facing similar challenges raising their children.

Patching- see Eye patching

Petit mal seizures — see absence seizures

Physical therapist (PT) — a therapist who assesses and treats problems relating to gross motor skills, such as sitting up without support, crawling, walking, etc.

Psychomotor (Temporal Lobe) Seizures — decreased alertness and changes in behavior, such as: visual or auditory sensations, hallucinations, and inappropriate behavior (i.e. smacking lips, rising out of a chair, chewing, picking at clothes, etc). Duration can be from a few seconds to several minutes.

Pommel — a support between the legs

Postictal — a period of time after a seizure when a person may be confused, sleepy, or unresponsive

Postpartum Doula — a trained professional who helps the mother do what ever is necessary to help her enjoy and care for her new baby.

Posture — positioning or alignment of the body

PPEC — (Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care) Centers chich allow Medicaid eligible children with medically-complex conditions to received continual medical care in a non-residential setting.

Pragmatics — understanding how and why language is used

Primitive reflexes — early patterns of movement in a child that usually disappear after about six months of age

Quadriplegia — A type of cerebral palsy where the whole body is affected

Rage of motion (ROM) — the degree of motion present at a joint.

Reasonable accomodation — efforts made to remove obstacles that prevent handicapped accessibility but don’t result in an unreasonable financial burden, such providing a ramp to the entrance of a building.

Receptive language — the ability to understand what is written or being said

Reflex — an involuntary movement in response to stimulation such as touch, pressure or joint movement

RIE parenting — an approach founded by educator Magda Gerber which honors infants and children as equal members in relationships.

Reinforcement — providing a pleasant consequence (such as getting to do favorite activity or eat favorite food) or removing an unpleasant consequence (such as a chore or a punishment that was in place) after a behavior in order to increase or maintain that behavior

Respite care — publicly funded skilled care and supervision of a person with disabilities in the family’s or caregiver’s home. It is usually available for several hours per week or for overnight stay.

Rhizotomy, Selective dorsal — a neurosurgical procedure involving cutting nerves in the spine to reduce tightness in muscle groups.

Rigidity — extremely high muscle tone in any position with very limited movements.

Scoliosis — curvature of the spine

Seizure — abnormal bursts of electricity in the brain resulting in changes in behavior, consciousness, and involuntary movement. They can be categorized as partial or generalized. A partial seizure only effects one area or one side of the brain. Several different types of partial seizures include: Focal Motor (simple partial), Sensory, Autonomic, and Psychomotor (temporal lobe) Seizures. Generalized seizures are where both sides of the brain are effected. Several different types of generalized seizures are: Absence (petit mal), Tonic-Clonic (grand mal), Infantile Myoclonic (infantile or jackknife), Febrile, and Atonic (Akinetic) Seizures.

Sensory Integration– is the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and the environment, thus making it possible to use the body effectively within the environment. Specifically, it deals with how the brain processes multiple sensory modality inputs into usable functional outputs. (taken in part from Wikipedia)

Sensory Seizures — disturbances in vision, taste, hearing, smell, or touch. Visual and auditory hallucinations as well as dizziness are common.

Service coordinator — a professional who arranges services for a person with special needs. These services can be medical, therapeutic, educational, material goods or even social in nature. The service coordinator usually does not provide these resources themselves but connects the client with an organization or person that does. Most typically associated with early intervention but other organizations provide service coordination as well.

Shunt — a device used to drain excess spinal fluid from the brain for those with hydrocephalus

Side sitting — sitting with both knees bent and to one side of the body

Scissoring — crossing of the legs together when standing, being held upright, or walking.

Spastic — having stiff muscles that impede movement.

Speech therapist —

Special education — specialized instruction based on educational disabilities determined by a team evaluation. It must be relevant to their educational needs and adapted to the child’s learning style.

Special needs — needs generated by a person’s disability

Special needs trust — click here

SSDI or Social Security Disability Insurance— Money that has been paid into the Social Security system through payroll deduction on earnings. These benefits can be paid to people who have become disabled before the age of twenty two, who can collect under a parents account if the parent is retired, disabled, or deceased, and disabled workers.

SSI or Supplemental Security Income– funds available for elderly or those with disabilities with low income. Eligibility is determined by financial need not on past earnings.

Strabismus — a disorder where the eyes do not line up in the same direction

Subluxation — partial dislocation of any joint. Ex: when the ball of that connects with the hip socket slowly pulls partially out of position.

Swash brace — a special brace that helps kids with CP walk without scissoring the legs

Tonic-clonic seizure — a seizure characterized by rhythmic jerking of the arms, legs, and/or head. The spasms can last from one to several minutes and become slower and less extensive throughout the duration of the seizure. Symptoms also can include trouble breathing, drooling, bluish discoloration around the mouth, and loss of bladder control, followed by exhaustion and confusion when the seizure has stopped.

Unilateral — one-sided

W-Sitting — sitting on your bottom with knee bent and feet pointed out to either side of the hips.  Click here for an interesting article which offers a new perspective on the often frowned upon “W-Sit”.