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The purpose of this glossary (vocabulary list) is to assist you by defining and explaining words and terms that are used when referring to topics relating to ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder.

ABA: Applied Behaviour Analysis. An intervention model based on Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning, which reinforces wanted behaviours, and reduces unwanted behaviours.

ABAS: Adaptive Behaviour Assessment System. Measure designed to assess adaptive living skills.

Adaptive living skills: Behaviours necessary for people to live independently and to function safely and appropriately in daily life, such as grooming, dressing, ability to work, social skills etc.

ADEC: Autism Detection in Early Childhood.

ADHD: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Disorder in children associated with three main kinds of problems: overactive Behaviour (hyperactivity), impulsive Behaviour, and difficulty in paying attention.

Adjustment: A measure or action taken to assist a student with a disability to participate in education and training on the same basis as other students.

ADOS: Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.

Allistic: Not autistic. See neurotypical, which is a closely related term.

AON: Assessment of Needs.

Apraxia of speech: Also known as verbal apraxia or dyspraxia, this is a speech disorder in which a person has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently.

ASD: Autism spectrum disorder. A neurological disorder characterized by social/ communication deficits, fixated interests and repetitive behaviours.

Asperger’s disorder/syndrome: A form of ASD, characterized by normal IQ but impairments in social interaction and communication.

Atypical antipsychotic: A newer type of medicine, used to treat psychosis, which has a better side effect profile than older antipsychotic medications; sometimes used to treat some of the symptoms of autism.

Alternative and augmentative communication: Use of sign language, picture communication symbols or speech generating devices to replace or augment the speech of a person with autism.

Autism Detection in Early Childhood: An ASD screening tool.

Autism Diagnostic Interview–Revised: A diagnostic interview for ASD. Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule: A diagnostic tool for ASD.

Blind or blinded study: A study in which the researcher and/or the patients are unaware of whether they have been assigned to the group receiving the active treatment or to the control group.

Blood brain barrier: A protective barrier which prevents some substances in the blood from entering brain tissue.

CARS: Childhood Autism Rating Scale. A screening and diagnostic tool for ASD.

CBT: Cognitive Behaviour therapy. A type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients understands the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviours. CBT is commonly used to treat depression and anxiety.

Central nervous system: The part of the nervous system that consists of the brain and spinal cord.

CHAT: Checklist for Autism in Toddlers.

Childhood disintegrative disorder: An extremely rare pervasive developmental disorder in which a child appears to develop normally until the age of two and then regresses.

Clinical trial: A research study conducted with patients which tests out a drug or other intervention to assess its effectiveness and safety.

Cognitive: Pertaining to cognition, the process of being aware, knowing, thinking, and learning.

Developmental disorder: A disorder that interrupts normal development in childhood. A developmental disorder may affect a single area of development (specific developmental disorder) or several (pervasive developmental disorder).

DCA: Domiciliary Care Allowances.

DES: Department of Education and Skills.

Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders DISCO: A diagnostic interview for ASD.

Disability Allowance: This is a weekly allowance paid to people with a disability. You can get Disability Allowance from 16 years of age.

Discrete Trial Training: An ABA method which requires the therapists to break down skills into small tasks that are achievable and are taught in a very structured manner.

Dyspraxia: A disorder of motor planning.

Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention: An individualized, intensive intervention program which involves the systematic use of ABA techniques.

Echolalia: Repeating words or phrases, often over and over, without necessarily understanding their meaning.

Epidemiology: The study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why.

Epilepsy: A brain disorder involving recurrent seizures; sudden changes in behaviour due to excessive electrical activity in the brain.

EPSEN ACT: Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs 2004.

Evidence-based: Refers to the use of best evidence derived from methodologically rigorous, valid research.

Executive function: The cognitive process that regulates an individual’s ability to organize thoughts and activities, prioritize tasks, manage time efficiently and make decisions.

Expressive communication: Sending information or messages to other people. This could involve use of speech or augmentative communication.

Fine motor skills: Activities which require the co-ordination of smaller body muscles, for example, writing.

Functional analysis: Process of carefully observing Behaviour to determine what sets off the chain of events that lead to a problem Behaviour, such as tantrums or aggression.

GFCF diet: Gluten-free, casein-free diet. A diet believed by some to help improve the symptoms of autism. It involves elimination from the diet of gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains) and casein (a protein found in dairy products).

Griffiths Scales of Mental Development: A developmental assessment.

Gross motor skills: Body movements which utilize larger muscle groups such as sitting, kicking and jumping.

HFA: High-functioning autism. Autism in individuals with normal/ near-normal IQ.

IEP: Individual education plan. A document that delineates special education services for special needs student

Intellectual disability: An impaired ability to learn, as measured by IQ score (<70) and associated difficulties in adaptive functioning. It is a condition which presents before the age of eighteen.

Intelligence quotient: The ratio of tested mental age to chronological age, usually expressed as a quotient multiplied by 100.

IQ: Intelligence quotient.

Joint attention: Ability to follow someone else’s gaze and share the experience of looking at an object or activity.

Key word sign: A manual signing system sometimes used to augment verbal communication for individuals with ASD; formerly known as Makaton.

LFA: Low-functioning autism. Autism associated with an intellectual disability.

Mainstreaming: The concept that students with special needs should, when appropriate, be integrated with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible.

M-CHAT: Modified Checklist for Autism in Children.

Motor planning: The brain’s ability to conceive, organize and execute a sequence of complex physical actions.

NCSE: National Council for Special Education.

NEPS: National Education Psychology Services.

Neurological: Having to do with the nerves or the nervous system.

Neurology: The medical science that deals with the nervous system and disorders affecting it.

Neurotransmitter: A chemical messenger released from one nerve cell which makes its way to another nerve cell where it influences a particular chemical reaction to occur.

Neurotypical: commonly abbreviated as NT and meaning having a neurocognitive functioning that is considered typical. The term NT is often used to describe people who are not autistic, though formally, the more accurate term is “allist.”

Observational Study: A study in which the investigators do not seek to intervene, and simply observe the course of events.

Obsessive compulsive disorder: Disorder where a person has recurrent unwanted ideas (obsessions) and an urge (compulsion) to do something to relieve the obsession.

Occupational therapy: Therapy which focuses on improving development of fine and gross motor skills, sensory integration and daily living skills.

Open trial: A clinical trial in which the investigator and participant are aware which intervention is being used for which participant (that is, not blinded).

Opioid: A substance with pharmacological action like that of opium or its derivatives (for example, morphine).

Outcome measure: The measure of an effect or impact of an intervention on the participants.

PECs: Picture Exchange Communication System. A visual, augmentative communication system.

Pervasive developmental disorder PDD — not otherwise specified: An ASD where a child presents with impairments in social communication and behaviour but symptoms are not severe enough, or of sufficient number, to qualify for a diagnosis of autistic/Asperger’s disorder.

Phenotype: The appearance of an individual, which results from the interaction of the person’s genetic makeup and his or her environment.

Pica: Ingestion of non-food items.

Pivotal Response Training: A contemporary ABA intervention.

Placebo effect: Psychological benefit to the participant through a belief that they are receiving treatment.

Placebo: An inactive intervention, received by the participants in the control group in a clinical trial, which is indistinguishable from the active Intervention received by patients in the experimental group.

Pragmatics: Use of language in the social contexts. Presuming competence: The assumption that every individual is capable of learning and growing and wants to be included, accepted, and given opportunities to contribute.

Prevalence: A measure of the number of cases of a disorder in a defined population at a particular point in time. It differs from incidence, the rate at which new cases occur in a population during a specific time period.

Proprioception: A sense that informs us the position of our body parts.

RDI: Relationship Development Intervention.

Receptive communication: Receiving and understanding messages from others.

Relationship Development Intervention: A developmental intervention model.

REM: Rapid eye movement.

Rett’s disorder: A rare genetic disorder, usually only found in females, in which a child appears to develop normally for a period and then regresses.

Risk factor: An aspect of a person’s condition, lifestyle or environment that increases the probability of occurrence of a disease or condition.

SENO: Special Education Needs Organiser.

Service Statement: A statement of services you will receive after an independent assessment of your child’s health and educational needs arising from their disability. This is a legal entitlement.

SSRI: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: A class of antidepressant medicines sometimes prescribed to help manage anxiety and repetitive Behaviours associated with ASD.

Sensory integration therapy: Therapy which aims to improve the way the brain processes and organizes the senses.

SNA: Special Needs Assistant.

Stereotypy: Persistent repetition of body movements, ideas, or words.

Stimming: Engaging in self-stimulatory behaviour. Commonly referred to as a ‘stim’. Any kind of repetitive or stereotypic behaviour (for example, staring at lights, flapping hands, rocking etc), which is believed to provide some form or sensory stimulation.

Stimulant medications: Class of drugs used to treat ADHD.

Theory of mind: Ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others and to understand what another person thinks, feels, desires, intends or believes.

Tic: A repetitive movement that is difficult, if not impossible, to control. Twice exceptional: People who are cognitively gifted while also having a learning disability and/or special needs.

Vestibular: Pertaining to the sensory system in the inner ear that governs posture and balance.

Visual supports: The presentation of information in a visually structured manner to make it easier to understand, for example, a daily schedule may be shown by photographs or cartoons.

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