Glossary: A



he outward movement of a limb away from the body.

Absence Seizures:
Brief, abrupt loss of consciousness (5 to 10 seconds) followed by a rapid, complete recovery; also associated with staring or repetitive eye blinking. Formerly know as petit mal seizures.

Easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, and/or use safely and with dignity by a person with a disability (i.e., site, facility, work environment, service, or program).#

Any changes made to the regular environment that will help a person succeed. See also Reasonable Accommodation.

The ability to see clearly.

Adaptive Behavior:
The ability to adjust to new environments, tasks, objects, and people, and to apply new skills to those new situations.

Adaptive Equipment:
Equipment offering special support which is adapted to a person’s special needs (corner chair, prone board, etc.).

The inward movement of a limb towards the body.

Adeli Suit:
A modification of the Russian Cosmonaut Penguin suit is to move body parts against a resistance, thus improving muscle strength. The Adeli Suit is a jacket and pair of trousers adopted for use by children. The suit has “rings” strategically placed on it so that elastic tension cords can be attached across joints.

The act of supporting or promoting a cause. Speaking out.

Advocacy Groups:
Organizations that work to protect the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities and their families.

Affirmative Action:
Proactive action to accomplish the purposes of a program which is designed to increase the employment opportunities of certain groups, which may involve goals, timetables, or specifically outlined steps to be undertaken to assure that objectives are reached.

AFO (Ankle foot orthoses):
A short leg brace made of lightweight plastic that is worn inside the shoe and extends up to calf.

See Sensory Impairment.

The muscle that is the prime mover in a specific movement; also a chemical or drug that assists in initiating another drug’s action.

Air Carrier Access Act:
Prohibits discrimination in air transporation by air carriers against qualified individuals with physical or mental impairments. It applies only to air carriers that provide regularly scheduled services for hire to the public. Requirements address a wide range of issues including baording assistance and certain accessibility features in newly bult aircraft and new or altered airport facilities.

Akinetic Seizure:
See Atonic Seizure.

Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf:
A nonprofit membership organization that was established in 1890 to empower persons who are hearing impaired to function independently by promoting universal rights and optimal opportunities to learn to use, maintain, and improve all aspects of their verbal communications, including their abilities to speak, speechread, use residual hearing, and process both spoken and written language.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR):
A variety of procedures for the resolution of disputes. Each ADR procedure is a fair and efficient alternative to court adjudication that must be entered into voluntarily by all parties. Some of the more common ADR procedures include arbitration, mediation, and conciliation. ADR is encouraged under the Americans with Disabilities Act to resolve conflicts.

Alternative Formats:
Refers to making use of formats other than standard print (e.g., audio tapes, video tapes, large print, computer text) to change the way information and material is presented to meet an individual’s learning style needs.

Alternative Medicine:
Practices not generally accepted as part of the conceptual or methodological approaches used by licensed physicians or other licensed health care providers.

The most common metallic element in the earth’s crust. It is present in water and food. It does not appear to have any role in animal and human biology; it is just there. However, it can have toxic effects particularly on the brain and kidneys when present in very high doses in the blood. Aluminum is deposited in the brain and kidneys when blood levels of aluminum are very high, usually due to increased intravenous administration during a medical procedure.

Alzheimer’s Disease:
A degenerative disorder of brain nerve cells manifested by memory loss, confusion and disorientation; usually begins in middle or late life with gradual progression.

Amblyopia (lazy eye):
Partial loss of sight due to suppression of central vision in the cortex when both eyes do not have the same acuity.

Having the ability to walk.

American Association for People with Disabilities:
A non-profit, non-partisan, cross-disability organization whose goals are unity, leadership and impact.

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP):
A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to helping older Americans achieve lives of independence, dignity and purpose.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA):
A comprehensive civil rights law enacted in July 1990 which makes it unlawful to discriminate in private sector employment against a qualified individual with a disability. The ADA also outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in state and local government services, employment, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunication.

Amniotic Fluid:
A fluid in the embryonic sac which protects the developing fetus.

A change or deviation from what is considered typical.

The muscle that is directly opposite in movement to the agonist.

A drug used to control seizures. Even though all seizures are not convulsions, this term is commonly used.

Apgar Score:
A numbered score doctors use to access a baby’s physical state at the time of birth.

A pause in breathing for longer than 10-20 seconds.

Apnea Monitor:
A device that is attached to electrodes on a child’s body and makes a loud noise whenever respirations do not occur in a normal pattern.

The ability to move and control the lips, tongue, jaw and palate to produce the sounds of a language.

Lack of sufficient oxygen and circulation of the blood resulting in possible brain damage and a loss of consciousness.

To suck or draw into the respiratory tract.

Assistive Technology:
As defined in IDEA: devices and services as any item, piece of equipment, or product system – whether accquired commerically off-the-shelf, modified or customized – used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (Tech Act):
First enacted in 1988, then amended and extended in 1994 for a five-year period, and a three-year period in 1998, the Tech Act is the first major Federal statute to deal with assistive technology in its own right. The Tech Act created the State technology assistance programs that operate in all 56 States and territories, and it established the national technical assistance programs, including the UCP’s Assistive Technology Funding and Systems Change Project and the Rehabilitation Engineering and Technical Assistance Society of North America’s (RESNA) Technical Assistance Project.

Assistive Technology Device:
Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Assistive Technology Service:
Any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.

Blurry vision caused by the abnormal curvature of the cornea.

When one side of the body differs from the other.

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR):
A reflex performed by turning the head of a child to one side slowly and holding it in position for 15 seconds. Response in a newborn to 3 months: extension of the arm following the pointed direction of the chin with flexion of the opposite are or any increase tone. After about 5 months of age, a consistent response may be considered abnormal.

Lacking symmetry, that is, lacking balance in shape, size, and relative position of parts on opposite sides of the body or in actions taken by the body.

A condition in which damage to one or more parts of the brain results in an inability to coordinate muscles in the execution of a voluntary movement.

Ataxia Telangiectasia (A.T.):
A genetic disorder. Ataxia: An inability to coordinate muscles in the execution of a voluntary movement. Telangiectasia: Dilation of small blood vessels. Unlike cerebral palsy, A.T. is a progressive disorder. A.T. can affect a large number of body systems (a “multi-system” disorder). Among the body systems often affected are the nervous system, the vascular system and the immune system.

Having unbalanced, jerky movements.

Having involuntary or uncontrolled writhing movements.

Relating to lack of normal muscle tone.

Atonic Seizure:
A sudden loss of muscle tone which may cause the individual to fall.

Deterioration of muscle tissue.

The ability to concentrate on a task.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD):

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):
A condition of the brain that results in excessive activity (hyperactivity), impulsivity, and difficulties with focusing attention. ADHD often makes it difficult for children to control their behavior in school and social settings. It is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood and affects between 4 and 12 percent of all school-age children. About 3 times more boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD.

Attention Span:
The amount of time one is able to concentrate on a task. Also called attending in special education jargon.

A graph showing the results of a hearing test.

The testing of hearing.

Relating to the ability to hear.

Auditory integration training:
A controversial form of sensory integration therapy intended to reduce distortions in hearing or sensitivity to certain sounds and to improve listening and speech skills. Treatment consists of listening through headphones to special audio tapes.

Auditory processing:
The ability to take in and make sense of individuals speech sounds rapidly and efficiently enough to comprehend spoken language.

Auditory sequential memory:
Ability to hear and repeat a sequence of words or numbers.

Augmentative and Alternative Communications (AAC):
The use of various non-speech techniques for enhancing expressive communication and its comprehension in situations where the routine use of spoken or written language to communicate is limited. AAC devices range from communication boards to computer-based communication devices.

A developmental brain disorder that typically appears during the first three years of life. It affects brain areas controlling language, social interaction and abstract thought. Children and adults with autism typically have deficiencies in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions.

Auxiliary Aids and Services:
Devices or services that accommodate a functional limitation of a person with a communication-related disability. The term includes qualified interpreters and communication devices for persons who are deaf or persons who are hard of hearing; qualified readers, taped texts, braille or other devices for persons with visual impairments; adaptive equipment for persons with other communication disabilities; or similar services and actions.

One of the two parts of the nerve; the “wire” that relays impulses from the nerve cell body to other nerves, muscles and other receptors