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- A -
AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is a disease caused by a virus that destroys a person's immune system. The AIDS virus, knows as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), severely weakens the immune system causing a person to be highly susceptible to a variety of infections. These infections may not normally be considered serious, but could become life-threatening to a person with AIDS.

Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It mandates equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in areas such as employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

Assistive Technology
Assistive technology is any item or piece of equipment used to maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Attention Deficit Disorder
Attention deficit disorder, commonly referred to as ADD, is a neurological disability characterized by inappropriate attention skills, impulsive behavior, and in some cases, hyperactivity. ADD is marked by chronic behaviors that last at least six months and appear before age seven. The behaviors may include: fidgeting, difficulty remaining seated, difficulty following instructions, leaving tasks uncompleted, and appearing to not listen when others are speaking.

Augmentative Communication
Augmentative communication refers to the supplementation or replacement of speech through the use of aided or unaided techniques. Sign language, gestures, and finger spelling are examples of unaided communication, whereas aided communication is associated with technology. An example of aided communication would be a computer-based system that supports verbal and written communication.

Autism is a developmental disability that appears before age three. It is characterized by qualitative differences in the areas of social competence and communication skills. Individuals with autism typically demonstrate a narrow range of interests, repeatedly engage in specific activities, and experience difficulties processing sensory input from the surrounding environment. Common behaviors include: a tendency to avoid social contact, a tendency to become upset by changes in routine, and an inability to effectively communicate.

- B - Behavior Disorders
Behavior disorders refer to a complex set of behavioral and emotional problems that are exhibited by children. Children with these disorders often engage in antisocial behavior. They are often physically and verbally aggressive and may lie, steal, perform vandalism, or "act out" in other ways. Children with behavior disorders may also experience depression. If these disorders are not treated early in life the individual may continue to exhibit antisocial behavior into adulthood.

Birth Defects
The term, birth defect, refers to any anomaly, functional or structural that is caused before birth. A birth defect may be inherited or acquired and may be present in infancy or become apparent later in life.

A person's vision is evaluated by visual acuity (20/20 scale) and the range of peripheral vision. Normal vision is defined as 20/20 visual acuity and an average range of 180 degrees in peripheral vision. An individual is legally blind if after methods of correction, such as glasses or contact lenses, he/she has a visual acuity of 20/200 or higher denomination or a range of peripheral vision under 20 degrees.

- C - Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a functional disorder caused by damage to the brain during pregnancy, delivery, or shortly after birth. It is characterized by movement disorders, such as: spasticity (tight limb muscles), purposeless movements, rigidity (severe form of spasticity), a lack of balance, or a combination of these disorders. Individuals with cerebral palsy may also experience seizures, abnormal speech, hearing impairments and visual impairments, and mental retardation.

Cleft Palate
A cleft palate is a birth defect characterized by a split or opening in the roof of the mouth. It results from failure of the parts of the roof of the mouth to join together during pregnancy. Cleft palates may be caused by genetic or environmental factors.

Closed Captioning
Closed captioning allows individuals who are deaf or have limited hearing to view television and understand what is being said. The words spoken on the television are written across the bottom of the screen so the person can follow the dialogue and action of the program.

Communication Disabilities
Communication disabilities include any visual impairment, hearing impairment, or speech impairments that limit a person's ability to communicate.

- D - Deaf-Blindness
Deaf-blindness, or dual sensory impairment, is a combination of both visual impairment and hearing impairment. An individual with deaf-blindness can experience severe communication, educational, and other developmental problems. A person with deaf-blindness cannot be accommodated by services focusing solely on visual impairments or solely on hearing impairments, so services must be specifically designed to assist individuals with deaf-blindness.

Deafness can be defined as a total or partial inability to hear. An individual who is totally deaf is unable to hear with or without the use of a hearing aid, whereas a person who is partially deaf may be able to hear with the help of a hearing aid. Deafness can be genetic or also acquired through disease, most commonly from meningitis in the child or rubella in the woman during pregnancy.

Descriptive Video
Descriptive videos are designed for people who are visually impaired. The videos provide additional narration which carefully describes the visual elements of the film, such as the action of the characters, locations, and costumes, without interfering with the actual dialogue and sound effects.

Developmental Delays
Developmental delays refer to conditions which represent a significant delay in the process of child development. The delays may involve cognitive, physical, communicative, social/emotional, and adaptive areas of development. Without special intervention, these delays may affect the educational performance of the child.

Developmental Disabilities
A developmental disability is a severe and long-lasting disability, which is the result of a mental and/or physical impairment, occurs before age 22, is likely to continue indefinitely, reflects the person's need for specialized services and/or treatment, and results in substantial functional limitations in three or more areas. The areas include: self-care, self-direction, economic self-sufficiency, independent living, learning, receptive and expressive language, and mobility.

A disability is basically defined as a mental or physical condition that restricts an individual's ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.

Down Syndrome
Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition (trisomy 21) caused by the presence of one extra chromosome. Individuals with Down syndrome experience slow physical and mental development and often exhibit certain identifiable physical characteristics, such as a round face, slanting eyes, and a small stature. People with Down syndrome usually function in the mild to moderate range of mental retardation and may experience health problems, most commonly hearing impairment and congenital heart disease.

- E - Early Intervention
Early intervention is an attempt to locate, identify, and evaluate young children with developmental disabilities or developmental delays and provide services to counteract these disorders and facilitate the child's development. Every state has organizations that provide early intervention services.

Echolalia is the constant repeating or parroting of what has been said by others. Individuals with autism and Tourrette syndrome commonly exhibit echolalia.

Epilepsy is a physical condition that occurs when there is a sudden, brief disturbance in the function of the brain. This "disturbance" can alter an individual's consciousness, movements, or actions. The sudden change is referred to as an epileptic seizure. Most individuals with epilepsy can reduce or eliminate the risk of seizures through the regular use of appropriate medication.

- F -
Fetal Alcohol Effects
The term, fetal alcohol effects, is used to indicate alcohol as a possible cause of a child's birth defects. It is used to describe children with prenatal exposure to alcohol, but with only a few of the characteristics shown by children with fetal alcohol syndrome.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal alcohol syndrome refers to a group of symptoms exhibited by a child resulting from the mother's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. The symptoms may include differing levels of mental retardation, low birth weight, small size, and under development of the upper lip. (see cleft palate)

Fragile X Syndrome
Fragile X syndrome, also know as Martin-Bell syndrome, is a genetic disorder that is the most common form of inherited mental retardation. Individuals with this disorder often have distinctive physical features, such as a long face and large prominent ears. People with Fragile X syndrome experience some degree of mental retardation along with speech and language delays. In addition, 15-20% of people with Fragile X syndrome may also exhibit behaviors associated with autism.

Free Appropriate Public Education
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), free appropriate public education is defined as special education and related services that: (1) are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge; (2) meet the standards of the state educational agency; (3) include preschool, elementary, and the child's individualized education program.

- G -
Genetics is the study of heredity, and in particular, genes. Human genetics attempts to understand human heredity in order to predict, diagnose, and treat genetic diseases.

Group Homes
Group homes are a housing option for individuals with developmental disabilities that allows them to live in residences within the community in a family-type setting. A small group of individuals with disabilities live together in a house and share household duties. The group home is usually supervised by live-in professionals or volunteer staff.

- H -
Health Impairment
The term, health impairment, refers to any type of chronic illness that affects how a person lives his or her life. Common examples of health impairments are AIDS, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc.

Hearing Impairment
The term, hearing impairment, is used to describe any level of hearing loss, such as hard of hearing or deafness.

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact and intravenous drug use. A person may carry HIV for several years before any symptoms of AIDS become apparent.

Hydrocephalus refers to an abnormal accumulation of fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) within cavities, called ventricles, inside the brain. Hydrocephalus can be congenital, caused by complex genetic and environmental factors, or acquired from spina bifida, intraventricular hemorrhage, head trauma, meningitis, tumors, and cysts. Individuals with hydrocephalus often experience mental and physical impairments and a variety of health problems.

Hyperactivity generally refers to a group of behavioral characteristics, such as aggressiveness, constant activity, impulsiveness, and distractibility. The actual behaviors displayed include: fidgeting, an inability to remain seated or still, excessive talking, and an inability to play quietly. Hyperactivity is commonly associated with attention deficit disorder.

- I - Inclusion
In general, inclusion refers to a set of practices and beliefs that all children should be educated, regardless of disability, in their neighborhood school, and in age-appropriate general education settings with appropriate supports and services.

Independent Living
The concept of independent living involves the belief that individuals with disabilities have the same rights and responsibilities as other people in society. Thus, services provided to the public should be accessible to persons with disabilities, and systems of support should be made available to help individuals with disabilities live within the community and lead more independent lives.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
Public Law 94-142 mandates that each child who receives special education services must have an individualized education plan. The IEP is the plan agreed upon by the school administrator, teacher, parents, and other relevant professionals ( e.g., the person who administered the testing, therapists). The IEP is comprised of seven parts: (1) present level of functioning or performance, (2) annual goals, (3) short term instructional objectives or goals, (4) indication of any special services needed ( e.g., speech and hearing clinic), (5) amount of time spent in regular education classroom, (6) when plan will begin, be reviewed, and end, and (7) evaluation of goals and objectives.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
Public Law 99-457 directs states to develop and implement a comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. The law requires than an Individualized Family Service Plan is created to establish an agreement between families and professionals that the necessary resources will be provided to help the child and the family achieve their goals and satisfy their needs.

Individualized Program Plan (IPP)
An Individualized Program Plan is similar to an Individualized Family Service Plan except it is for individuals with disabilities who are over age three. The IPP identifies the preferred goals or outcomes of the individual and his/her family and lists objectives describing how these goals will be achieved ( e.g., what services and types of supports will be used.)

Individualized Transition Plan (ITP)
The Individualized Transition Plan is the part of a person's Individualized Education Plan (IEP ) that identifies the long range goals of the person in respect to life after school. Transition services are a coordinated set of activities that are designed to help a student with disabilities move from school to life after school. The person's life after school may include: post secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, independent living, participation in the community, and other activities. The ITP indicates how the individual will be supported or helped to participate in his/her preferred activities and achieve his/her goals.

Institutions are residential facilities designed to house and care for individuals with mental disabilities.

IQ Scores
The intelligence quotient, or IQ, is a number used to express a person's relative intelligence. An intelligence test is used to compute an individual's IQ score. The majority of scores fall between 70 and 130, with a score above 130 considered gifted and a score below 70 considered mentally deficient. However, intelligence tests have been widely criticized for not accurately depicting an individual's mental capabilities.

- J, K -

- L - Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities is a broad term used to refer to disorders that affect a person's ability to interpret what they see or hear and link information from different parts of the brain. These disorders usually manifest as problems with reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematics. Learning disabilities are neurological, lifelong disorders, but can often be overcome through appropriate intervention and support.

- M -
Mental Illness
The term, mental illness, refers to any illness or disorder that: has significant psychological or behavioral manifestations, is associated with painful or distressing symptoms, and impairs an individual's level of functioning in certain areas of life. There are several different types of mental illness with differing levels of severity. The cause of mental illness is relatively unknown. Therapy and appropriate medication are the most common forms of treatment.

Mental Retardation
Mental retardation is a mental disability that limits the intellectual capacity of an individual. A person is considered to have mental retardation if: they have an IQ below 70, the condition is present before age 18, and limitations exist in two or more adaptive skill areas. The adaptive skill areas include: communication, self-care, home-living, social skills, leisure, health and safety, self-direction, functional academics, and employment.

- N, O -

- P - Paraplegia
Paraplegia is paralysis of the legs and lower part of the body. Paraplegia often involves loss of sensation as well as loss of movement. It is usually caused by injury or disease in the lower spinal cord, or brain disorders, such as cerebral palsy.

- Q -
Quadriplegia is the paralysis of all four limbs. (see paraplegia)

- R -

- S -
Seizure Disorder
(see epilepsy)

Speech Impairment
The term, speech impairment, refers to disorders that impair an individual's ability to verbally communicate. This could include the inability to speak, the inability to maintain a flow or rhythm of speech ( e.g., dysfluency or stuttering), or the inability to pronounce certain sounds. Speech impairment can be caused by hearing impairment , neurological disorders, mental retardation, or physical impairments, such as cleft palate.

Spina Bifida
Spina bifida refers to an incomplete closure in the spinal column during prenatal development. There are three types of spina bifida: (1) spina bifida occulta is very common and is associated with an opening in one or more of the vertebrae, but no damage to the spinal cord, (2) meningocele is present when the protective covering around the spinal cord is pushed through an opening in the vertebrae, but the spinal cord remains intact, (3) myelomeningocele is the most severe form and occurs when the spinal cord protrudes through the back. The term, spina bifida, is most often used to indicate the most severe form of the disorder, myelomeningocele. It can cause weakness or paralysis below the area of protrusion as well as a loss of bowel and bladder control. Also, spina bifida is commonly associated with hydrocephalus.

- T -
Tourette Syndrome
Tourette syndrome is a genetic, neurological disorder characterized by repetitious, involuntary body movements and uncontrollable vocal sounds. Tourette syndrome is detected before age 18 and most commonly affects males. The majority of individuals with Tourette syndrome experience mild symptoms that do not impede them from performing their normal activities.

- U -

- V -
Visual Impairment
A visual impairment is an impairment of sight that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses. This includes individuals with low vision as well as people who are legally blind.

- W, X, Y, Z -

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