Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Everyday activities like eating, dressing, using the toilet, bathing, getting in and out of bed, and moving around. Doctors or therapists measure a child's ability to do ADLs without help to determine their need for assistive devices (tools) and other aids.

This is important for children who struggle with learning—whether in reading, writing, math, or another subject. AT can help these kids thrive in school and in life by enabling them to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing. This can help grow their confidence and independence.

Adaptive physical education

Tools, teaching, and other strategies that allow people with special needs to take part in gym classes, sports, and other activities.

Adaptive Behavior

The skills people learn to take care of themselves and act appropriately in social settings. This includes things like dressing, cleaning, making friends, following school rules, social skills, and personal responsibility.


An advocate acts or speaks in support of another person in order to help create or change rules, laws, or policies that affect the other person.

Age Appropriate

Right or suitable for a child's age or age group.

Age norm

The age when children most often learn a new skill or behavior. For example, the age norm for learning to walk is from about 9 to 17 months old.


A test or exam that collects information about a person's health or development. The results of an assessment can determine if a child is eligible for certain programs, services, or treatments.

Assistive Living

A broad range of residential care services for people who need assistance for day-to-day activities, but do not require nursing staff. For instance, assisted living might be appropriate for patients with mid-stage Alzheimer’s’ or dementia, or other mental disabilities that mean it is unsafe for them to live without support. Typically assisted living will cost less than a nursing home.

Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology (AT) is any device, software, or equipment that helps people work around challenges so they can learn, communicate, and function better. A wheelchair is an example of AT. So is software that reads aloud text from a computer. Or a keyboard for someone struggling with handwriting.

At risk

More likely to have trouble in school, become ill, or have a developmental delay. Many things can put children at risk, including poverty, neglect, and undiagnosed health conditions.

People with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviours (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active. Although ADHD can’t be cured, it can be successfully managed and some symptoms may improve as the child ages.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)

Methods of communicating that don't rely on speaking for those who have trouble using spoken language.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

The autism spectrum disorders are a heterogeneous group of neuro-behavioural syndromes characterized by major impairments in basic social relationships, abnormal language development, limited or non existent imagination and extremely rigid patterns of behaviour. The term “spectrum” implies a range of severity from mild, allowing close to normal functions in many areas, to the most severe in which social function appears to be impossible, but there always deficits in the “core triad” of socialization, communication and imagination, and restricted behaviours. There is no single cause for these disorders, although a genetic influence is most frequently found. The disorders result from abnormal brain development.

Base line

A measure of someone's skills or abilities taken before he or she starts services or instruction. The baseline is compared with measurements taken later to tell how well services or instruction are working.


A person named in a will, trust, or other agreement who will get financial benefits upon the death of the holder of the agreement.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy describes a group of permanent disorders of the development of movement and posture causing activity limitation that are attributed to non- progressive disturbances that occurred in the developing fetal or infant brain. The motor disorders of cerebral palsy are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, cognition, perception, communication, behaviour, by epilepsy and by secondary musculo-skeletal problems.

Children with special needs (CSN)

Any of various difficulties (such as a physical, emotional, behavioral, or learning disability or impairment) that causes an individual to require additional or specialized services or accommodations (such as in education or recreation) students with special needs.


A lifelong condition, one that lasts for a long period of time, or one that happens again and again.


Having to do with conscious mental activity, such as thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.

Community-based rehabilitation

A strategy within community development for the rehabilitation, equalisation of opportunities and social integration of all people with disabilities (UN definition).

Developmental disabilities

Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behaviour areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.

Developmental delay

Describes a child’s cognitive, physical, communication, social-emotional or adaptive/self-help abilities which are at a level that is less than typical peers of a similar age. In these instances, a developmental assessment is conducted to evaluate the level of delay.

Developmental screening

A preliminary test to see if a child needs more testing for potential developmental delays. All children are screened for developmental delays. If a doctor has concerns about a child's development based on this screening, the doctor will ask for an evaluation by a specialist.


The process of identifying a disease, condition, or injury from its signs and symptoms. A health history, physical exam, and tests, such as blood tests, imaging tests, and biopsies, may be used to help make a diagnosis.

Early childhood special education (ECSE)

Services are designed for young children (aged 3-5) with disabilities who need specially designed instruction or related services and whose disability(ies) causes the children to be unable to participate in developmentally appropriate typical preschool activities.

Early intervention services

A process that helps identify children with special needs in the first years of life and provides them with the care they need to treat or prevent developmental disabilities or delays.

Functional academics

Functional academics is merely academics made functional designed to teach skills which allow each student to succeed in real-life situations at home, school, work and in the community. The functional academics curriculum includes a range of areas namely: Pre-requisite concepts; Math; Activities of daily living; Reading Pre-requisite concepts; Writing; Communication; Social & Emotional skills; Community orientation' Skill oriented activities' Art and craft etc.

Functional life skills

The skills a certain individual learns and needs in order to live independently. Skills are defined as functional as long as the outcome supports the individual’s independence.

Learning that focuses on helping a person with special needs develop practical skills for living, such as cooking, shopping, doing laundry, and socializing.

Global developmental delay

An umbrella term used when children are significantly delayed in their cognitive and physical development. It can be diagnosed when a child is delayed in one or more milestones, categorised into motor skills, speech, cognitive skills, and social and emotional development.


The person legally assigned to care for and be responsible for a child if the child's parents die before the child becomes an adult.

Health insurance

A type of insurance that helps pay for medical needs, such as doctor's visits, prescription drugs, surgery, and hospital stays. The insurance policy can reimburse the insured person for expenses or pay the doctor, pharmacy, or hospital directly.

Hearing loss

A person is said to have hearing loss if they are not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing, meaning hearing thresholds of 20 dB or better in both ears. It can be mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe or profound, and can affect one or both ears. Major causes of hearing loss include congenital or early onset childhood hearing loss, chronic middle ear infections, noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and ototoxic drugs that damage the inner ear.

Home management

Home-Based Intervention is a non- centre- based model focusing on empowering family members in active participation for providing intervention activities for the child in the home setting.


The belief that people with disabilities should have the same access to services, activities, and opportunities as everyone else. For example, people with disabilities learn in regular (not special-needs) classes whenever possible and work in places designed to accommodate their disability.

Intellectual disability

A disability that limits a person's mental capacity (learning, problem solving, reasoning) and adaptive behavior (language, social skills, daily activities). An intellectual disability starts before the age of 18.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

A written plan that outlines the educational goals and support needed for a student with disabilities. The IEP is agreed upon by the student's family, teachers, school administrators, and others who spend time with the student away from school.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)

A personalized plan for young children with disabilities that outlines health and wellness goals and describes the steps that will be taken to reach those goals. The IFSP is developed by the child's family, doctors, and early childhood educators.

Learning disability

Learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements, or direct attention. Although learning disabilities occur in very young children, the disorders are usually not recognized until the child reaches school age

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The educational program that most closely resembles a general education setting but also meets the student’s individual special education needs.

Mental health disorder

A condition, such as depression or schizophrenia, that has a negative impact on a person's thinking, feelings, mood, or behavior and affects the person's ability to function in society or meet the demands of everyday life.

Mental retardation

A number of terms including “intellectual impairment”, “cognitive impairment”, “mental handicap” and “learning difficulty” are used to describe individuals whose natural reasoning abilities, “common sense” and ability to look after themselves independently, are because of abnormalities of or early injury to the brain, insufficient to allow independent function in society. Mental retardation is a disability characterised by significant limitations both in intellectual function and in adaptive behaviour as expressed in conceptual social and practical adaptive skills.

Mobility impairment

Disability that affects movement ranging from gross motor skills such as walking to fine motor movement involving manipulation of objects by hand.


A change in the expectations of the assignment given to a student. A change in the curriculum that reduces the expectations of academic responses. Students provided with modified curriculum often graduate with modified diplomas. Not to be confused with Accommodation.

Motor development

Changes in children's ability to control their movements. Gross motor development involves the large muscles in the legs, arms, and torso. Fine motor development involves smaller muscles, like those in the fingers, toes, lips, and tongue.

Neuromuscular disorders

Neuromuscular disorders include a wide-range of diseases affecting the peripheral nervous system, which consists of all the motor and sensory nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Progressive muscle weakness is the predominant condition of these disorders

Occupational therapy

Therapy that helps a person develop fine motor skills and learn daily living tasks such as writing, using eating utensils, and dressing.

Peripheral neuropathy

A condition caused by damage to the nerves in the peripheral nervous system which includes nerves that run from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.

Physical therapy

Therapy that helps a child develop control of the large muscles involved in tasks like walking, sitting, standing, and lifting.


Volunteer or employee of an individual with a disability (e.g., visual impairment, learning disability) who reads printed material in person or records to audiotape.

Respite Care

A form of temporary care in which a patient who is usually cared for at home stays in a rehab center or other form of care facility, giving their caregivers a break from the daily routine of caring. Respite care can be a great way to keep a loved one at home for longer, while still getting the rest you need to give them a high level of care.

Response to intervention (Rt)

A mandated prevention program designed for students at risk for school failure that incorporates research/scientific-based instruction.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act

The RPWD Act provides that “the appropriate Government shall ensure that the PWD enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity, and respect for his or her own integrity equally with others.” The Government is to take steps to utilize the capacity of the PWD by providing appropriate environment.

Sensory impairment

A disability that affects touch, sight, taste, and/or hearing.

Sign language

Manual communication commonly used by deaf or hard of hearing individuals. Each sign has three distinct parts; the handshape, the position of the hands, and the movement of the hands.


Spasticity is a motor disorder characterised by muscle hypertonia characterised by an abnormal and increased response to rapid stretch, increased on voluntary effort and movement and occurring in disorganised fashion both in agonists and antagonists of an intended motor act. Along with increased deep tendon reflexes and upgoing plantar responses spasticity is part of the clinical complex indicating an “upper motor neurone lesion” or insult to the motor cortex.

special education services

education and therapy services provided to children with special needs. The amount of services varies and depends on each child's needs and educational goals.

Specific learning disorder

(also referred to as Learning Disability or Learning Disorder) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins during school age. It refers to ongoing problems in one of three areas, reading, writing and math, which are foundational to one’s ability to learn

Speech impairment

Problems in communication and related areas such as oral motor function, ranging from simple sound substitutions to the inability to understand or use language or use the oral-motor mechanism for functional speech.

Speech input or speech recognition

A method of controlling a computer and creating text by dictation. Speech input software is combined with a microphone.

Speech - language therapy

Therapy that diagnoses and treats communication and speech problems.

Strength-Based approach

A model of working with students with disabilities that emphasizes students’ strengths and abilities rather than the traditional deficit model.

Transition planning

A planned process for preparing a teen for early adulthood and beyond. This includes finding new doctors or other health care providers, taking a more active role in managing one's health care, and deciding where to live and work, if applicable.


A legal agreement in which a person or entity holds the right to manage property or assets for the benefit of someone else.

Universal design

Designing programs, services, tools, and facilities so that they are useable, without modification, by the widest range of users possible, taking into account a variety of abilities and disabilities.

Universal design for learning

The design of instructional materials and activities that make learning achievable by students with a wide variety of abilities and disabilities. www.udlcenter.org

Vision impairment

The functional limitation of the eye or eyes or the vision system.

  • Loss of visual acuity and inability of the person to see objects as clearly as a healthy person

  • Loss of visual field meaning inability of an individual to see as wide an area as the average person without moving the eyes or turning the head.

  • Photophobia – inability to look at light

  • Diplopia – double vision

  • Visual distortion or distortion of images

  • Visual perceptual difficulties or difficulties of perception

  • Or any combination of the above features

Vocational rehabilitation

A state-specific program that helps people with barriers to employment, including disabilities, get the training and support they need to get or keep jobs.

Word prediction

Software that reduces the number of keystrokes needed to type words and sentences. As characters are entered on either a standard, alternative or virtual keyboard, suggested completions of the word that has been started are provided to the user.