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Activities of Daily Living (ADL)
Tasks that people participate in on a daily basis that are necessary for fulfilling meaningful life goals (e.g. eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.).

A neurological condition characterized by the inability to carry out purposeful movements, despite having the physical capacity and willingness to do so.

A state of the nervous system that describes how alert someone feels. To attend, concentrate, and perform tasks according to situational demands, the nervous system must be in an optimal state of alertness for the particular task.

Assistive Technology Devices
Any item, piece of equipment, or product system used to increase, maintain or improve a child’s ability to do things.

Pertaining to the sense of hearing.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
A range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders that typically appear within the first three years of life. Autism affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others; sometimes referred to as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).


Behavior Modification
A form of therapy that uses rewards to reinforce desired behavior (e.g. giving a child a piece of chocolate for grooming appropriately).

Affecting both sides of the body.

Body Awareness
The ability to recognize one’s own body and where different body parts are in space.


Cerebral Palsy
A neurological disorder of movement and coordination caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements; it is non-progressive and occurs in infancy and childhood.

Cleft Palate
Congenital opening of the roof of the mouth that is often associated with cleft lip

Of or relating to mental activities such as learning, thinking, remembering or understanding.

Existing from birth.

A form of crawling where an infant keeps their belly on the ground as they move forward with arms and legs.

A form of assisted walking in which a baby holds onto something for support (e.g. a low table or couch) while taking steps.


Developmental Delay
A lag in achieving childhood developmental milestones according to the expected time frame.

Developmental Evaluation
An assessment done by a health professional to identify the specific developmental disorder(s) affecting an infant/child.

Developmental Language Disorder
A significant delay restricted to speech and language skills but normal performance in other developmental domains.

Developmental Milestone
Behaviors or skills typically seen in infants and children as they develop. For instance, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking.

Discrimination of Sensory Input
The ability to correctly recognize sensory input on a neurological level in order to use it functionally.

Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21)
A genetic disorder caused by the presence of a third copy of all or part of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with delays in physical and intellectual development.

A weakness, slowness, or lack of coordination of speech resulting from neurological injury.

Poor praxis or motor planning; a less severe but more common dysfunction than apraxia. Related to the diagnosis of developmental coordination disorder.


Early Intervention
Refers to the range of services designed to enhance the development of infants and toddlers at risk for developmental delays/difficulties. Services may include but are not limited to: speech and language therapy, physical and/or occupational therapy, special education, and a range of family support services. Early intervention is sometimes used to refer to any systematic effort to improve developmental outcomes for young children.

Automatic repetition of words and phrases, usually those which have just been heard.

Also known as “seizure disorder,” a medical condition that produces seizures that affects a variety of mental and physical functions. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy.

A complex process aimed at identifying specific developmental disorders that are affecting a child. These definitions build on existing definitions.

Expressive Language
The ability to express your ideas and thoughts to others.


Fine Motor Skills
Tasks that use the small muscles of the body, such as those found in the fingers. Tasks include holding small items, feeding yourself, turning pages and cutting with scissors.

Functional Goals
Goals that pertain to specific activities of daily living.


Grasp Reflex
A baby’s strong grip of a person’s finger when the palm of the baby’s hand is touched.

Gross Motor
Refers to movement of large, proximal muscle groups as opposed to smaller, more distal muscle groups.


Head Start
A federal program started in 1965 that provides free education for young children in many low-income families across the United States.

A usually congenital condition in which an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain causes enlargement of the skull and compression of the brain, necessitating the surgical placement of a shunt to drain the fluid and prevent destruction of the neural tissue.

Having excessive muscular tone.

Less than typical muscle tone; floppy, soft muscles.


Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
As part of Early Intervention, a plan for special service for children 0 to 3 with developmental delays. In contrast to an Individualized Education Program, an IFSP focuses on the needs of the family and child to support the child’s development rather than the child’s education.


Language Delay
A slower acquisition of language milestones than that of typically-developing peers.

Language Disorder
An atypical acquisition of developmental language skills.


Atypical smallness of the head.

The center of the body.

The proficiency to organize and accomplish the act of moving.

Modulation of Sensory Input
The ability of the nervous system to filter out or allow in various forms of sensory information.

Pertaining to body movement or posture.

Movement Disorders
A group of diseases and syndromes affecting the ability to produce and control bodily movements.


The tendency to continue or repeat an act or activity after the cessation of the original stimulus.

Medical condition occurring in infants distinguished by the reshaped or flattened appearance of the infant’s skull; develops as a result of constant pressure being placed on one area of the thin and flexible skull of the infant; also known as “flat head syndrome.”

Play Therapy
A type of psychotherapy for young children involving the use of toys and games to build a therapeutic relationship and encourage the child’s self-expression.

PROMPT Technique
Stands for Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets. A speech-language treatment technique in which a therapist physically manipulates a child’s jaw, face, and mouth to show how speech sounds are produced.


Receptive Language
The ability to interpret and make sense of communication received.

Reciprocal Movement
Movement of both the arms and/or both legs at the same time but in opposite directions (e.g. crawling, or arm swing in walking).

Reduplicated babbling
Usually emerges by 6 to 8 months and is characterized by repeated sound repetition, e.g. dadada or bababa.

Righting Reaction
Automatic response that realigns the body with respect to vertical or horizontal positioning.

Ring Sitting
Child sits with knees bent slightly and feet in front so that the legs form a ring.


An episode of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain.

Self Regulation
The ability to attain, maintain, and change one’s level of arousal appropriately for a task or situation.

Of, or relating to, processes and structures within an organism that receive stimuli from the environment and convey them to the brain.

Sensory Integration (SI)
The process of how an individual receives information and processes it based on his/her senses (touch, taste, smell, sound, sight). This may include how one perceives his/her body,and the world around him/her. According to the theory of sensory integration, the many parts of the nervous system work together so that one can interact with the environment effectively and experience appropriate satisfaction. Having poor sensory integration may interfere with activities necessary for daily functioning (e.g. brushing teeth, playing on play equipment, hugging).

Sensory Processing Deficits
A condition that exists when sensory signals do not get organized into appropriate responses. This causes the individual to have difficulties processing and acting on information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing everyday tasks.

Increased tension in a muscle.

A combination of symptoms which occur together and define a disease or disorder.


Pertaining to the sense of touch on skin.

Tactile Defensiveness
Over sensitivity to touch sensations, can cause excessive emotional reactions or other behavior problems.

Tongue Thrust
Oral movement pattern where the tongue protrudes out of the mouth.

A condition that causes a baby’s head and neck to tilt to one side.

Tummy Time
Positioning a baby on its stomach while the baby is awake and supervised. Spending time on the stomach helps babies strengthen their head, neck, and shoulder muscles.


Vestibular System
Sensory organs in the inner-ear system that register the position of the head in relation to gravity and velocity of movement and are critical for all skills requiring balance.

Non-word sounds voiced by the child to the play partner; may occur alone or with gestures (e.g. babbling, cooing, “ah,” “da,” animal sounds).