2024 Milestones National Autism Conference
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Milestones Autism Resources

4853 Galaxy Parkway, Suite A
Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

Phone: (216) 464-7600

Home Resources Glossary


504 Plan

504 plans are formal plans that schools develop to give kids with disabilities the support they need. That plan covers any condition that limits daily activities in a major way. These plans prevent discrimination and they protect the rights of kids with disabilities in school. They’re covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which is a civil rights law. 504 plans aren’t part of special education, so they’re different from IEPs. 504 plans and IEPs are covered by different laws and work in different ways. But the end goal is the same: to help students thrive in school.

AAIDD (American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities)

Provides leadership worldwide for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

ABC Assessment

An ABC Assessment (or chart) is a testing tool used to gather information that should help to create a positive behavior support plan. ABC refers to: Antecedent- the events, action, or circumstances that occur before a behavior. Behavior- The behavior. Consequences- The action or response that follows the behavior. This term is often used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis, but it can also be used to help people examine a behavior to better understand its key components, including the event or activity that precedes the behavior and the consequences that follow.

ABLE account

An ABLE account is an investment account available to eligible individuals with disabilities. ABLE accounts have some similar features to normal bank accounts, but they are not checking or savings accounts. ABLE accounts are investment accounts, similar to 529 college savings accounts or 401(k) retirement accounts. When you deposit money into your ABLE account, your money will be invested in different options that you choose. While you can still withdraw and spend your money whenever you need it, ABLE accounts also allow you to grow your money and to save long-term for disability expenses. This term is used in states other than Ohio. In Ohio, this account is known as a STABLE account.

ABS (Adaptive Behavior Scale)

The ABS help practitioners diagnose, support, and determine the level of independence an individual has. This term is used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Absolute Indicators

These are the initial signs of autism that professionals notice.

ACA -- Affordable Care Act

ACA is intended to lower the cost of health care and improve system efficiency. It provides Americans with health care that is affordable and comprehensive.


To be accessible means that it is easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in or use safely, independently and with dignity by a person with a disability. The American Disabilities Act outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in state and local government services, employment, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.


Supports that can help an individual with autism who is participating in an education environment. Accommodations and supports your child receives will depend on your child’s needs and the goals set in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990)

ADA outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in state and local government services, employment, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.

Adaptive Behavior

Adaptive behavior is behavior that enables a person to get along in their environment with greatest success and least conflict with others. Adaptive behaviors include real-life skills such as grooming, getting dressed, avoiding danger, safe food handling, following school rules, managing money, cleaning, and making friends. Adaptive behavior also includes the ability to work, practice social skills, and take personal responsibility.

Adaptive Response

A way a person responds to what is happening in the environment. This term is used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Adaptive Skills

Also known as Functional Skills, are the skills that are used in daily living such as eating or getting dressed.

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

A brain disorder that is marked by a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with function or development.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

A condition in children who experience overactive behavior (hyperactivity), impulsive behavior, and difficulty paying attention.

Advance Directive

This document tells a physician what kind of care you would like if you were to become unable to make your own decisions pertaining to your medical treatment. For example, if you were in a coma.


Parents, family members, organizations, or volunteers that work on behalf of the rights and interests of others like individuals with disabilities.

Age-Appropriate Transition Assessments

Tools that help students identify their strengths, interests, skills, and/or knowledge needed to reach their goals for life after high school.


The events, action(s), or circumstances that occur immediately before a behavior.


A feeling of worry or nervousness that is typically about an imminent event or something with an outcome that is uncertain.

Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic therapy refers to treatments and exercises performed in water for relaxation, fitness, physical rehabilitation, and other therapeutic benefit. Typically a qualified aquatic therapist gives constant attendance to a person receiving treatment in a heated therapy pool.

Art Therapy

An established profession that uses the creative process of art to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It can increase fine-motor, visual motor, visual perception skills, organization, planning, and artistic expression.

ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

Also known as Autism, a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. It does not only affect how the brain develops but may also relate to immunological, gastrointestinal and metabolic problems.

ASL -- American Sign Language

It is a visual language that the brain processes linguistic information through the eyes. The shape, placement and movement of hands, and facial expressions all play an important part of ASL.

Asperger Syndrome or Disorder

A developmental disorder characterized by a lack of social skills, impaired social relationships, poor coordination, and poor concentration.

Assistive Technology

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 a child with a disability.. Examples include an electronic tablet, an AAC device, or electric wheelchair.

Auditory Integration Training

An intervention in which a person with ASD listens to filtered, electronically modulated music for an extended period of time.


An ethical principle that proposes all adults are competent until a court decides that incompetence exists.


A child begins to vocalize repeated consonant-vowel combinations, like ba ba ba or da da da, between six to nine months. Babbling precedes real speech and is necessary in the process of learning to talk.

Basic Daily Living Skills (BDLS)

These are normal activities that are done on a daily basis like eating, bathing, getting dressed, grooming, etc.

Behavior & Curriculum Intervention Specialist (BCIS)

This specialist orks with students, families, and staff in public schools to ensure that children with special needs are receiving the appropriate services and supports to have a successful education.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

A BIP is developed for a child who has demonstrated behavior(s) of concern. The IEP team develops a BIP using the information found through the FBA (functional behavior assessment) and outlines specific supports and procedures to be implemented in an effort to reduce or eliminate the behavior(s) of concern.

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCABA)

A BCABA can assist a behavior analyst that have been certified by an accredited organization.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

A board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) is a healthcare professional who studies the behavior of children and adults and creates plans to improve or change problematic behaviors. They often work with people who have developmental disabilities, brain injuries or emotional control, social or behavioral issues.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

A serious diagnosis that is characterized by at least two years of normal development followed by gradual loss of language, social and motor skills by the age of 10.


They are large DNA-containing structures in the heart of the cell called the nuclei.


Cognition is a term referring to the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. These cognitive processes include thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving.

Communication Board

A device that displays photos, symbols, or illustrations to help people with limited language skills express themselves. The user can gesture, point to, or blink at images to communicate with others. Communication boards are one type of augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) device.

Community and Medicaid Services (CMS)

Provide opportunities for individuals with Medicaid to receive services within their own community.


Comorbidity means more than one disease or condition is present in the same person at the same time. Conditions described as comorbidities are often chronic or long-term conditions and can occur along with autism spectrum disorders.

Competitive Employment

Work that is performed on either a full- or part-time basis in which individuals are paid for their work.


These are deliberate repetitive behaviors that follow specific rules. Some examples include cleaning, checking, or counting.

Cues or Prompts

Forms of assistance that help teach behaviors and indicates what to do as reinforcement. Cues come in physical, visual, verbal and physical assistance.

Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities (CCBDD)

The CCBDD offers a range of services for individuals with disabilities in Cuyahoga County. These services are provided for young children, families, and seniors which include specialized therapies resources, respite care, community employment, rehab, and crisis intervention.


The use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.


Any deficiency or difference from what is normal.

Developmental Milestones

These are markers that enable parents and professionals to monitor how a babies learning and behavior develop. As a child develops noticing any slight or major delay can create a red flag or warning sign to seek out help.


A diagnosis should include all of the child’s development, medical history, activities, and behaviors that they have shown. This must include at least one physician and a multi-disciplinary team from different specialties.

Direct Instruction

Direct instruction is the use of straightforward, explicit teaching techniques, usually to teach a specific skill. It is a teacher-directed method, meaning that the teacher stands in front of a classroom and presents the information.

Disability Rights Ohio

A nonprofit corporation with that advocate for human, civil, and legal rights for individuals with disabilities in Ohio.

Discrete Trial

One teaching strategy used in ABA to acquire new skills. It may be repeated several times until mastered. This term is used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Discrete Trial Training

Discrete Trial Training is a method of teaching in simplified and structured steps. Instead of teaching an entire skill in one go, the skill is broken down and “built-up” using discrete trials that teach each step one at a time.

Discriminative Stimulus

The instruction or environmental cue to which a teacher would like a child to respond to. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney is for health care, and is a document where a person designates another to be able to make health care decisions if they are unable to make decisions for themselves. A durable power of attorney includes special wording that makes it effective even if you become mentally incompetent.

Early Intensive Behavior Intervention (EBEI)

An ABA intervention that focuses on very young children with ASD. This is an intensive program that refers to long hours and time spent directly with a child by the instructor.


This is the repetition of work, phrases, intonation, or sound of the speech of others. People may not be able to communicate effectively because they struggle to express their own thoughts. Children with ASD often display echolalia while learning how to talk.


Imitation or repetition of body movement of another person.

Educational Service Center

ESC provides leadership and support for individuals and school districts within the state of Ohio. They provide effective special education programs, student programs, professional development, and support state regulations to create community partners.

Emotional Regulation

A child’s ability to notice and respond to internal and external sensory input, and then adjust their emotions and behavior to the demands of their surroundings.


The entire state of circumstances in which an organism exists and behaves


A group of neurological disorders characterized by recurrent episodes of convulsive seizures, sensory disturbances, abnormal behavior, loss of consciousness, or all of these.

Evaluation Team Report (ETR)

All of the information gather through the MFE (Multifactored Evaluation) process is then combined and summarized in an ETR which is reviewed and completed through a team meeting. A reevaluation and review of the resulting ETR is required at least once every three years.

Executive Function

Executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these skills every day to learn, work, and manage daily life. Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things.

Expressive Language

The uses of verbal behavior or speech to communicate thoughts, ideas, and feeling with others.

Extended School Year (ESY)

Extended school year (ESY) services are special education and related services that are provided to a student with a disability beyond the regular school year in accordance with his/her IEP. The need for ESY services must be determined annually on an individual basis by the Individual Education Program (IEP) team.


The technical term for withholding reinforcement from a previously reinforced behavior to decrease the likelihood of the behavior occurring in the future. This term is used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Extinction Burst

These are the temporary increase of frequency, intensity, and/or duration of a behavior targeted for extinction. This term is used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Facial Expressions

These are movements of the face that are used to express emotion or to communicate with others.


The process of slowly phasing out prompts that are used to get desired behavioral responses from an individual.


A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their clients' interest ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary requires being bound both legally and ethically to act in the other's best interests.

Fiduciary obligations (or fiduciary duties)

A commitment to act in the best interests of another person or entity. Broadly speaking, a fiduciary duty is a duty of loyalty and a duty of care.

Financial Power of Attorney

A legal document you need when you want to grant someone else the power to make money decisions for you. It's usually created alongside your will. This kind of POA is written specifically to let someone else act as your legal rep for financial matters.

Fixed Interval Schedules

An award is used to reinforce an individual after a fixed amount of time. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Fixed Ratio Schedules

To reinforce an individuals after a fixed number of correct responses. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

The legal concept of "FAPE" is shorthand for "free, appropriate public education." FAPE is an individualized educational program that is designed to meet the child's unique needs and from which the child receives educational benefit, and prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living. It is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA)

An FBA is developed by the IEP team if a child with a disability demonstrates behavior(s) of concern. The team gathers data and meets to analyze the behavior(s) of concern and determine the function of each behavior (what the child is trying to communicate or accomplish through the behavior). An FBA is a required preliminary step for creating a Behavior Intervention Plan.

Functional Communication

Functional Communication is the most basic form of communication. It gets one’s basic wants and needs known, such as “I want that”, “I am hurt”, or “I need to use the bathroom”. They are often the first types of messages that children begin to communicate.

Functional Play

Functional play is described as play with toys or objects according to their intended function (e.g., rolling a ball, pushing a car on the floor, pretend to feed a doll).


A medical practitioner qualified to diagnose and treat disorders of the stomach and intestines.

General Anesthesia

A medically induced coma with loss of protective reflexes, resulting from the administration of one or more general anaesthetic agents.


An insoluble protein constitute of wheat and other grains.

Hans Asperger (February 18, 1906- October 21, 1980)

An Austrian pediatrician which Asperger’s Syndrome is name after. He observed autism like behaviors and difficulties with social and communication skills in boys of normal intelligence and language development.

Hyper Responsiveness

The abnormal sensitivity or over reactivity to sensory input. This is the state of feeling overwhelmed by what most people would consider common or ordinary stimuli of sound, sight, taste, touch, or smell. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Hypo Responsiveness

The abnormal insensitivity or under reactivity to sensory input, in which the brain fails to register incoming stimuli appropriately so the child does not respond to the sensory stimulation. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

ICF/MR (Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded)

An institution providing diagnosis, treatment or rehabilitation of individuals with mental retardation or related conditions. ICF/MRs provide a protected residential setting, ongoing evaluations, 24-hour supervision and health services.

IDD (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities)

A neuro-developmental disorder that affects general intellectual functioning which includes reasoning, planning, judgement, etc.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that all children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.

IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan)

Programs for special services for young children with special needs, developmental disabilities, or ASD. They provide services that support the whole family, and create a treatment plan for the child.

Independent Living

The ability to perform skills or tasks that contribute to the successful independent functioning of an individual in adulthood.

Individual Plan for Employment (IPE)

A written plan that describes an individual’s employment goals and the steps need to achieve those set goals.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The Individualized Education Program, often called the IEP, is a legal document under United States law that is developed for each public school child in the U.S. who needs special education. It is created through a team of the child's parent and school district personnel who are knowledgeable about the child's needs.

Insistence on Sameness

Refers to a ritualistic routine or activity carried out in a specific way, which then becomes a ritual or nonfunctional routine. For example, a child with an ASD may try to “script” other kids' play so that some pretend scenario is acted out exactly as they pictured it.

Intelligence Quotient-IQ

An IQ is the numerical representation of an individual’s mental strength and capacity.


An intervention is the act of inserting one thing between others, like a person trying to help. Early intervention can make a big difference in improving cognitive and social development for children with autism.

Intrinsic Motivation

Refers to the motivation that comes from inside an individual rather than from any external or outside rewards, such as money or grades. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Job Coach

A job coach assists individuals with disabilities to find and keep jobs. Job coaches also work with employers by providing on-site support to individuals in order to help them adjust to the workplace and the routine of getting to and from work.

Joint Attention

Joint or shared attention is first accomplished by the caregiver looking at what the infant is looking at. Children learn to talk and use language to share enjoyment, interests, and achievements to later share ideas and experiences. Impairment in joint attention is a core deficit of ASD.

Literal thinking

Literal thinking means to interpret what others say based on the actual meaning of the terms used.

Living Will

A written statement detailing a person's desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent.

LRE (Least Restrictive Environment)

Least Restrictive Environment is a requirement in federal law that students with disabilities receive their education with nondisabled peers (in a mainstream school) and that special education students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily.


A word that means “requesting”. This is one of the first verbal skills that is taught. If a learner can ask for an item, person, and/or need then the request can replace a challenging, problem behavior. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.


Masking involves copying neurotypical behaviors and using them in social situations to hide behaviors that people feel won't be accepted. While both men and women are known to use masking, it is particularly common in girls and women on the autism spectrum and is thought to be one of the reasons females are less likely to receive a diagnosis.


A funding source of authority under Title XIX if the Social Security Act that provides health care assistance to qualified individuals.


A federal health care insurance program, run by the Health Care Finance Administration that includes both hospital and medical insurance


An intense response to overwhelming circumstances-a complete loss of behavioral control. People with autism often have difficulty expressing when they are feeling overly anxious or overwhelmed, which leads to an involuntary coping mechanism - a meltdown


Imitating or repeating a sound or an action


A modification is a change in what a student is expected to learn, based on their individual abilities. Examples of modifications include use of alternate books, pass/no pass grading option, reworded questions in simpler language, and daily feedback to a student.

Multifactored Evaluation (MFE)

The evaluation process used to determine if a child is to be considered as a child with an educational disability. This process gathers information from a variety of school professionals including the child's parents. The team then determines if the child qualifies to receive special education services.

Natural Supports

Supports and resources provided in the community by family, friends, and others who are not paid to provide such supports

Negative Reinforcements

Negative reinforcement is a method that can be used to help teach specific behaviors. With negative reinforcement, something uncomfortable or otherwise unpleasant is taken away in response to a stimulus.

NEON- North East Ohio Network

Increases opportunities for individuals with disabilities in Northeast, Ohio through shared resources.

Nonfunctional Routines

These are specified, sequential, and apparently purposeless repeated actions or behaviors that a child engaged in such as always lining up toys in a certain order each time of playing with them. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Nonverbal Behaviors

Behaviors that people do to convey or exchange information or express emotions without the use of words. These include eye gaze, facial expressions, body postures, and gestures.


These are repetitive thoughts that are persistent and intrusive.

OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

A chronic disorder in which an individual has uncontrollable, reoccurring thought (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that they feel they need to keep repeating.

Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD)

A statewide nonprofit organization that serves families and individuals of all ages with a disability, as well as the educators and professionals who provide them with service.

Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (Ohio DODD)

The Ohio DODD is committed to improving the quality of life for individuals in Ohio with developmental disabilities and their families. They offer support across the lifespan of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Ohio Department of Education (ODE)

The ODE oversees the Ohio’s public education system. Their tasks include overseeing the school funding system, collect school fiscal and performance data, developing academic standards, administering achievement tests, issuing district and school report cards, and providing professional developments.

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a learning process whereby deliberate behaviors are reinforced through consequences. There are four types of operant conditioning, which are positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement, and negative punishment.

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD)

Partners with individuals that live in Ohio to gain access to employment, independence, and what are their Social Security disability determination outcomes.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, defiance, or vindictiveness towards others of authority.

Over Reactivity to Sensory Input

Over reactivity to sensory input is an abnormal sensitivity or hyper responsiveness. It is a state of feeling overwhelmed by what most people would consider common or ordinary stimuli of sound, sight, taste, touch, or smell.

Parallel Play

A form of play for a group of children, in which they engage in an independent activity that is similar to but is not influenced or shared by others. This type of play can also be known as collaborative play.

Parent Mentor

A parent mentor guides families through the special education process and helps families understand their rights and responsibilities. They can attend Individualized Education meetings (IEP meetings) at the request of parents or staff members, and can support both families and professionals on an individual basis. Parent mentors also work to engage community services and other resources to support schools, families, and students with disabilities.

PASS - Federal Plan to Achieve Self-Sufficiency

PASS is an SSI provision that helps individuals with disabilities to return to work. It lets a disabled individual set aside money and things he or she owns to pay for items or services needed to achieve a specific work goal. The objective of the PASS is to help disabled individuals find employment that reduces or eliminates SSI or SSDI benefits.

PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)

This form of communication therapy involves using picture symbols to communicate wants/needs, label, and so on. The child goes through a learning process that teaches initiation of communication and then expands to the use of sentences. Many children who use PECS develop some verbal skills and may graduate to speech as the primary form of communication.

Performance Intelligence Quotient (PDD)

The PIQ test is a test that assesses your a person's mental capacity in dealing with nonverbal skills.

Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD)

A broad category of disability that involves problems in social interactions, verbal, and nonverbal communication. The terms PDD and ASD are used interchangeably.

Physical Therapist

A PT is a therapist who works with individuals in which they use exercise to improve movement

PLAY Project (Play and Language for Youngsters)

A parent-implemented, intensive early intervention program for young children with autism that is evidence based.


An important gesture of the index finger used to request an object or to draw attention to an object to comment on it or share interest in it. Also known as protodeclarative pointing.

Positive Reinforcement

Giving something rewarding following a desired behavior. This can include a hug, food, a prize, or special activity.

Power of Attorney: Health Care

A legal document that is used to appoint a person or organization authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unconscious, mentally incompetent, or otherwise unable to make decisions on your own. It differs from a durable power of attorney in that it expires if you become mentally incompetent.

Power of Attorney: Property

Legal document that is used to appoint someone to make property decisions, such as selling property or making important investment decisions for a person who is not able to do so.


Social rules for using functional spoken language in a meaningful context or conversation.


Refers to repeating or getting stuck carrying out a behavior when it’s no longer appropriate. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Presuming Competence

Assuming an autistic person has the capacity to think, learn, and understand - even if you don’t see any tangible evidence that such is the case. It’s assuming they just need the right supports and systems to help them succeed.

Primary Care Physician (PCP)

The first source of contact for a person with an undiagnosed health concern as well as continued case of other varied medical conditions.


An intervention that helps prepare a person for an upcoming activity or event with which they normally have difficulty. Priming can occur at home or in the classroom and is most effective if it is built into the person's routine.


This is what care providers or parents do to cue or assist a child to elicit a desired behavior. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.


The sensation from joints, muscles and tissues that lead to body awareness, obtained by lifting, pushing and pulling heavy objects as well as engaging in activities that compress (push together) or distract (pull apart) the joints. It is the sense that allows a person to guide his arm or leg movements without having to observe the movement to make sure it is happening.


The rhythm and melody of spoken language expressed through the rate, pitch, stress, inflection, or intonation. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Protoimperative Pointing

Pointing with the index finger in order to use another person to obtain an object.


An individual that is self-employed or works for an agency that provides services for individuals with disabilities.


The act or practice of a person serving as an authorized agent or substitute for another.


Physical and psychological aspects of activity. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.


Anything that follows a particular behavior that decreases the likelihood of that behavior being repeated in the future.

Range of Motion

Any body actions involving muscles, joints, and natural movements including abduction, adduction, extension, flexion, pronation, supination, and rotation.

Receptive Communication

The ability to understand or comprehend words and sentences that others use.


A retreat or backward movement in conditions, signs, or symptoms such as in language regression

Regulatory and Sensory Systems

These systems control a child’s ability to take in or register and respond to internal sensory input, external stimuli, and then adjust their emotional and behavioral response to those stimuli and the demands of their surroundings.


The process of encouraging or establishing a belief or pattern of behavior, especially by encouragement or reward. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Reinforcing Stimulus

A reward designed to motivate the child to respond correctly. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

A family-based intervention therapy that addresses the symptoms of autism. It focuses on building social and emotional skills.

Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests

Children with ASD may appear to have unusual behaviors such as special interests in particular object (e.g. lint, hair, etc.) or parts of an object.

Repetitive Motor Mannerisms

Stereotyped or repetitive movements or posturing of the body. This includes mannerisms like hand flapping, swaying, or posturing of the fingers, hands, or arms. These mannerisms may seem to have no meaning, but they are providing significant sensory stimulation to the individual.

Repetitive Use of Language

This is seen in the use of echolalia, which is the repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of speech of others.

Representative Payee

A person or an organization that is authorized to cash and manage public assistance check like social security checks for a person deemed incapable of doing so.

Residential Care Facility

A residential care facility provides personal services, protective oversight, and social care if the client has an impaired capacity to live independently and needs regular supervision on a 24 hour basis.

Respondent Conditioning

Respondent behavior is a behavioral process (or behavior) that happens in response to some stimuli, and is essential to an organism's survival. For example, a person sweats when they are running. This term is used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.


Specific and seemingly meaningless behaviors that an individual performs repeatedly in certain situations, such as turning on the lights on and off several times when entering a room.


A simple way to monitor the development of an individual’s typical development. A screen identifies any obvious signs of developmental delay.


A treatment approach that focuses on improving communication in everyday activities. It typically involves the repeated practice of words, phrases, and sentences embedded within a monologue or dialogue.

Section 504

The section of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that is generally referred as the civil rights clause for people with disabilities.


An individual with a disability who takes control of their own lives, makes their own decision about their life, shares their story, and provide support to similar individuals.


An idea that includes people choosing and setting their own goals, being involved in making life decisions, self-advocating, and working to reach their goals.

Self-Injurious Behavior

Self-inflicted bodily harm such as banging, hitting the hand or arm, or biting. About 10%-15% of individuals with ASD engage in SIB.

Self-Stimulus Behaviors or Stimuli

Also known as stimming, are stereotyped or repetitive movements or postures of the body. This includes mannerisms of the hands (flicking), body (pacing), and odd posturing.


Relating to sensation or the physical senses (touch, smell, taste, hear, see) ; transmitted or perceived by the senses.

Sensory Defensiveness

An abnormal reaction to an ordinary sensory input. Individuals who are overreactive may display strong negative emotions to stimuli typically considered either positive or at least neutral.

Sensory Diet

The sensory diet is a carefully designed personalized activity schedule that provides the sensory input a person’s nervous system needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Because sensory needs vary from individual to individual and from day to day, careful monitoring and collaboration is crucial. Components of a sensory diet might include brushing, swinging, heavy work (lifting, carrying), swimming, wearing weighted vests, wrist or ankle weights, wearing earphones, tactile play, trampoline jumping, chewing hard or crunchy objects, among many others.

Sensory Input

Includes both internal (temperature) and external sensations (light, sound). An individual’s response to sensory input depends on their ability to regulate, understand, and adjust their emotions to the demands of their surroundings.

Sensory Stimulation

Behaviors such as finger flicking and toe walking, which can be related to anxiety, tactile defensiveness (aversion to touch), or may be self-stimulatory. Individuals with ASD may engage in self-stimulating behaviors to soothe or comfort themselves.


A neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that plays a part in communicating with the nervous system. It has been noted that the level of serotonin in individuals with ASD may have a higher level than typical people.

Service Support Administrator (SSA)

An SSA facilitates the development plan of an individual that promotes self-determination, or the ability to take care of themselves. Assists individuals and families to explore and gain access to services and supports.

Social Graduation

Social graduation is an opportunity for an eligible student with a disability to participate in graduation ceremonies without actually receiving a high school diploma.

Social Interaction

The use of nonverbal or verbal behavior to engage in interaction with people. This can involve eye gaze, speech, gestures, and facial expressions to initiate and respond to interactions with others.

Social Narratives and Social Stories™

Social Narratives and Social Stories™ are strategies of conveying information in a narrative format that were specifically developed to support autistic individuals. Social Stories™ were originally developed by special education professional Carol Gray and follow a specific criteria in their creation, as compared to social narratives, sometimes called social stories, that do not follow the same criteria. The purpose of Social Stories™ is to support the meaningful exchange of information between family members or professionals and an autistic individual of any age. Social Stories™ are not created with the purpose of directly changing behavior, but rather accurately, completely, and neutrally conveying information about ‘social’ situations in an accessible format, by which behavior change may naturally follow. A social story can be created by anyone supporting an autistic individual. For more information visit: [https://carolgraysocialstories.com/]

Social Reciprocity

The back and forth flow of social interaction. The inability to participate in social reciprocity may be seen in not taking an active role in social settings, and may lead to a preference in solitary activities.

Social Security Disability Income-SSDI

SSDI is received on a monthly basis and is unique for every individual. It is based on an individual’s lifetime earnings, and not how severe an individual’s disability is.

Social-Emotional Assessment

A functional tool for assessing and monitoring social-emotional and behavioral development in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are at risk for social-emotional delays or problems.

Social-Imitative Play

Pretending to act out the actions of daily routines like brushing your teeth, or the actions of others like someone talking on the phone.

Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is a legal arrangement that lets a physically or mentally ill person, or someone chronically disabled, have access to funding without potentially losing the benefits provided by public assistance programs.

Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) diagnoses and treats conditions that affect your ability to communicate and swallow. As experts in communication, these specialists assess, diagnose, treat and prevent speech, language, voice and swallowing disorders for all ages.

Spoken Language

Verbal behavior or speech to communicate thoughts, ideas, and feelings with others. Spoken language can also be referred to as expressive or receptive language

STABLE account

A STABLE account is an investment account available to eligible individuals with disabilities. STABLE Accounts have some similar features to normal bank accounts, but they are not checking or savings accounts. STABLE Accounts are investment accounts, similar to 529 college savings accounts or 401(k) retirement accounts. When you deposit money into your STABLE Account, your money will be invested in different options that you choose. While you can still withdraw and spend your money whenever you need it, STABLE Accounts also allow you to grow your money and to save long-term for disability expenses. This term is used within the state of Ohio. In other states, it is known as an ABLE account.

State Support Team (SST)

Local and regional educators that have a history of improving preschools, schools, and special education.

Stereotyped Behaviors

Abnormal or excessive repetition of an action carried out in the same way over time. This may include repetitive movements, posturing of the body, or repetitive movements with objects.

Stereotyped Language

An abnormal or excessive repetition of an action or phrase overtime. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Stereotyped Patterns of Interest

A pattern of preoccupation with a narrow range of interest and activities.


See: Self-stimulus behaviors


A person, place, or thing which includes light, sound, taste, texture, and odor that evokes a person to respond in a certain way. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI pays benefits to disabled individuals who have limited income or resources.

Supported Employment (SE)

Provisions in which individuals with disabilities are assisted with obtaining and maintaining employment.


A subjective indication of a disease or a change in condition as perceived by the patient

Tactile Defensiveness

An individual with ASD may overreact to an ordinary sensory input which may exhibit sensory defensiveness, which is a strong negative response to a sensation that would not ordinarily be upsetting. Tactile defensiveness is specific to being touched or touching something or someone. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.


Individuals with ASD may develop inappropriate ways to communicate through aggression, self-injurious behavior (SIB), or tantrums. Tantrums in individuals with ASD may be more intense and frequent than those of a typical individual.

Token Economy System

An individual earn tangible things for good behavior. This term can be used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Transition Planning

A term used when a parent/guardian and their child set up a plan on how your child will deal with the upcoming life decision they will encounter in their adult years.

Transition Services

A coordinated set of activities designed within an outcome orientated process which promotes movement from school to post-school activities including post-secondary education.


A trigger refers to something that affects someone's emotional state, often significantly, by causing extreme overwhelm or distress. A trigger affects their ability to remain present in the moment. It may bring up specific thought patterns or influence their behavior.

Under Reactivity to Sensory Input

An individual’s aspect of abnormal insensitivity to sensory input or hyporeponsiveness, in which an individual does not respond to sensory stimulation. This term is used in connection with Applied Behavior Analysis.


An organization that provides services for individuals with disabilities.

Verbal Intelligence Quotient (VIQ)

The numerical measurement of a person’s ability to use language and speech skills to reason and understand verbal concepts.


The sense of movement, centered in the inner ear), obtained by spinning and swinging and, to a lesser extent, any type of body movement or change in head position. It coordinates the movement of one’s eyes, head, and body and tells the body where it is in space. The vestibular sense is central in maintaining muscle tone, coordinating two sides of the body, and holding the head upright against gravity.

Video Modeling

A form of observational learning where the desired skill and behaviors are learned by watching and observing a video demonstration, and then imitating the behaviors of the model in the video.

Visual Cues

These are used to enhance communication and social skills of individuals with ASD. Usually these are picture cards with words.

Vocational Assessment

An assessment that identifies an individual’s strengths, skills, interests, abilities, and rehabilitation needs.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Prepares any person with a disability for useful and purposeful employment through on-the-job training and use of rehabilitative equipment.


Used to grant exceptions to people in the Medicaid program who wish to use community based non-institutionalized services. They must be signed to acknowledge that they are forgoing the option of institutional services. They can be accessed through the county board of developmental disabilities.


AAC (Augmentative Alternative Communication) Strategies

Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) Strategies are any methods of communication other than speaking. AAC strategies are available for people of all ages and all ability levels if they have any difficulty communicating through speech. There are no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech options. No-tech and low-tech options include things such as gestures, writing, drawing, sign language, letter boards, or picture boards. High-tech options include things such as applications on a tablet designed for alternative communication or using a dedicated speech-generating device that speaks through a computer-generated voice. There is also AAC technology designed for those who have difficulty with coordinating motor movements, such as eye-gaze technology. If an autistic individual has difficulty using speech, AAC strategies are often essential to help the person most effectively communicate their wants and needs. A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) can help with assessing and introducing what AAC strategies will work best for the individual. It’s important to know that using AAC does not have any negative impact on a person’s ability to learn to use speech. In fact, using AAC has only been proven to help with typical language development.

ABA Therapy (Applied Behavior Analysis)

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a method of behavior modification using principles of operant conditioning, systematically analyzing and shaping behavior using techniques in which the targeted behavior is modified with reinforcement or punishment. Typically a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) works directly with the individual, following a behavior intervention plan created by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). * Note: A number of autistic individuals and other autism community members have expressed concerns with ABA, including that it is less effective long term and less ethical compared to other interventions. These discussions are ongoing.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic intervention that can be helpful for dealing with feelings of anxiety or depression. It works to help clients change their patterns of negative thoughts or behaviors, with the goal being to increasingly respond more effectively to those thoughts or behaviors when they occur. CBT is not an autism-specific therapy and should not be used to address autism-specific traits or challenges, however it can be helpful in some cases for co-occurring anxiety or depression common among autistic people. CBT can be provided by a licensed counselor, psychologist, or clinical social worker.

Collaborative Proactive Solutions (CPS)

Collaborative Proactive Solutions (CPS) is an evidence-based, trauma-informed treatment model, developed by child psychologist Dr. Ross Greene, for helping address behavioral issues and conflict with children of any age. The CPS model can be used by teachers, therapists, and caregivers, either under the direction of a professional trained and certified in the method or independently by the persons involved. The CPS model approaches behavioral issues by helping adults and children through a problem-solving process that identifies and addresses the underlying “unsolved problems” behind the behavior. The model is collaborative (not unilateral) and proactive (not reactive), meaning that the child is involved in the problem-solving process and the focus is on resolving problems so the behavior stops occurring, rather than trying to modify the behavior after it has already occurred. The CPS model has been shown to not only help resolve conflicts and reduce behavioral issues, but also help children develop essential problem-solving skills. For more information visit: https://www.cpsconnection.com/

Equine-Assisted Therapy

Equine-Assisted Therapy involves engaging in various activities with horses for the purpose of physical and mental health treatment. For autistic individuals, therapeutic horseback riding or hippotherapy can help improve muscle tone, coordination, speech skills, and personal confidence. Hippotherapy should be delivered by a licensed physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist.


Floortime (also known as DIRFloortime®) is a developmental relationship-based intervention specifically designed for promoting the development of young autistic children. Floortime focuses on play-based intervention that promotes engagement in order to help a child develop various skills, including communication, self-regulation and problem-solving. It is built on the idea of playfully engaging with the child by following their lead and their interests and gradually, gently challenging them as a means to encourage further development. Floortime is typically delivered in the home, by a professional who has completed a Floortime certification program and is a professional such as a psychologist, social worker, occupational therapist, or speech therapist.

Music Therapy

Music Therapy uses music to help individuals address goals such as reducing stress or increasing self-expression. It may help individuals to develop skills in areas of communication, social interaction, self-expression and self-regulation. It can be particularly helpful for autistic children who show an interest in music or auditory stimulation.

Neurodiversity-Affirming Therapy

Neurodiversity-Affirming Therapy is a term used by providers who want to distinguish that they provide care based around the principles of neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is the basic idea that developmental and neurological differences are not inherently “disordered” or pathological, but rather a natural form of human diversity with both positive and negative aspects. For autistic individuals, neurodiversity-affirming therapists will usually take a strengths-based approach, rather than deficits-based, and will help the individual live their ‘best life as an autistic person’, rather than trying to eliminate or remediate autistic characteristics. In some cases a neurodiversity-affirming therapist may themselves be neurodivergent and/or autistic. For a directory of neurodivergent therapists you can visit: https://ndtherapists.com/

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Occupational Therapy is a therapeutic approach to helping individuals increase participation in daily living activities and develop adaptive skills. These are practical, everyday skills needed to function and meet the demands of one's environment, including independent living skills. An Occupational Therapist (OT) can help address a wide range of skills for autistic individuals, in the home, school, workplace and the community. Occupational Therapy can help in developing fine motor skills, needed for activities such as handwriting and manipulating small objects, and developing daily living habits (dressing, bathing, feeding, play and leisure, etc.). An OT properly trained in sensory issues can also help in finding strategies, activities and tools to meet an autistic person's individual sensory needs.

Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy helps individuals with gross motor development. Physical therapy may help autistic individuals build muscle control and strength if this is an area of challenge for them.

PIVIT Assessment Tool

This assessment is designed to help parents/caregivers advocate for what types of treatment design they desire and are comfortable with when beginning ABA services. This form will help to inform the clinician designing treatment by calling attention to personal and family values. It is not a diagnostic tool.

Play Therapy

Play Therapy is a form of psychotherapy or counseling that uses play in order to help a person explore and express their feelings and build various skills. Play therapy is different from play-based therapy. Play-based therapy is any intervention that incorporates play when working with children, while play therapy is a specific approach practiced by a Registered Play Therapist (RPT). It can be used with both children and adults. There are several different approaches to play therapy according to the therapy goals, including non-directive (unstructured, but supervised play wherein the therapist observes the child’s play) and directive (the therapist provides toys and activities related to a targeted skill). Play therapy is appropriate for all ages, but is predominantly used with younger children and adolescents. Children naturally learn through play, even before they have language skills. Play therapy creates opportunities for self-expression and skill building through activities, without the need for verbal communication. Not all play therapists are experienced or specialized in working with autistic individuals. There are some specific play therapy programs designed for working with autistic children, such as AutPlay.


SCERTS® is an educational model and multidisciplinary, research-based framework designed to directly address the core needs and challenges of autistic individuals. SCERTS stands for Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and Transactional Support and focuses on these three key areas to support autistic children. The first two areas focus on development of these skills for the autistic person, while the last (Transactional Support) focuses on helping those around the autistic person (family members, teachers, etc.) develop competency in engaging with the child, providing supports, and creating an accessible environment. SCERTS is intended as a holistic framework that helps families, educators, and therapists work together as a team to support a child. More information and resources can be found at the following websites: https://scerts.com/ https://barryprizant.com/ https://autismlevelup.com/

Service Animals or Animal-Assisted Therapy

Service Animals or Animal-Assisted Therapy use animals in order to help assist individuals or provide therapeutic value. Service animals, most often service dogs, are trained to help a person with specific medical needs, such as alerting to epileptic seizures, stopping self-injurious behavior, or noticing signs of anxiety and performing calming actions such as laying across the person’s lap. It is important that service animals are properly trained and certified. Therapy animals, again most often therapy dogs, are trained to provide comfort during anxiety-inducing situations, such as during a therapy session or in-patient treatment at a hospital. Organizations may host special events where therapy dogs are available to be interacted with, in which case they can provide comfort and promote social interaction.

Social Skills Groups and Coaching

Social Skills Groups and Coaching can help autistic individuals of different ages develop desired social skills, provide a safe place to practice those skills, and/or simply have a group of other autistic, neurodivergent, or mix of autistic and neurotypical peers to socialize with. Some social skills groups focus more therapeutically on building particular skills, while others function more casually to provide socializing opportunities with a facilitator. Social skills groups or coaching may be provided by different types of therapists or facilitators such as a speech therapist, social worker, school guidance counselor, or peer-to-peer counselor.

Speech Language Therapy

Speech-Language Therapy addresses challenges with language and communication. For autistic individuals a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) can help build communication and social skills in a variety of settings like home, school, and work. SLPs can help autistic individuals develop all forms of communication, including spoken language and Augmented Alternative Communication (AAC) if needed. Speech therapy may focus on functional communication (addressing wants and needs) and social communication (using language to socialize). SLPs can also address an individual's skills in expressive language (what a person communicates) and receptive language (what a person comprehends). Additionally, properly trained SLPs are qualified to work with feeding and swallowing issues in autistic individuals.


TEACCH (The Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children) is an approach developed specifically to support autistic individuals and consists of a framework called Structured Teaching. The Structured Teaching method consists of strategies in which the environment and materials around an autistic person can be structured to be accessible to their unique cognitive features. This generally falls into five areas: Physical Structure, Visual Schedules, Work Systems, Routines and Visual Strategies, and Visual Structure and Materials. Structured Teaching is most often used in classroom settings, but can also be used in any place. It can be used to help address behavioral issues, support academic learning, and develop daily living skills. The TEACCH approach is designed on the principles of appreciation for autistic individuals and their strengths, collaboration with parents as experts, and the use of highly individualized, flexible and responsive approaches to each individual learner.

Trauma-Informed Therapy

Trauma-Informed Therapy is an approach to care that always keeps in mind the potential that an individual could have trauma in their life or be at risk of encountering a traumatic event. As a result, trauma-informed therapy takes steps to be trauma-sensitive based on the best available knowledge about how trauma impacts individuals. Additionally, trauma-informed therapists are careful to not inadvertently trigger or re-traumatize a person or create additional trauma through treatment. Trauma-informed therapy is helpful for anyone, whether they have experienced a large or small trauma or their trauma history is unknown. It is also helpful even if a person has experienced no significant trauma, as it will be sensitive to the potential of trauma, including in the therapeutic process. Trauma-informed therapy can be particularly helpful for autistic populations, as research shows that autistic individuals are more vulnerable to being victims of certain traumas or may experience certain events as more traumatic than a neurotypical person. For more information, see the following links: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/TIP-57-Trauma-Informed-Care-in-Behavioral-Health-Services/SMA14-4816 https://traumainformedbehaviorsupport.com/trauma-informed-behavior-support-its-about-quality-of-life/

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