acquired brain injury - dyslexia


acquired brain injury

Sometimes called a head injury, is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth—not a congenital injury or an injury at the time of birth. Causes could include a car accident, a gunshot wound, or a fall. An acquired brain injury may result in cognitive, speech-language, memory, physical, or behavioral disabilities.



Severe and of short duration; used to describe a condition that is brief, severe, and quickly comes to a crisis.   The opposite of chronic.


Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Provides civil rights protection to people with disabilities and guarantees those covered by the law equal opportunity in employment, state and local government services, transportation, places of public accommodation, and telecommunications services.



Activities of daily living such as dressing, eating, cooking, etc.


adaptive behavior

An individual’s ability to act appropriately in social situations and to take care of their personal needs.



Someone who takes action to help someone else; also, to take action on someone's behalf (see also self-advocacy).


alternative formats

Having alternative formats available to people with disabilities ensures that information is accessible. Examples include text files on a computer disk, large print, written materials recorded on audiotape, and Braille.



A lack of oxygen to tissues, which, if prolonged, can cause cell damage or death.



Apprehension, tension, or uneasiness from anticipation of danger, the source of which is largely unknown or unrecognized (in distinction to fear, which is the emotional response to a consciously recognized and usually external threat or danger). May be regarded as pathologic when it interferes with effectiveness in living, achievement of desired goals or satisfaction, or reasonable emotional comfort.


articulation problem

A person has an articulation problem when he or she produces sounds, syllables, or words incorrectly so that listeners do not understand what is being said or pay more attention to the way the words sound than to what they mean.


assistive technology device

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


assistive technology service

Any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Services include evaluation of need, selection, purchase, coordination of related services, and training.



A chronic lung disease that causes breathing problems called attacks or episodes of asthma. Usually symptoms get started or “triggered” by something that irritates the lungs. These things are called asthma triggers; triggers can range from viruses (such as colds) to allergies, to gases and particles in the air.



Blurred vision caused by uneven curvature of lens or cornea.



A lack of coordination while performing voluntary movements.  Movements are not smooth and may appear disjointed or jerky. Ataxia may affect any part of the body.


attention deficit disorder & attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), is a neurobiological condition characterized by a lack of concentration, impulsiveness, and sometimes hyperactivity. The symptoms vary in intensity depending on the individual. Children with ADD often have problems at school because they are required to sit still and pay attention for long periods of time—two activities with which they may have difficulty. Many adults have learned special strategies to cope with ADD.



The written results in a graph form of a hearing test.



A specialist that tests and remediates hearing problems.


auditory discrimination

The ability to detect differences in sounds.


augmentative communication

Special devices that provide an alternative for spoken language.




Obstacles that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in society:

attitudinal barriers

Attitudes, fears and assumptions that prevent people with and without disabilities from meaningfully interacting with one another.

physical barriers

Physical obstacles that hinder people with physical disabilities from gaining access.


barrier-free design

An approach to design that aims for buildings, transportation systems, and outdoor environments that people with disabilities can access and use independently and safely (see universal design).


birth defect

See congenital disability (birth defect is not the preferred term).


A disability that affects a person’s eyesight. Eighty percent of blind people have some vision.  See also: legally blind and low vision.



Braille is a series of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or whose eyesight is not sufficient for reading printed material. Teachers, parents, and others who are not visually impaired ordinarily read Braille with their eyes. Braille is not a language but a code by which languages such as English or Spanish may be written and read.




A clouding of all or part of the normally clear lens within your eye, which results in blurred or distorted vision.


central nervous system

The nerves that travel along the spinal cord to and from the brain.


cerebral palsy

A variety of conditions resulting from damage to the brain before or during birth or in the first few years of life. Extent of motor involvement varies greatly, from a sight limp or as profound as paralysis, spasticity, or speech problems.
There are four main types:

Ataxic – voluntary movements are jerky; balance is lost.

Athetoid – continual muscle movements prevent or severely interfere with voluntary movements.

Hypotonic – muscles are limp, cannot contract.

Spastic – muscles are stiff; some body parts are paralyzed.



A chronic condition is continuous or persistent over an extended period of time, not easily or quickly resolved. The opposite of acute.


chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
An emerging condition characterized by debilitating fatigue (experienced as exhaustion and extremely poor stamina), neurological problems, and a variety of flu-like symptoms. It is also known as chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis. The core symptoms include excessive fatigue that is not relieved by rest, general pain, mental fogginess, and often gastrointestinal problems. Many other symptoms may also be present but will typically be different among individuals. These include: fatigue following stressful activities, headaches, sore throat, sleep disorders, and abnormal temperature. The degree of severity can differ widely among individuals, and will also vary over time for the same person. This variation, in addition to the fact that its cause is not yet known, makes this syndrome difficult to diagnose.


cleft palate

A gap in the roof of the mouth; a congenital split along the midline of the roof of the mouth. It is caused by a failure of the two sides of the hard palate to meet and fuse during fetal development and is often associated with a cleft lip.



Refers to the mental processes of comprehension, judgment, memory, and reasoning.


cognitive disability

Also called intellectual disability, indicates below-typical cognitive abilities. Signs of intellectual disability are failure to meet developmental milestones, decreased learning ability, persistent infantile behavior, lack of curiosity, and difficulty performing at school. There are all kinds of potential causes, such as infection (meningitis, congenital rubella), trauma (brain injury), chromosomal abnormalities (Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome), inherited conditions (Tay-Sachs, Rett syndrome), toxins (lead poisoning), metabolic disease (Reye’s syndrome), even malnutrition or poor social environment. However, a cause is identified in only a quarter of people with intellectual disability. This disability is sometimes referred to as mental retardation (not a preferred term), mental disability, or developmental disability.



Repetitive ritualistic behavior such as hand washing, organizing and reorganizing, or repeating words silently that aims to prevent or reduce distress or prevent some dreaded event or situation. The person feels driven to perform such actions in response to an obsession, even though the behaviors are recognized to be excessive or unreasonable.


conductive hearing loss

A temporary or permanent hearing loss that occurs when something interferes with the passage of sound to the inner ear.


congenital disability

A condition that is present at birth.



A term sometimes used for people with disabilities instead of patient or client to suggest their entitlement to an active role and quality service.


criterion referenced test

When a criterion references test is used, the person being tested is evaluated according to their own performance, not in comparison to others.



The combination of vision and hearing disabilities (i.e. some mix of blindness, deafness, low vision and/or hearing loss). It is sometimes called dual sensory impairment. Most people who are deaf/blind have some useful vision and/or hearing.


deafness and hearing loss
A condition that affects a person’s ability to hear. Deafness is a severe to profound hearing disability, with little or no residual hearing. Many deaf people communicate using sign language. People with hearing loss, often called hard of hearing, generally use their residual hearing and speech to communicate. Many people with hearing loss can understand some speech sounds with or without a hearing aid. Deafness can be the result of genetics, an accident, environmental factors, or an illness.  Many people who are deaf do not consider themselves to be disabled.


A mental health condition that may be characterized by sadness, fatigue, anorexia, lack of emotional expression, indifferent attitude, and social withdrawal. Common types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder.


developmental disability

Defined in law as a “severe and chronic disability” which is attributed to a mental or physical impairment or combination; is manifested before age 22; and results in substantial functional limitation in at least three major life activities.


developmentally delayed

A child who acquires skills after the expected age.



A disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. 

Type 1—also known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is a condition in which a person's pancreas produces little or no insulin.  People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections daily and test their blood sugar several times each day.

Type 2—the most common form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance (a condition in which the body fails to make enough or properly use insulin), combined with relative insulin deficiency.  Type 2 diabetes is generally controlled though diet, exercise, and weight-loss.



The definition of disability according to the Americans with Disabilities Act refers to any physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities (including, but not limited to walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, and caring for oneself), a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. But be aware that there is no list of physical or mental conditions that “qualify” a person as being disabled under the law.


disability rights movement

The collective effort to secure equal rights, equal opportunities, and a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities.


Down's syndrome

A person born with chromosomal differences that often results in developmental disabilities.


Having short stature means being significantly below average in height (i.e. in the fifth percentile) compared to others of the same age and gender. It can be caused by a range of conditions such as achondroplasia (also known as dwarfism, although this is not a preferred term), osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), Noonan syndrome, and congenital hypothyroidism. However, short stature is not always caused by a medical condition—sometimes it is simply a person’s inherited height. People of short stature may benefit from adaptations to their home and workplace, such as lowered light switches and strategically placed stools.



A learning disability in which a child is unable to do math problems.



A break in the smooth flow of speech.



A learning disability that impairs a person’s ability to write.



Inability or difficulty in reading, including word-blindness and a tendency to reverse letters and words in reading and writing.