echolalia - muscular dystrophy



The immediate and sometimes pathological repetition of the words of others, often found in autistic children. In delayed echolalia, this inappropriate echoing takes place hours or weeks later. 


electroencephalogram (EEG)

A graphic recording of electrical activity of the brain, recorded from electrodes placed on the surface of the scalp. 


environmental sensitivity
Also called environmental illness or multiple chemical sensitivity, is a chronic condition aggravated by exposure to chemicals in the environment, even at low levels that do not bother most people. These chemicals can include auto exhaust, perfumes, tobacco, detergents, and other cleaning products. The chemicals might be in the air, water or food, and can be breathed, ingested, or touched. Reactions range from mildly annoying to life-threatening. Common symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, mental confusion, short-term memory loss, breathing problems, persistent flu-like symptoms, joint pains, muscle aches, depression, and fatigue.



See seizure disorder.






The cause of a condition or the study of the causes.



facial difference
Facial difference is any facial feature that varies significantly from the "norm." It can be present at birth (cleft lip/palate) or the result of illness or trauma that affects the face (third-degree burns). Support networks can be of great benefit to people with facial differences, who may struggle with self-esteem issues in a society that places great value on how we look.


fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)

FAS consists of a set of physical, mental, and neurobehavioral birth defects associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  Individuals with FAS have a distinct pattern of facial differences, growth deficiency, and evidence of central nervous system dysfunction. In addition to mental retardation, individuals with FAS may have other neurological deficits such as poor motor skills and hand-eye coordination. They may also have a complex pattern of behavioral and learning problems, including difficulties with memory, attention, and judgment.


fine motor skills

Hand and finger small muscle movement.



grand mal seizure

A seizure involving the entire body, usually characterized by muscle rigidity, violent rhythmic muscle contractions, and loss of consciousness, caused by abnormal electrical activity in the nerve cells of the brain.


gross motor

Coordinated movements of all body parts.




The loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the life of the community on an equal level with others. It describes the encounter between the person with a disability and the environment. The purpose of this term is to emphasize the focus on the shortcomings in the environment and in many organized activities in society, for example, information, communication and education, which prevent persons with disabilities from participating on equal terms.  See also disability.


head injury
See acquired brain injury.


hearing loss
People with hearing loss, often called hard of hearing, have some residual hearing as opposed to being severely or profoundly deaf. People with hearing loss can understand some speech sounds with or without a hearing aid, use their residual hearing and speech to communicate. Their hearing loss can be the result of genetics, an accident, environmental factors, or illness.



Weakness on one side of the body.



Full or partial paralysis on one side of the body caused by damage to the brain due to disease, trauma, or stroke.


hidden disability

Most disabilities are not visible. Hidden disabilities include mental and cognitive disabilities; some hearing and visual impairments; alcoholism and addiction; epilepsy; diabetes;  and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Also referred to as an “invisible disability.”



Excessive motor activity or restlessness.



Farsightedness—difficulty seeing near objects.




The practice of acting on the belief that every person has an inherent right to participate fully in society.  The goal of inclusion is for all people to lead productive lives as full, participating members of their communities.  The presence of people with disabilities does not constitute inclusion unless people with disabilities are valued, contributing members with a sense of belonging.


independent living movement

Advocacy movement that views the person with a disability as an active consumer of services and advocates for personal independence; barrier removal; equal rights and opportunities; and consumer choice and control.


institutional segregation/institutionalization

Until very recently many people with disabilities were removed from communities and put into institutions where they were denied self-determination and access to the opportunities of independent living, education, and livelihood.


intellectual disability

See cognitive disability.


invisible disability

See hidden disability.



juvenile diabetes

See diabetes.




language disorders

Language and speech disorders refer to problems in communication and related areas such as oral-motor function. These delays and conditions range from simple sound substitutions to the inability to understand or use language or use the oral-motor mechanism for functional speech and feeding. Some causes of speech and language disorders include hearing loss, conditions affecting neurological function, brain injury, developmental disabilities, drug abuse, physical impairments such as cleft lip or palate, and vocal abuse or misuse. Frequently, however, the cause is unknown.


learning disability

Central nervous system dysfunction that interferes with the brain’s capacity to process information in the conventional manner. People with learning disabilities have a disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language. They may have difficulties in listening, thinking, talking, reading, writing, spelling, or arithmetic. The primary cause of the disorder is not due to visual, hearing, intellectual or physical disabilities, emotional disturbance, or environmental disadvantages.  People with learning disabilities have average or above-average intelligence.


legally blind

A visual field which is not greater than 20 degrees or visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye after correction.


light perception

Ability to detect presence or absence of light.


light projection

Ability to tell where light is coming from.


low vision

People who have some useful vision, but who cannot achieve clear vision by wearing glasses or contact lenses, are considered to have low vision. Low vision generally means a person’s vision does not meet their needs.




A jointly-funded, federal/state health insurance program for certain low-income and needy people. It covers approximately 36 million individuals including children, the aged, blind, and/or disabled, and people who are eligible to receive federally assisted income maintenance payments.



Health insurance that covers some people with disabilities based on their work experience or the work experience of spouse or parent.


mental health disability
See psychiatric disability.


mental retardation

See cognitive disability (mental retardation is not a preferred term).


migraines and chronic headaches
Vascular headaches are a group of headaches thought to involve abnormal sensitivity of the blood vessels in the brain to various triggers, resulting in rapid changes in the artery size due to spasm. Other arteries in the brain and scalp then dilate and throbbing pain is perceived in the head. Migraines, which are thought to be inherited, are the most common type of vascular headache. Migraines can be accompanied by other sensory phenomena that indicate a brain dysfunction, such as flashing lights, blurred/double vision, balance problems, numbness, weakness, hearing problems, or difficulty speaking. Severe migraine headaches can be totally disabling, but once they pass they may have no impact on a person’s normal state of health. They can last from a few hours to several days.


mobility issues

When people have to negotiate physical barriers to get around within a place or between places. Usually people with mobility issues have physical disabilities.


multiple chemical sensitivity

See environmental sensitivity.

multiple sclerosis

Degeneration of the central nervous system due to a progressive deterioration of the protective sheath surrounding the nerves; may be chronic or acute.



Nearsightedness—blurred vision with distant objects harder to see than near objects.


muscular dystrophy

Genetic condition that causes a gradual weakening through degeneration of muscle tissue.