Glossary of Disability Terms

Below are the terms often used in the disability community.

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acquired brain injury (ABI): A brain injury that occurs after birth. It can be a result of an internal injury (e.g., tumor, stroke, aneurysm), an external injury (e.g., motor vehicle accident, fall, sports injury) or ingestion of a toxic substance.

Asperger’s syndrome: A person with Asperger’s Syndrome usually has normal intelligence and
language development. The person may have problems with social skills, handling change, or reading social cues such as body language.  The person might also have a preoccupation with a particular interest, or be oversensitive to sounds, smells, tastes, etc. Asperger’s Syndrome is sometimes referred to as “high-functioning autism.”

attention deficit disorder (ADD): A diagnosis with symptoms that may include difficulty paying attention, being easily distracted and the inability to focus more than a few moments on mental tasks.  (See also attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.)

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A diagnosis with symptoms that may include difficulty focusing attention and effort to tasks, difficulty in impulse control or delay of gratification and increased activity unrelated to the current task or situation. Most people who have a diagnosis of ADHD alone are not eligible for developmental disability services.

autism: A neurological disorder that affects normal development in the areas of social interaction, behavior, and communication skills. This developmental disability typically appears during the first three years of life. The main features include disturbances of: 1) developmental rates; 2) responses to sensory stimulation; 3) speech, language, and learning abilities; 4) ability to relate to people, events and objects.

brain injury: Any level of injury to the brain often caused by an impact with the skull.

cerebral palsy: A condition caused by damage to the brain before, during or after birth, that limits a person’s ability to fully control his/her muscles. People with CP are affected in different areas of the body, in the number of body parts affected, and in their symptoms.  Common characteristics of CP include involuntary movements, problems making voluntary movements because muscles are spastic or tense, and a loss of coordination.

congenital disability: A disability that exists at birth.

cystic fibrosis: A genetic disease that causes the body to produce an abnormally thick, sticky mucus.  This mucus clogs the lungs, causes lung infections, and blocks the pancreas, which keeps enzymes from reaching the intestines to digest food

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