S T U V W X Y Z  



Study of the causes or origins of a disease or disorder.

(NAAR glossary)

Affective disorders

Disorders in which the fundamental disturbance is a change in affect or mood to depression (with or without associated anxiety) or to elation.


Angelman syndrome

Chromosomal disorder characterised by microencephaly, feeding and sleep problems, developmental delay, lack of speech and jerky movements.

(CaF directory of specific conditions and rare syndromes)

Applied behaviour analysis

An approach for changing behaviour that involves the systematic application of a set of principles derived from psychological theories of learning.

(Encyclopedia of special education, 2nd Ed.)

Asperger syndrome

An autism spectrum disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to others. A number of traits of autism are common to Asperger syndrome including:

  • difficulty in communicating
  • difficulty in social relationships
  • a lack of imagination and creative play.

However, people with Asperger syndrome usually have fewer problems with language than those with autism, often speaking fluently though their words can sometimes sound formal or stilted. People with Asperger syndrome also do not have the accompanying learning disabilities often associated with autism; in fact, people with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence.

(The National Autistic Society)


A systematic and thorough evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses and problems of a person.

(M Lindsey. Dictionary of mental handicap)

Assistive technology

A wide range of highly specialised mechanical, electronic and computer-based tools commonly used in rehabilitation and special education settings.

(Encyclopedia of special education, 2nd Ed.)


The ability to concentrate or attend.

(D. J. Cohen and F. R. Volkmar (Eds). Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders, 2nd Ed.)

Attention deficit disorder

Deficit in the ability to sustain attention.

(Thesaurus of psychological index terms)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

A developmental disorder of early childhood causing problems with attention, activity levels and impulsivity.

(Trevarthen et alChildren with autism)

Auditory training

Use of a special device to exercise the whole hearing apparatus - the ear drum, the small bones in the ear, the cochlear membrane, etc, as a form of physical therapy.

(The National Autistic Society)


A lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them. Children and adults with autism are unable to relate to others in a meaningful way. Their ability to develop friendships is impaired, as is their capacity to understand other people's feelings. All people with autism have impairments in social interactions, social communication and imagination. This is referred to as the triad of impairments.

(The National Autistic Society)

Autism spectrum disorders

An autism spectrum disorder is a complex lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them. The autism spectrum includes syndromes described by Kanner and Wing but is wider than these two subgroups. Many people have a mixture of features from these two syndromes but do not fit neatly into either. The whole spectrum is defined by the presence of impairments affecting social interaction, communication and imagination, known as the triad of impairments. This is always accompanied by a narrow repetitive range of

Autoimmune diseases

A collection of conditions in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues, identifying them as foreign substances. Genetic factors may play a part in this abnormal function, but the causes are not clear.

(G. Macpherson (Ed). Black's medical dictionary, 38th Edn)


A reaction to an individual's own tissues to which tolerance has been lost. Autoantibodies are not necessarily harmful and are commonly encountered in healthy persons.

(G Macpherson (Ed). Black's medical dictionary, 38th Edn)