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At the beginning of my journey, these were the thoughts running through my brain after every assessment, doctor's appointment, and therapy session. I would run home and start googling the combination of letters that were being thrown at me. (my brain as I type- "DDSN- or did she say DOSN? Gosh, I'm lost."

Often times, when people have been in the "system" for a long time, as a parent or a professional, they forget that newbies need it B-R-O-K-E-N down in simple, easy to understand ways! It is not that the newbie doesn't have the capacity to understand the words, it is simply that THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS TO LEARN and they all start to run together after awhile!

During a recent support group meeting that I was leading, the word "stimming" kept being used by myself and another veteran mama in our explanation to a newcomer. We were going on and on about how our children stim, and I looked over and she was totally lost. She was just talking about how her child makes random happy noises and movements constantly throughout the day and she did not know how to go about handling it and all the sudden these crazy ladies are talking about the "stem of a flower?" (That last part wasn't actually said but I am sure her brain was reeling to figure out what in the world we were talking about.)

I quickly realized that I had crossed over to the other side of the vocabulary bridge, and that I needed to hit pause and please be kind and rewind! I needed to remember what is was like to just be starting out in this world of exceptional needs and that my words and explanations should mirror the needs of the person on the receiving end.

All of this led me to think-wouldn't it be great to have a quick-reference directory of common words, organizations, assessments, acronyms, etc. to help explain these terms to someone new to the tribe. In in all fairness-the 26 terms below are the TIP OF THE ICEBURG, but it's a start to use as a reference guide!

I truly hope veterans and newcomers, alike, will find this list helpful! We all have more to learn at every stage of the journey.


A ABA Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy ) is a discipline that applies behavioral science interventions in real-world settings including schools, homes and clinics. The goal of ABA interventions is to improve socially important issues such as behavior problems and learning.

B BABYNET is South Carolina’s interagency early intervention system for infants and toddlers under three years of age with developmental delays, or who have conditions associated with developmental delays.

C CHILD FIND Child Find is the process of public schools identifying, locating, and evaluating any kids in their districts who need special education.

D DDSN S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) is the state agency in charge of services for South Carolinians with intellectual disability and developmental disabilities (such as autism, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and fetal alcohol syndrome).

E EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING Executive Functioning Skills these skills are responsible for things such as paying attention, planning, managing emotions, and understanding different points of view. Humans are not born with these skills and must develop them during childhood and into adolescence.

F FINE MOTOR are skills relating to the use of the small muscles of the body, such as those of the hands, feet, fingers and toes.

G GROSS MOTOR are skills relating to the use of the large muscles of the body.

H HYPOTONIA is a condition of abnormally low muscle tone (the amount of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle), often involving reduced muscle strength.

I IEP Individualized Educational Program (IEP): A plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability will receive specialized instruction and related services so he or she may be educated effectively.

J JUSTICE WORK FAMILY SERVICES offers a full range of behavioral health services to children and families working with the SC Department of Social Services, Juvenile Justice, Education & Mental Health, as well as self-referrals. Call 877-525-5992 or visit them at

K KATIE BECKETT/TEFRA MEDICAID provides benefits to certain children with disabilities who would not ordinarily be eligible because their parents’ income and/or resources exceed the limit.

L LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT refers to the fact that a child should be educated in the lest restrictive environment for his or her disability and which meets his or her needs. An educational setting which gives students with disabilities a place to learn to the best of their ability and also have contact with children without disabilities.

M M-CHAT is a checklist to be used by General Practitioners at 18 months to see if a child has Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variations in the human genome.

Neurotypical in simple terms, it describes those who are not on the autism spectrum or diagnosed with any other exceptional need.

Neurodivergent Neurodivergent refers to an individual whose brain processes information differently from what is considered typical. People diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and other conditions would all be considered neurodivergent.

O OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY A therapy that focuses on daily living skills, sensory integration, self-help skills, playing, adaptive behavior and fine motor skills.

P PROPRIOCEPTION is our body’s ability to sense the position of our body parts in relation to one another and the amount of strength it takes to create movement. This sense lets us know exactly where specific body parts are, their position, and their capability of movement. An example of proprioception would be clapping or pushing and pulling.

Q QUALITY OVER QUANTITY I totally couldn't come up with a quality "Q" word that added value to this post. Truth bomb ignited!


Receptive Language is what we see and hear and the information that we take in. Receptive language is the comprehension of information.

Expressive Language is the ability to request objects, make choices, ask questions, answer, and describe events. Speaking, gesturing (waving, pointing), writing (texting, emailing), facial expressions (crying, smiling), and vocalizations (crying, yelling) are all variations of expressive language.

S STIMMING Repetitive behavior (such as the spinning of objects, rocking back and forth, clapping), vocal echoes, or other repetitive actions that people with autism commonly partake in to alleviate the stressors of overstimulation.

T TRANSPORTATION REIMBURESMENT Transportation Reimbursement (Modivcare) provides mileage reimbursement for driving yourself or your child to certain medical appointments. Visit for more information.

U USC CENTER FOR DISABILITY RESOURCES LIBRARY lets you check out books, videos, and other materials related to various disabilities. They are located at the USC School of Medicine Library. For more information, visit

V VISUAL SCHEDULE A visual schedule tells a person what to expect next and in what order. People with autism often benefit from knowing what is next as it may be harder for them to transition from one activity to another.

W WINGS FOR ALL is a program that gives families and aviation professionals the confidence to fly by providing an airport “rehearsal,” as well as a presentation on the aircraft features and in-flight safety protocols.

X FRAGILE X SYNDROME is an inherited genetic disease passed down from parents to children that causes intellectual and developmental disabilities. It’s also known as Martin-Bell syndrome.

Y YTD Youth Transition Demonstration's purpose is to assist youths, aged 14 to 25, with disabilities to successfully transition from school to economic self-sufficiency.

Z ZONES OF REGULATION A complete social-emotional learning curriculum, starting with early emotional skills and advancing on to self-regulation and navigating social situations..

All my love and support, Anna

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