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Definitions & Diagnoses

Glossary of Terms in Exceptional Student Education

Anxiety Disorder: Excessive and disabling feelings of irrational fear, uncertainty or dread in everyday situations. There are five sub-types: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social phobia.

Applied Behavior Analysis: The use of learning principles to address behavioral needs, such as building the skills and achievements of children in school settings; and enhancing the development, abilities and choices of children with different kinds of disabilities.

Asperger syndrome: Often considered a high-functioning form of autism. People with this syndrome have difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors and often are clumsy. Motor milestones may be delayed.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): A sub-type of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children with ADD are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): One of the most common childhood disorders, ADHD can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior and hyperactivity (over-activity).

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): Children with ASD demonstrate deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or interests. They often have unusual responses to sensory experiences, such as certain sounds or the way objects look. Each symptom runs the gamut from mild to severe and presents differently in each child.

Behavior Disorders (also known as conduct disorders): All kids misbehave some times, but behavior disorders go beyond mischief and rebellion. With behavior disorders, the child or teen has a pattern of hostile, aggressive or disruptive behaviors for more than 6 months.

Bipolar Disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness): Characterized by unusual or extreme mood changes, from feeling very happy or “up” (manic) to very sad and “down” (depressed). The illness can make it hard for a child to do well in school or get along with friends and family members.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA): A credentialed practitioner who conducts behavioral assessments, provides analytic interpretations of the results, and designs and supervises behavior analytic interventions.

Depression: A mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration interfere with everyday life for an extended period of time. Children with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, get into trouble, be negative and irritable, and feel misunderstood.

Disability: A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual.

Exceptional Student Education (ESE): Programs for students ages 3 – 21 who have disabilities and students who are gifted.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: An anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.

Individualized Educational Plan (IEP): An IEP is a written plan for the special education of a child with a disability. It describes what the child can already do and what the child needs to learn in order to reach his or her goals. The IEP also identifies the kinds of help the child will be provided.

Mental Illness (also known as mental health disorder): Developmental brain disorder with genetic and environmental factors leading to altered circuits and altered behavior.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as handwashing, counting, checking or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away.

Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness or abdominal distress.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): An anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): A pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior toward authority figures.

Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder): An anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.

Sources: National Institute of Mental Health, PubMed Health, MedlinePlus, CATCH, Behavior Analyst Certification Board, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Florida Department of Education Exceptional Education & Student Services