Autism Abbreviation Soup: What Do Those Letters Mean?

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Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome Acronyms

If you have a child with autism or Asperger’s syndrome (AS) you probably have come across acronyms that you don’t understand. I have compiled a list of some of the most common acronyms to help you better understand when talking with medical professionals and educators.

 AAC – Assistive Augmentative Communication – communication using a picture board, recorded messages and other non-verbal communication methods

ABAApplied Behavior Analysis – analysis and tracking of behavior to help develop strategies

 ABC – Applied Behavior Checklist – checklist used during applied behavior analysis

ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – Federal law protecting the rights of those with disabilities in the workplace and other institutions who receive federal funding

 ADD – ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – a neurobiological disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity

 ADOS – Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale – test used by medical professionals to screen for autism

 AIT – Auditory Integration Training –  a type of therapy used to improve symptoms of auditory processing problems

AS – Asperger’s syndrome – An autism spectrum disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, repetitive behaviors and special interests

ASA – Autism Society of America – a national advocacy organization

 ASDAutism Spectrum Disorders – a umbrella term used to describe the five types of autism disorders, from mild to severe

 ASL – American Sign Language – a language using sign patterns consisting of hand gestures and shapes

 CARSChildhood autism rating scale – test developed by TEACCH to diagnose autism

 CHAT – Checklist for Autism in Toddlers – a checklist used by General Practitioners at around the age of 18 months to screen for autism

 DAS – Developmental Apraxia of Speech – a motor speech disorder

 DDDevelopmental Disabilities – general term used for all developmental disabilities, including autism and Asperger’s syndrome

 DH – Developmentally Handicapped – cognitively impaired or intellectual functioning significantly below average

 DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – extensive manual published by the American Psychiatric Association listing all mental illnesses with diagnostic criteria

EEG – Electrocephalogram – a test recording brainwaves used to test and identify seizures

 EI – Early Intervention – Services provided by counties and states beginning at birth and continuing until the age of 3

 FAPE – Free and Appropriate Education – educational, special educational and related services provided to students at no cost based on state and federal laws

 FC – Facilitated Communication – communication through a keyboard or other device to communicate with the help of a facilitator supporting the hand or arm

 GARS – Gilliam Autism Rating Scale – a rating scale used to diagnose autism

HFA – High Functioning Autism – individuals who are academically capable and verbal but still have symptoms of autism

 IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Act – federal law mandating a free and appropriate education for all students with disabilities from the age of 3 up to 21

 IEP Individualized Education Plan – a written document written by parents and educational professionals detailing services needed to help a child with disabilities in school

 IFSP Individualized Family Service Plan – A written plan used in early intervention services

 LDLearning Disabled – classification of a number of conditions which result in difficulty learning

 LRE – Least Restrictive Environment – used in educational purposes, a child is entitled to be educated in the least restrictive classroom

 MR – Mentally Retarded – a term referring to cognitive impairment along with deficits in adaptive behaviors

 NICHCY – National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities – a national information source for children with disabilities

 NIH – National Institutes of Health – U.S. medical research center

 NT – Neurologically typical – term used to refer to those individuals who do not have autism or AS

 OCDObsessive Compulsive Disorder – an anxiety disorder characterized by compulsions and obsessions

 ODDOppositional Defiant Disorder – disorder characterized by ongoing uncooperative, defiant or hostile behaviors

 OT – Occupational Therapy – therapists who may work with children with autism using play therapy, find ways for coping with sensory processing disorder and other daily activities

 PDD – Pervasive Development Disorder – a group of five disorders characterized by delays in development of basic functioning

 PECSPicture Exchange Communication System – a form of communication using pictures and symbols

 PEP or PEP-R – test to assess for autism and provide information on treatment strategies

 PT – Physical Therapy – therapy for those with limited abilities to move and perform functional actiities

 RDI Relationship Development Intervention – a therapeutic approach where therapists and parents take on the role of coach

 SI – Sensory Integration – therapy to help those with sensory difficulties better manage these issues

 SLP Speech Language Pathologist – a speech therapist with at least a master’s degree and who is certified and licensed

 SPD – Sensory Processing Disorder – commonly seen disorder in children with autism spectrum disorders

 SPED – Special Education – special education services provided by schools

 TEACCHTreatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children – An educational approach developed for children with autism


 Medical Abbreviations Dictionary:

“Medical Acronyms, Abbreviations and Symbols,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, The University of Memphis:

 “Some Common Abbreviations,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, MedlinePlus:


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