Glossary & Acronyms

This is a process utilized in education in which professionals examine their practices systematically using research techniques.

The age when a person is legally considered an adult, responsible for oneself, and can make certain legal and business decisions not possible before.

ABA refers to the scientific study of behavior. It relies on standard behavioral techniques, applied in a systematic and data-driven way to identify motivation or function of behavior and outcome of intervention. As an example, if a child gets to watch TV whenever s/he screams, s/he is likely to continue to scream to request TV. In contrast, if the child never gets to TV when s/he screams, but only when s/he says “TV please” s/he is likely to stop screaming to request TV. There are many different approaches that evolve from ABA principles; ABA is an umbrella term that applies to a range of strategies. Some people use the term ABA to refer to a single methodology (e.g., discrete trial training) rather than using it to refer to the many strategies inherent in this approach. Hundreds of articles have demonstrated efficacy of this approach in intervention with many behaviors of autistic children.

Equipment and services used to maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a person with a disability.

Practices, strategies, or interventions that show promise and have evolved from empirically-supported strategies, but have inconclusive or insufficient evidence to fully support their use.

A case refers to one group under observation in a study or one instance of something occurring.

Activities, special assistance, advocacy and education to help eligible persons participate actively in their community.

An organization in the community that is qualified to provide specific types of vocational rehabilitation services.

Research that involves collecting data in order to determine the degree to which a relationship exists between two or more variables.

A cross-section consists of a group of people who differ in age and/or other factors who provide information for the research study at the same point in time.

The process of simplifying data in order to make it understandable.

Although Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) has been around for many decades, it is most commonly associated with the work of Dr. Ivar Lovaas, who used this behavioral strategy to teach children with ASDs. DTT is a highly structured, systematic way to teach skills through repeated trials. Skills are taught by presenting this sequence of steps repeatedly (trials) until the individual learns the skill. DTT with young children often involves working with an individual in a one-on-one setting that is free of distractions. However, as young children begin to develop skills the teaching setting can and should change to include groups, as well as other environments. DTT is often mistakenly referred to as ABA or Early Intervention since many programs that teach young children utilizing ABA incorporate DTT as a method for teaching skills. For some programs the majority of teaching is initially done with DTT. It is important, however, to keep in mind that DTT is a methodology for teaching new behaviors/skills and ABA is a field of science that applies behavior principle to effect change.

Evidence-based means that there has been evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of a treatment or intervention through rigorous evaluation and scientific research. In addition, the effective treatments or intervention have been demonstrated in repeated studies. Also known as empirically-based or research-based strategies or interventions.

Research in which at least one independent variable is manipulated, other relevant variables are controlled, and the effect on one or more dependent variables is observed.

Functional communication training is based on the hypothesis that problem behaviors may be a form of communication. FCT involves two components. The first is identifying the function or purpose of an individual’s non-productive behavior, such as hitting, by conducting a functional behavior assessment. Second is teaching an appropriate communication skill that may serve the same communicative purpose as the hitting for the individual.

Services and programs that help people with disabilities develop skills related to a job or career.

Incidental teaching is often described as a child-led approach since it capitalizes on the child’s interest and motivation in order to teach new skills. However, this does not mean it is not structured. In incidental teaching the environment is arranged in a way that educational objectives are embedded into a child’s typical routine or activity. For example, a desired item might be placed within the individual’s sight (to tempt them) but out of reach (in order to create the need to initiate some type of communication such as asking for it or reaching for it). When the individual initiates a request by labeling the item or gesturing for it, the adult then takes this opportunity to encourage more language.

A plan for any student with a documented disability meeting the state requirements for special education. It is required by the IDEA to provide FAPE.

A study in which information is collected at different points in time to study changes that occur over time.

Academic and scientific journals generally require that articles be submitted to a committee of one's peers to review for scientific merit and accuracy before appearing in a journal. 

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), developed in 1985 by Dr. Andrew Bondy and Lori Frost, is an augmentative communication intervention. The teaching protocol is based on B.F. Skinner’s book Verbal Behavior and utilizes many behavioral teaching strategies. With PECS individuals are initially taught to give someone a picture to represent a desired item. As requesting skills develop the teaching expands to include discriminating between pictures and forming sentences. One of the hallmarks of PECS is that it focuses on the individual initiating the communication.

The goal of PRT is to develop pivotal behaviors, such as motivation, responsivity to multiple cues, self-management, and child initiation. Pivotal behaviors are considered those that are crucial to the development of other skills and are believed to foster improvement even in areas that are not directly targeted for improvement. Thus, the idea is that by focusing on pivotal behaviors there will be widespread positive results on other behaviors. PRT is often described as a naturalistic child-directed approach. It is often used to improve language skill, social skills, place skills and behavioral difficulties.

Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS), which has its roots in ABA, is a systematic approach to preventing or reducing challenging behaviors, along with enhancing the quality of life for individuals by making changes to the environment and teaching new skills. The goal is to prevent problem behaviors by determining what triggers them and then restructuring the environment to try to reduce or eliminate these triggers.

Skills that are needed for successful employment, including household skills, personal organization skills, and work readiness skills.

A service that allows parents or caregivers short-term relief (usually a few hours) from caring for a person by providing in-home care by a trained professional

The conclusion that results are unlikely to have occurred due to sampling error or chance and are likely to represent a correlation or difference that exists in the population of interest.

Usually describes a program that offers assistance in finding a job, training for that job, and one-on-one support at the job.

Skinner believed that verbal behavior was influenced by the same behavior principles as any other type of behavior. As a result, in his 1957 book Verbal Behavior,he described language from a behavioral perspective and thus classified language according to its function. In doing so he came up with new terms, some of which are called: Mands, Tacts, and Intraverbals. Although Skinner did not discuss interventions in his book, procedures to teach language to autistic individuals have developed based on his work. These procedures are often referred to as VB (Verbal Behavior), or AVB (Applied Verbal Behavior or Analysis of Verbal Behavior). Initial teaching within a VB framework often occurs in the natural environment with an emphasis on utilizing the child’s motivation. In addition, early teaching is focused on developing mands (requesting skills) and then expanding language to include tacts (labeling) and intraverbal skills (conversations). Since mands, tacts and intraverbals all have different functions the procedures emphasize teaching language across all the different classifications.

Common acronyms

AAA: Area Agencies on Aging

ADA: American’s with Disabilities Act

CCC: Case Conference Committee

DDRS: Division of Disability & Rehabilitation Services

FAPE: Free and Appropriate Public Education

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IEP: Individual Education Plan

ITP: Individual Transition Plan

PASS: Plan for Achieving Self-Support

SSA: Social Security Administration

SSI: Social Security Income

SSDI: Social Security Disability Income

VRS: Vocational Rehabilitation Services