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age of onset

person's age when developing or exhibiting symptoms of a disease or condition.


prenatal medical procedure that allows the detection of abnormalities (i.e. Down's) in the developing fetus. Involves the removal and analysis of amniotic fluid from the mother.

amyloid precursor protein

solid, waxy substance forming the core of the amyloid plaque characteristic of people with Alzheimer's disease.

Asperger's disorder

pervasive developmental disorder characterized by impairments in social relationships and restricted or unusual behaviors, but without the language delays seen in autism.

attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

developmental disorder featuring maladaptive levels of inattention, excessive activity, and impulsiveness

augmentative communication strategies

pictures or computer aids to assist people with communication deficits so that they can communicate.

autistic disorder (autism)

pervasive developmental disorder characterized by significant impairment in social interactions and communication and restricted patterns of behavior, interest, and activity.

childhood disintegrative disorder

pervasive developmental disorder involving severe regression in language, adaptive behavior, and motor skills after a 2- to 4-year period of normal development.

communication disorders

problems in transmitting or conveying information, including stuttering, selective mutism, and expressive language disorder.

cultural-familial mental retardation

mild mental retardation that may be caused largely by environmental influences

discrimination training

arrangement of experiences in which the person or animal learns to respond under certain conditions and not to respond under other conditions

disorder of written expression

condition in which writing performance is significantly below the standard for that age level

Down syndrome

type of mental retardation caused by a chromosomal aberration (chromosome 21) and involving characteristic physical appearance. Sometimes known as trisomy 21.


learning disability involving problems in reading.

educable mental retardation

obsolete term referring to level of retardation comparable to the DSM mild designation that assumes the individual can learn basic academic skills

expressive language disorder

an individual's problems in spoken communication, as measured by significantly low scores on standardized tests of expressive language relative to nonverbal intelligence test scores. Symptoms may include a markedly limited vocabulary or errors in verb tense. expressive language is less than receptive language

extensive support retardation

retardation level characterized by the long-term and regular care required for individuals with this degree of disability

fragile X syndrome

pattern of abnormality caused by a defect in the X chromosome resulting in mental retardation, learning problems, and unusual physical characteristics

intermittent support retardation

retardation level characterized by the need for only episodic special care. For example, during crises and difficult life changes.

learning disorders

reading, mathematics, or written expression performace substantially below levels expected relative to the person's age, IQ score, and education.

Lesch-Nyhan syndrome

X-linked disorder characterized by mental retardation, signs of cerebral palsy, and self-injurious behavior

limited support retardation

retardation level characterized by the special care needed on a consistent although time-limited basis. for example, during employment training.

maintenance of sameness

necessity among people with autism that their familiar environments remain unchanged. They become upset when changes are introduced.

mathematics disorder

mathematics performance significantly below the standard for that age level

mental retardation

significantly subaverage intellectual functioning paired with deficits in adaptive functioning such as self-care or occupational activities, appearing before age 18

mild mental retardation

level of retardation defined by IQ scores between 55 and 70

moderate mental retardation

level of retardation defined by IQ scores between 40 and 55


in Down syndrome, the failure of two of the 21st chromosomes to divide to create one cell with one copy that dies and one cell with three copies that continue to divide.

pervasive developmental disorders

wide-ranging, significant, and long-lasting dysfunctions that appear before the age of 18

pervasive support retardation

retardation level characterized by the constant, intensive care needed by the individual in all environments

phenylketonuria (PKU)

recessive disorder involving the inability to break down a food chemical whose buildup causes retardation, seizures, and behavior problems. PKU can be detected by infant screening and prevented by a specialized diet.

profound mental retardation

levels of retardation defined by IQ scores below 20 and extremely limited communication and self-help skills


the study of how genetic makeup can affect individual reactions to drugs

reading disorder

reading performance significantly below the standard for that age level

receptive language

communication material that is understood rather than expressed

regulated-breathing method

intervention for stuttering in which the person is instructed to stop and take a deep breath whenever a stuttering episode begins

Rett's disorder

progressive neurological developmental disorder featuring constant hand-wringing, mental retardation, and impaired motor skills

selective mutism

developmental disorder characterized by the individual's consistent failure to speak in specific social situations despite speaking in other situations


dangerous actions, including head-banging and hitting oneself, seen in many children with autism.

severe mental retardation

level of retardation defined by IQ scores between 20 and 40 and somewhat limited communication, self-help, social, and vocational skills


disturbance in the fluency and time patterning of speech (i.e. sound and syllable repetitions or prolongations)

task analysis

method for evaluating a skill to be learned, breaking it down into its component parts.

tic disorder

disruption in early development involving involuntary motor movements or vocalizations


sudden, rapid, recurrent involuntary motor movements or vocalizations

Tourette's disorder

developmental disorder featuring multiple dysfunctional motor and vocal tics

trainable mental retardation

obsolete term referring to the level of retardation comparable to the DSM's moderate designation. suggests the individual can learn rudimentary vocational but not academic skills.

tuberous sclerosis

rare dominant gene disorder characterized by bumps on the skin and sometimes mental retardation and seizures.

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