Cerebral Palsy Dictionary



Abduction The outward movement of a limb away from the body.

Absence seizures See Petit mal seizures.

Acuity The ability to see clearly.

Adaptive behavior The ability to adjust to new environments, tasks, objects, and people, and to apply new skills to those new situations.

Adaptive equipment Equipment offering special support which is adapted to your child's special needs (corner chair, prone board, etc.).

Adduction The inward movement of a limb towards the body.

Advocacy The act of supporting or promoting a cause. Speaking out.

Advocacy groups Organizations that work to protect the rights and opportunities of children with disabilities and their families.

AFO (Ankle foot orthoses) A short leg brace worn inside the shoe which extends up to the calf Made of lightweight plastic.

Agnosia See Sensory impairments.

Agonist The muscle that is the prime mover in a specific movement.

Akinetic seizure See Atonic seizure.

Amblyopia (lazy eye) Partial loss of sight due to suppression of central vision in the cortex when both eyes do not have the same acuity.

Ambulatory Having the ability to walk.

Antagonist The muscle that is directly opposite in movement to the agonist.

Anticonvulsant A drug used to control seizures. Even though all seizures are not convulsions, this term is commonly used.

Applied behavior analysis A method of teaching designed to change behavior in a precisely measurable and accountable manner. Also called behavior modification.

ARD Committee (Admission, Review, and Dismissal Committee) This committee is made up of teachers and other professionals. It is responsible for the admission of children to special education, review of the progress of children in special education programs, and dismissal of children from special education.

Artculation Sound production.

Asphyxia Lack of sufficient oxygen and circulation of the blood resulting in possible brain damage and a loss of consciousness.

Aspirate To suck or draw in, as by inhaling.

Assessment Process to determine a child's strengths and weaknesses. Includes testing and observations performed by a team of professionals and parents. Usually used to determine special education needs. Term is used interchangeably with evaluation.

Asymmetrical When one side of the body differs from the other. Astigmatism-Blurry vision caused by abnormal curvature of the cornea. Ataxic-Having unbalanced, jerky movements.

Ataxia A condition in which damage to the cerebellum results in an unbalanced gait.

Athetoid Having involuntary or uncontrolled writhing movements.

ATNR (asymmetrical tonic neck reflex) A reflex performed by turning the head of a child to one side slowly and holding it in position for 15 seconds. Response in a newborn to 3 months: extension of the arm following the pointed direction of the chin with flexion of the opposite are or any increase tone. After about 5 months of age, a consistent response may be considered abnormal.

Atonic Relating to lack of normal muscle tone.

Atonic (akinetic) seizure A sudden loss of muscle tone which may cause the child to fall.

Atrophy Deterioration of muscle tissue.

Attention The ability to concentrate on a task.

Attention span The amount of time one is able to concentrate on a task. Also called attending in special education jargon.

Audiometry The testing of hearing.

Auditory Relating to the ability to hear.

Auditory sequential memory Ability to hear and repeat a of words or numbers.

Augmentative communication The use of non-speech techniques such as signs, gestures, or pictures to supplement a child's speech abilities.

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Baclofen (Lioresal) is commonly used as an oral medication for the treatment of spasticity.

Baclofen Pump The Baclofen pump has been developed to administer Baclofen directly into the spinal fluid, where it has maximum effect with a very low dose and avoiding the sedative effects of oral Baclofen.

Behavior modification See Applied behavior analysis.

Beneficiary The person indicated in a trust or insurance policy to receive any payments that become due.

Bilateral Relating to both sides.

Bite reflex A reflex which causes an infant to close his mouth tightly, for example, when his gums or teeth are touched.

Bivalved casts Removable plaster casts worn to improve toe walking, stretch out tight muscles, or improve wrist or elbow flexion and other abnormalities.

Botox (botulinum toxin) Botox is injected into the muscle to weaken the spasticity.

Bradycardia Very slow heart rate.

Brain stem Portion of the brain between the cerebellum and the spinal cord.

Bruxism Grinding of teeth repeatedly.

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CARF Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

Case manager The person responsible for coordinating services and information from the members of a multidisciplinary team.

Cause-and-effect The concept that actions create reactions.

Cataracts Clouding of the lens in the eye, which blocks the visual images from entering the retina.

CCS Chronic cerebellar stimulation.

CE See Conductive Education.

Central nervous system The brain and spinal cord. The part of the nervous system primarily involved in voluntary movement and thought processes.

Cerebellum Part of the brain that helps coordinate muscle activity and control balance.

Cerebral palsy (CP) A movement and posture disorder resulting from a non-progressive defect of the brain (brain damage).

Chorea Abrupt, quick, jerky movements of the head, neck, arms, or legs.

Choreoathetosis A form of cerebral palsy which causes variable muscle tone and involuntary movements of the limbs.

Clonus Rapid, rhythmic movements (alternate muscle relaxation and contractions) which result from spastic muscles.

Cognition The ability to know and understand the environment.

Conductive Education a 5 hours per day, 5 days per week program for teaching and learning for children with motor disorders which originated in Hungary.

Conductive heating loss A loss of hearing due to ear infections (middle ear disease) or anatomic abnormalities such as cleft lip or palate.

Congenital Present at or before birth.

Contraction Momentary tightening or shortening of a muscle.

Contracture Shortening of muscle fibers resulting in a decrease of joint mobility.

Convulsion Involuntary contractions of the muscles due to abnormal electrical activity of the brain. A seizure.

Cortical blindness Total or partial blindness resulting from injury to the brain's visual centers in the cerebral cortex. The child is able to pick up visual information with his eyes, but his brain cannot process and interpret the information.

Cost-of-care liability The right of a state providing care to someone with disabilities to charge for the care and to collect from that person's assets.

CP See Cerebral palsy

Craniofacial Pertaining to the area of the skull and the bones of the face.

Craniosacral Therapy A non-invasive, gentle therapy which uses the craniosacral system of the body.

Cue Input that prompts a person to perform a behavior or activity.

CVI (Cortical Vision Impairment) See Cortical blindness.

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Depakene Valproic acid. An antiepileptic seizure medication.

Development The process of growth and learning during which a child acquires skills and abilities.

Developmental disability A handicap or impairment beginning before the age of eighteen which may be expected to continue indefinitely and which causes a substantial disability. Such conditions include pervasive developmental disorders, autism, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation.

Developmental milestone A developmental goal such as sitting or using two word phrases that functions as a measurement of developmental progress over time.

Developmental sequence The normal progression of motor skills, including all areas such as fine motor, gross motor, personal and social.

Developmentally delayed Having development that is slower than normal.

Digit Toe or finger

Dilantin Phenytoin. An antiepileptic seizure medication.

Diplegia A type of cerebral palsy in which spasticity primarily affects the legs.

Diplopia Double vision.

Discretionary trust A trust in which the trustee (the person responsible for governing the trust) has the authority to use or not use the trust funds for any purpose, as long as funds are expended only for the beneficiary.

Disinherit To deprive someone of an inheritance. Parents of children with disabilities may do this to prevent the state from imposing cost-of-care liability on their child's assets.

Dispute resolution procedures The procedure established by law and regulation for the fair resolution of disputes regarding a child's special education.

Dorsal Rhizotomy A neurosurgical procedure. "Dorsal" means that the operation is done on the nerves that are toward the back of the spine. "Rhizotomy means cutting of the nerves.

Dorsiflexion Upward motion of the foot toward the body.

Due process hearing Part of the procedures established to protect the rights of parents and special-needs children during disputes under Public Law 94142. These are hearings before an impartial person to review the identification, evaluation, placement, and services by the educational agency.

Dysarthria Impaired articulation due to problems in muscle control.

Dyskinesia A general term for involuntary movements.

Dyspraxia Difficulty planning movements and putting them into sequence.

Dystocia Difficult labor.

Dystonia Slow, rhythmic, twisting movements.

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EAHCA See Education for All Handicapped Children Act.

Early development Development during the first three years of life.

Early intervention The specialized way of interacting with infants to minimize the effects of conditions that can delay early development.

Echolalia A parrot-like repetition of phrases or words just heard (immediate echolalia), or heard hours, days, weeks, or even months ago (delayed echolalia).

Education for All Handicapped Children Act The federal law that guarantees all children with disabilities the right to a free appropriate public education. It is Public Law 94-142.

EEG See Electroencephalogram.

Efferent Originating from the central nervous system, a nerve impulse which travels to a nerve or muscle.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) The machine and test used to determine levels of electrical discharge from nerve cells. Often used in seizure diagnosis.

Electromyogram A test which measures electrical levels in muscles, used in diagnosing muscle and nerve disorders.

Engagement The ability to remain focused on, and responsive to, a person or object.

EPSDT Early and Periodic Screening Diagnostic or Treatment program.

Epilepsy A recurrent condition in which abnormal electrical discharges in the brain cause seizures.

Equilibrium Balance.

Equinus Walking on toes due to a shortening of the calf muscles.

Esophagus The tube through which food travels from the pharynx to the stomach.

Estate planning Formal, written arrangements for handling the possessions and assets of people after they have died.

Esotropia A condition in which the eye(s) turns inward.

Etiology The study of the cause of disease.

Eversion When a body part turns out away from the body.

Evaluation See Assessment.

Expressive language The ability to use gestures, words, and written symbols to communicate.

Extension Limbs or trunk becoming straight or extended. The opposite of flexion

Exotropia A condition in which an eye turns outward.

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Facilitation Helping to move, making movements easier.

Febrile seizures Generalized tonic-clonic seizures brought on by a sudden rise of temperature to 102 degrees or higher.

Femoral bone The long, heavy bone extending from the knee to the hip.

Fine motor Relating to the use of the small muscles of the body, such as those in the face, hands, feet, fingers, and toes.

Flexion The bending of joints.

Flexion deformity Abnormal flexion at a joint.

Flexor A muscle controlling joint flexion.

Floppy Having weak posture and loose movements.

Fluctuating tone Having a combination of low and high muscle tone.

Focal motor seizures jerking of a few muscle groups without an initial loss of consciousness.

Form perception The ability to perceive a pattern of parts making up a whole.

Free Appropriate Public Education The basic right to special education provided at public expense. This right is guaranteed by P.L. 94-142.

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Gag reflex A reflex that causes a child to gag or choke when his palate or tongue is touched.

Gastroenterologist A specialist in digestive disorders.

Gastroesophageal reflux A condition in which stomach contents are forced back up into the esophagus and sometimes the mouth.

Genetic Inherited.

Generalization Transferring a skill taught in one place, or with one person, to other places and people.

Goniometer An instrument used to measure joint range of motion.

Grand mal seizure See Tonic-clonic seizure.

Gross motor Relating to the use of the large muscles of the body, such as those in the legs, arms, and abdomen.

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Habilitation Teaching new skills to children with developmental disabilities.

Handicapped Having some sort of disability, including physical disabilities, mental retardation, sensory impairments, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, or multiple handicaps.

Head control The ability to control the movements of the head.

Hemiplegia A type of cerebral palsy in which only the right or left side of the body is affected.

Hepatitis An inflammation of the liver.

High tone A tightness or spasticity of the muscles.

Hippotherapy Treatment with the help of a horse.

Hoyer lift Mechanical (hydraulic) device for lifting and transferring individuals.

Hydrocephalus Excess fluid within the cranial cavity that may cause increased pressure on brain tissue, often leading to the development of an abnormally large head.

Hydrotherapy water therapy

Hyperactivity A specific nervous-system-based difficulty which makes it hard for a person to control muscle (motor) behavior and results in restlessness, fidgeting, overactive movements.

Hyperextensible Overly flexible.

Hyperopia Farsightedness; a condition in which distant objects can be clearly seen, but nearby objects appear blurred.

Hyperplasia Excessive growth of tissue-for example, of gum tissue.

Hypertonia An increased tension or spasticity of the muscles. High tone.

Hypotonia Decreased tension of a muscle. Low tone.

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ICF Intermediate care faculty.

IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IEP See Individualized Education Plan

Individualized Education Plan A written plan that outlines the education plan for children with special needs.

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KAFO (knee-ankle-foot orthosis) A brace that starts below the hip and extends to the ankle

Ketogenic Diet a very precisely prescribed diet that is used to help control seizures in children with intractable epilepsy.

Kinesthetic Relating to the ability to perceive movement.

Kyphosis Rounded back; a deformity of the upper spine.

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Labyrindi The inner ear.

Language The expression and understanding of human communication.

Lateratity A motor awareness of both sides of the body.

Learning disability Difficulty processing certain types of information in a child with normal intelligence.

Least restrictive environment The requirement under Public Law 94-142 that children receiving special education must be made a part of a regular school to the fullest extent possible.

Local Education Agency (LEA) The agency responsible for providing educational services on the local (city, county, and school district) level.

Long-leg sitting Sitting with legs extended straight out in front of the body.

Lordosis Sway back; a deformity of the lower spine.

Low tone Decreased muscle tone.

Lower extremities The legs.

LRE See Least restrictive environment.

Lumbar Relating to the lower back.

Luxury trust A trust that describes the kind of allowable expenses in a way that excludes the cost of care in state-funded programs in order to avoid cost-of-care liability.

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Macrocephaly An abnormally large head

Mainstreaming The practice of involving children with disabilities in regular school and preschool environments.

Malnutrition Nutritional intake that is insufficient to promote or maintain growth and development.

Malocclusion Faulty bites such as overbites or underbites.

Mandible Lower jaw bone.

Maxilla Upper jaw bone.

Medicaid A joint state and federal program that offers medical assistance to people who are entitled to receive Supplementary Security Income.

Medicare A federal program that provides payments for medical care to people who are receiving Social Security payments.

Mental retardation Below normal mental function. Children who are mentally retarded learn more slowly than other children, but "mental retardation" itself does not indicate a specific level of mental ability. The level of mental function may not be identifiable until a much later age.

Microcephaly An abnormally small head.

Midline an imaginary reference line down the center of the body separating left from right.

Modeling See Imitation.

Monoplegia Type of cerebral palsy in which only one limb is affected.

Motor Relating to the ability to move oneself.

Motor delay Slower than normal development of movement skills.

Motor patterns The ways in which the body and limbs work to make sequenced movement.

Motor planning The ability to think through and carry out a physical task.

M.O.V.E. Mobility Opportunities via Education is a program designed to teach disabled children functional motor skills through the use of selective equipment - i.e. the Gait Trainer, the Mobile Stander and the Universal Chair.

Muscle facilitation To encourage a muscle to work harder through techniques such as proper positioning, special equipment, sensory input, etc.

Muscle tone The amount of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle.

Multidisciplinary team See Interdisciplinary team.

Multihandicapped Having more than one handicap.

Myopia Nearsightedness; a condition in which close objects can be seen clearly but distant objects are blurry.

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Nerve Block An injection of medication into nerves to the muscles to impair the conduction of impulses along the nerve and reduce spasticity.

Neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT) A specialized therapy approach that concentrates on encouraging normal movement patterns and discouraging abnormal reflexes, postures, and movements. Used by physical, occupational, and speech therapists.

Neuroleptic Medicine which produces changes in functioning of the nervous system.

Neurologist A physician specializing in medical problems associated with the brain and spinal cord.

Neuromotor Involving both nerves and muscles.

Neurotransmitter The chemical substance between nerve cells in the brain which allows the transmission of an impulse from one nerve to another.

Nystagmus A jerky, involuntary movement of the eyes.

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Occupational therapist (OT) A therapist who specializes in improving the development of fine motor and adaptive skills.

Ophthalmologist A physician who specializes in treating the eye and diseases of the visual system.

Optokinetic Relating to movement of the eyes when visually following a moving object.

Optometrist A Professional who performs eye examinations and prescribes glasses.

Oral motor Relating to the movement of muscles in and around the mouth. Oral tactile defensiveness-An over-sensitivity to touch around the mouth. Orthodontist-A dentist who specializes in correcting irregularities of teeth and/or jaw alignment.

Orthopedic Relating to the bones, joints, or muscles.

Orthopedist A physician specializing in bones and joints.

Orthotics Lightweight devices made of plastic, leather, or metal which provide stability at the joints or passively stretch the muscles.

OSER U.S. Office of Special Education & Rehabilitation.

Osteotomy An operation to cut and realign the bones; for example, to change the angle of the femoral bone and the hip joint.

Otitis media inflammation of the middle ear due to bacteria] infection or other causes.

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Palatal Relating to the back portion of the roof of the mouth.

Palmar grasp Using only fingers, not the thumb, to grasp an object in the palm of the hand.

Paralysis Loss or impairment of muscle function.

Parent-professional partnership The teaming of parents and teachers (or doctors, nurses, or other professionals) to work together to facilitate the development of babies and children with special needs.

Periodontal Relating to the gums and bones that surround the teeth.

Periventricular Leukomalasia (PVL) A type of brain damage that often leads to cerebral palsy.

Petit mal (absence) seizures Brief, abrupt loss of consciousness (5 to 10 seconds) followed by a rapid, complete recovery; also associated with staring or repetitive eye blinking.

Phalanges The bones of fingers or toes.

Phenobarbital An anticonvulsant medication.

Phenol Block Phenol is injected into the nerves or muscles to weaken or paralyze very spastic muscles.

Phonation Voice production.

Phoneme Smallest unit of sound found in speech.

Phonetic Relating to articulated sounds.

Physical therapist (PT) A therapist who works with motor skills.

Pincer grasp The use of the thumb and forefinger to grasp small objects .

Placement The selection of the educational program for a child who needs special education programs.

Plantar flexion Downward pointing motion of the foot.

Plantar surface Sole of the foot.

Posture Positioning or alignment of the body.

Pragmatic Understand how and why language is used.

Primitive reflexes Early reflexes that usually disappear after about six months of age.

Proprioception Sensory input from tissues of the body.

Prompt Input that encourages a child to perform a movement or activity. See Cue.

Prone Lying on the stomach.

Pronation Turning inward of a hand or foot.

Psychomotor (complex partial) seizures Seizures which cause decreased alertness and changes in behavior.

Public Law 94-142 See Education of Individuals with Disabilities Act.

Pulmonary Relating to the lungs.

PVL See Periventricular Leukomalasia

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Quadriplegia A type of cerebral palsy in which the whole body is affected.

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Range of motion (ROM) The degree of movement present at a joint.

Receptive language The ability to understand spoken and written communication as well as gestures.

Reciprocal motion The alternate movements of arms and legs.

Reflex An involuntary movement in response to stimulation such as touch, pressure, or joint movement.

Reinforcement Providing a pleasant consequence (positive reinforcement) or removing an unpleasant consequence (negative reinforcement) after a behavior in order to increase or maintain that behavior.

Related services Services that enable a child to benefit from special education. Related services include speech, occupational, and physical therapies, as well as transportation.

Respiration Breathing.

Respite care Skilled adult or child-care and supervision that can be provided in your home or the home of a care-provider. Respite care may be available for several hours per week or for overnight stays.

Retina The lining of the back portion of the eye which receives visual images.

Retinopathy of Prematurity (R.O.P.) A condition in which high concentrations of oxygen received while a baby is on a respirator damages capillaries in the eye, leading to myopia or a detached retina.

Retraction Drawing back a part of the body.

Rhizotomy, selective dorsal A neurosurgical procedure involving selective cutting of the nerves of the spine to reduce the spasticity of muscle groups.

Rigidity Extremely high muscle tone in any position, combined with very limited movements.

Rooting A newborn reflex in which babies turn their mouths toward the breast or bottle to feed.

ROM See Range of motion.

ROP See Retinopathy of Prematurity.

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Scoliosis Curvature of the spine.

Screening test A test given to groups of children to sort out those who need further evaluation.

SEA The State Education Agency.

Seizure Involuntary movement or changes in consciousness or behavior brought on by abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain.

Self-help Relating to skills such as eating, dressing, bathing, and cleaning which enable a person to care for himself.

Sensorineural hearing loss Hearing loss resulting from damage to the inner ear, the auditory nerve, or both, which is present at birth or acquired later in childhood from meningitis, high fever, or medications.

Sensory ability (integration) The ability of the central nervous system to process and learn from sensations such as touch, sound, light, smell, and movement.

Sensory impairments Problems handling information relayed to the brain from the senses. See also Dyspraxia; Tactile defensiveness.

Sensory seizures Seizures which produce dizziness or disturbances in vision, hearing, taste, smell, or other senses.

S.I. Sensory integration.

Side sitting Sitting with both knees bent and to one side of the body.

Scissoring Crossing legs together when standing or being held upright.

SMO (supramalleolar orthosis) Foot brace that is smaller that an AFO

Social ability The ability to function in groups and to interact with people.

Soft tissue releases Operations on the muscles, tendons, or ligaments to correct deformities or improve movement.

Spastic Having increased muscle tone (stiff muscles) resulting in difficult movements.

Special education Specialized instruction based on educational disabilities determined by a team evaluation. It must be precisely matched to educational needs and adapted to the child's learning style.

Special needs Needs generated by a person's handicap.

Speech/language pathologist (SLP) A therapist who works to improve speech and language skills, as well as to improve oral motor abilities.

Splints Devices made of molded, rigid plastic used to stretch the soft tissues or to hold a limb in a position that makes movement easier.

SSA Social Security Administration.

S.S.D.I. (Social Security Disability Insurance) This money has been paid into the Social Security system through payroll deductions on earnings. Disabled workers are entitled to these benefits. People who become disabled before the age of twenty-two may collect S.S.D.I. under a parent's account, if the parent is retired, disabled, or deceased.

S.S.I. (Supplemental Security Income) is available for low-income people who are disabled, blind, or aged. S.S.I. is based on need, not on past earnings.

Sternum The breast plate.

STNR (symmetrical tonic neck reflex) Flexing of the head accompanied by reflex flexing of arms and extension of legs. Extending head is accompanied by extending arms and flexing hips. Interferes with movement.

Stimulus A physical object or environmental event that may have an effect upon the behavior of a person. Some stimuli are internal (earache pain), while others are external (a smile from a loved one).

Strabismus Lack of coordinated eye movement resulting in crossing and/or wandering eyes.

Subluxation Partial dislocation.

Supine Back-lying position.

Support trust A trust that requires that funds be expended to pay for the beneficiary's expenses of living, including housing, food, and transportation.

Sutures Stitches, used to close a wound.

Symptomatic Having a cause that is identified.

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Tactile Relating to touch.

Tactile defensiveness Abnormal sensitivity to touch.

Tailor sitting (Indian style) Sitting cross-legged on the floor.

TDD Telecommunications Device for the Deaf.

TES See Therapeutic Electrical Stimulation

Thalamus A portion of the brain involved in refining movement of the muscles.

Therapist A trained professional who works to overcome the effects of developmental problems.

Therapeutic Electrical Stimulation A treatment in which electrodes are attached to the skin over certain muscles while the child sleeps. The electric stimulations increases muscle bulk and strength.

Tongue protrusion reflex A reflex that causes the tongue to forcefully push food out of the mouth.

Tonic Having continuous increased muscle tone.

Tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure A type of seizure which causes a sudden loss of consciousness followed immediately by a generalized convulsion in which extremities become stiff, then jerk rhythmically.

Trachea Windpipe.

Tympanometer An electrical instrument which measures changes in pressure and mobility of the eardrum to detect middle ear fluid.

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Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) A law that governs gifts to minors. Under the UGMA, gifts become the property of the minor at age eighteen or twenty-one.

Unilateral One-sided.

Urologist A physician who specializes in urinary diseases.

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VESID Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities.

VRA Vocational Rehabilitation Administration.

Vestibular Pertaining to the sensory system located in the inner ear that allows the body to maintain balance and enjoyably participate in movement such as swinging and roughhousing.

Vision therapist A therapist who assesses and enhances useful vision.

Visual sequential memory The ability to remember a sequence of pictures one sees.

Vocational training Training for a job. Learning skills to perform in the work place.

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WNL Within Normal Limits.

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Many of the definitions on this page where obtained from:
Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Parents' Guide
Edited by Elaine Geralis
Woodbine House - 1991