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Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD)
A condition in which a history of maternal alcohol exposure is linked to congenital anomalies such as heart defects, kidney problems, hearing loss, skeletal malformations, and other structural problems.

Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
A condition with three diagnostic criteria: 1) history of maternal alcohol exposure, 2) abnormalities in the development of the central nervous system, 3) evidence of a complex pattern of behavioral or cognitive abnormalities that can’t be attributed to family background or environment alone.

Also called “lazy eye.” A condition of reduced vision that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses. The brain does not fully acknowledge the images seen by the amblyopic eye. The good eye “blocks” the information coming from the other eye, which is why early detection and treatment are critical.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
This federal law bans discrimination based on disability. It includes civil rights protections and guarantees equal opportunity in employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunication relay services. The ADA defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, having a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.”

Almond-shaped brain structure that plays a role in sense of smell, decodes strong emotions and controls fear. Fetal alcohol damage to the amygdala may be one reason why some children with FASD appear to be fearless. To see a picture of the parts of the brain that are susceptible to prenatal alcohol damage, click here.


In general, any deviation from “normal.” A congenital anomaly is a birth defect.

Anxiety disorder
A blanket term for a group of conditions characterized by abnormal levels of anxiety, fear, or phobia. Symptoms vary widely; but, in all cases, they interfere with normal functioning.

Apgar score
A method to assess an infant’s physical condition at birth. Heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, response to stimuli, and color are rated at 1 and 5 minutes after birth. Each factor is scored 0, 1, or 2. Both sets of scores are added together to get a maximum possible score of 10.

Asperger’s Syndrome
One syndrome that falls under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Asperger’s was formerly considered a “high functioning” form of autism. However, that is no longer an accurate description. People with Asperger’s can have high or low IQs. They are “fluent” verbally and interact socially, but their social skills are inappropriate. Their voices tend to be “flat” emotionally. They think concretely and may be obsessed with complex topics such as history or music. They may be able to do something perfectly many times in a row (such as shoot a basketball from the foul line), but they may not be able to do it in a “larger context.” In this example, playing in a basketball game with all its variables may present too many stimuli to process or handle.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A neurological disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, or all three, occurring more frequently and severely than is typical in individuals at a comparable level of development. Some children with FASD are mistakenly diagnosed with ADHD; however, typical medications for ADHD are ineffective on FASD. Sometimes both conditions exist together, making diagnosis and treatment difficult.

To lessen, weaken, or make less intense. For example, if a child has facial features that are characteristic of FAS, they will attenuate as the child grows older.

A general term describing mental introversion, withdrawal of communication from others, and repetitive behaviors.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder
An umbrella term for five distinct Pervasive Development Disorders. Those disorders include Autistic Disorder (“classic autism”), Rhett’s Disorder, Childhood Integrative Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise classified (“atypical autism”).

A health care professional who specializes in disorders of the ear. This person can diagnose and treat hearing and balance problems.

Basal ganglia
A part of the brain that coordinates aspects of voluntary movement and cognitive functions related to perception, thinking, memory, the ability to shift from one task to another, and inhibition of inappropriate behavior. The basal ganglia can be underdeveloped in people with FASD. To see a picture of the parts of the brain that are susceptible to prenatal alcohol damage, click here.

A psychologist who specializes in the study of behavior and how to modify it. Behaviorists may practice cognitive psychology, which examines internal mental processes such as problem solving, memory, and language.

Bipolar disorder
A class of disorders in which the person experiences alternating mood swings that don’t necessarily have anything to do with what’s going on in their life. Mania (extra-high emotions and energy) or hypomania may alternate with depression. “Mixed states” (lots of energy, but feeling “down” or angry or panicky) may also occur. Bipolar disorder is called a “multifactorial” condition because genes, environment, and brain damage (electrochemical imbalance) can contribute to the condition.

A training program designed to develop one’s ability to control the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. Monitoring devices help the person learn to identify, then later control, bodily changes that he or she may not be aware of—such as heart rate, blood pressure, and relaxing certain muscles. This technique has been used successfully in children with FASD. Parents who have tried biofeedback say that it lowered their everyday stress levels. Biofeedback and a related technique called neurofeedback are also successful with ADHD, epilepsy, and related disorders.

Birth defect
Intrauterine development of an organ or structure that is abnormal in shape, position or anatomy.

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