Glossary of Terms

Glossary  of terms used within the ASD community and by community services


Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC):

AAC refers to any form of communication other than speech that is used to express thoughts, needs, wants and ideas or any forms used to enhance the understanding of the spoken word. AAC includes gestures, facial expressions, symbols, pictures, signs, and writing as well as other technology based devices.

Adjustment Information Management System (AIMS):

Education Queensland online database used to collect information on students with disabilities.


An education adjustment is something that the school does specifically to help your child access education.

According to the Disability Standards for Education 2005, an adjustment is a measure or action taken to assist a student with a disability to participate on the same basis as other students.

Advisory visiting teacher (AVT):

Teachers with specialist knowledge and skills, who support the educational programs of students with disability.


Somebody who supports or speaks up on behalf of someone else.

Asperger’s Disorder (also referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome):

A developmental disorder in DSM-IV-TR defined by impairments in social interaction and the presence of restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities. Children with Asperger’s Disorder do not have any significant delays in cognitive or language development. Social impairments affect the social use of language (pragmatics).

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

A syndrome with core symptoms including difficulty maintaining attention, cognitive disorganization, distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity. These symptoms may vary between children and across different situations and times. Common secondary symptoms include perceptual and emotional immaturity, poor social skills, disruptive behaviours and academic problems. There are three subtypes identified in DSM-IV (current version is DSM-5): ADHD, Combined Type (where both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity are significant features), ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type (where the main feature is inattentiveness) and ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type (where the main feature is hyperactivity).


A syndrome consisting of a set of developmental and behavioural features. The core features of autism include impairments in three main areas of functioning: social interaction, communication and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities. Autism affects the person throughout life.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):

Developmental condition identified in the DSM-5 affecting the three main areas of communication, reciprocal social interaction, and stereotyped or repetitive behaviours (flexible thinking and imagination).

Assistive technology:

All devices used to support individuals with disabilities to demonstrate greater independence with and perform functions which otherwise may be difficult or impossible for them.

Autistic Savant:

A person with autism who shows an extraordinary talent or aptitude for one or two particular skills (e.g. musical or artistic ability).

Atypical Autism:

A disorder that is part of the diagnostic category PDD-NOS in DSM-IV-TR (see below). A general term for conditions that are close to but do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for autism, because of factors such as late age of onset or atypical symptomatology. This term is used in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD, WHO).

Auditory memory:

The memory for spoken information; many individuals with ASD have a very short auditory memory and can only retain one word or one single piece of spoken information.


A child’s level of functioning or performance prior to the introduction of intervention or teaching.


A software program that you can purchase that allows you to create visual supports and resources with images, photos and can also include interactive components, video, sound effects and animation.


Individuals, families or communities who are culturally and linguistically diverse in comparison to the main population.

Carer Allowance:

A benefit consisting of a fortnightly payment plus Health Care Card, or a Health Care Card only. The level of benefit received depends on the level of disability.  Contact Centrelink.

Carer Payment:

An income source for full-time carers unable to take-up full-time employment as a result of their care duties.  Carer Payment is means tested. Contact Centrelink.

Case Manager:

The person who is responsible for coordinating the planning and implementation of practices.

Chat book:

A tool used to scaffold and prompt communication. Images, photos or sentences can be used to encourage individuals to share information, retell experiences develop narratives. The chat book can be particularly useful to support individuals with ASD to share what has happened at school with their families and or what has happened at home/on the weekend with school staff and peers.

Cognitive processing:

The mental processes used to think, learn, problem solve, make sense of and remember information.

Co-morbid Condition:

Having more than one concurrent diagnosis. Another term for this would be “dual diagnosis”. Many people with autism have one or more additional diagnoses, such as ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome or Epilepsy.

Compulsory schooling phase:

The time when it is compulsory to go to school, i.e. from when the child is at least six years and six months to when they turn 16 or complete Year 10 (whichever comes first).

Concrete cues:

Objects or people in the situation that give a clue to what is being said.

Curriculum Plan:

A plan of teaching and learning activities for a class.


Deputy Principal.

Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services:

The Queensland Government department for Disability Services (DSQ)


The Queensland Government’s Department of Education and Training.


The identification of the disorder or disability. Must be made by a medical professional (e.g. Paediatrician, Psychiatrist or Developmental Neurologist).


Action taken by teachers to adjust teaching and learning experiences to the strengths and needs of the learner to ensure access to the curriculum. Includes adjustments made to support understanding, use interests and changes to the environment and how students may demonstrate their learning.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 5 (DSM-5):

Provides the current internationally accepted diagnostic criteria for ASD. Previously in the DSM-IV-TR, ASD covered a range of subgroups including Asperger Syndrome, Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-nos).

Disability Parking Scheme:

An initiative that provides parking permits allowing free parking, and use of disability parking bays. Contact Queensland Transport.

Discrete Trial:

A short, teaching sequence which has three parts: a direction, a behaviour and a consequence.

Education Adjustment Program (EAP):

The process used by EQ to identify and respond to the needs of students with disability.

Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP):

EQ program or service based at a school to support children with a diagnosed or suspected disability from birth to the start of school.

Early Intervention (EI):

Programs and services for infants and young children with developmental delays or disabilities and their families to develop the child and the family’s skills and future options.

Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC):

Includes education and care programs for children such as Kindergarten, long day-care and early intervention programs.


The repetition of phrases, words, intonation and sounds immediately or delayed (e.g. repeating language learnt in one context at a later stage). Can serve a range of purposes: to learn language, indicate confusion, or as an attempt to communicate or request.

Education team:

The student, the student’s parents or carers, teachers, teacher aides, and specialist support personnel.

Education Queensland (EQ):

The division of the Department of Education and Training (DET) responsible for providing state education.


A brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behaviour or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. Having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. A diagnosis of epilepsy needs to be confirmed using an EEG or brain scan.

Executive functioning:

The ability to plan, organise, and carry out tasks to achieve goals as well as the ability to monitor and change behaviour to respond to changes in the social environment.

Expressive language:

How a child expresses their needs and wants, thoughts and feelings. Includes verbal (speech) and non-verbal means including use of signs, picture exchange systems, gestures, visual means, ICT use, or written communication.

Fine motor skills:

The use of hands and fingers to manipulate small objects to complete activities e.g. writing, cutting, opening and closing, tying shoelaces, play and self-care tasks.

Finished box:

A tool used to teach and support the development of independent work skills. A student may be taught to use a finished box to pack equipment, items or visual representations into when finishing a task or activity. Assists with the development of smooth transitions between activities and tasks.

Foundation curriculum:

The curriculum content for the year before Year 1. This is the Prep year in Queensland. It outlines specific content that should be taught across learning areas.

Fragile X Syndrome:

A genetic disorder which can cause cognitive impairment and a number of other a number of physical and behavioural characteristics. Some of these behaviours, such as poor eye contact, hand flapping, and poor social skills, also occur in children with autism. While most children with Fragile X Syndrome do not have all the characteristics of autism, about 15% to 33% are diagnosed as autistic. Individuals can be tested for “Fragile X” by having a blood test and having their chromosomes (see above) examined by a geneticist.

Functional Behavioural Analysis (FBA):

The observation and analysis of challenging or problematic behaviours in order to determine the causes or function of behaviour.

Gross motor skills:

The use of large muscles to complete activities. Includes balance, strength and coordination.

Guidance Officer (GO):

A teacher with qualifications in guidance and counselling or psychology who works within the school setting with students, families, and teachers to enhance the educational opportunities for children.

Senior guidance officers (SGOs) are located in each Education Queensland Region to support schools and Guidance Officers.

Head of Curriculum (HOC):

A teacher who assists in leading, coordinating the maintenance, review and implementation of curriculum frameworks, pedagogy, programs and assessment and reporting.

Health Care Card:

A component of the Carer Allowance.  Contact Centrelink.

HoSES – Head of Special Education Services:

The teacher in charge of a special education program in a school.


A precocious ability to read words, far above what would be expected for their chronological age. A hyperlexic child may not understand what they are reading and may even have significant difficulty in understanding verbal language.


Low muscle tone.

ICT (Information and Communications Technologies):

A term used to describe the use and integration of digital information systems and technologies. May also be called ICLT (Information, Communication and Learning Technologies).

Individual Curriculum Plan (ICP):

An individual learning plan for six months developed for a student who requires curriculum at a level higher or lower than his or her year-level for some or all of the learning areas. Includes any supports or strategies already provided to the student, the year-level curriculum provided, areas requiring focused teaching and any additional or other support provided or required.

Individual Support Plan (ISP):

An individual support plan, also known as an individual education plan (IEP), developed with parents and specialist staff (special educators, therapists) containing priority goals, implementation strategies and assessments for the child.

ISP/IEP Process:

The process of collaboratively planning for the individual needs of a student to determine the student’s current level of performance, educational needs and future learning priorities. Includes parents, teachers, specialist support staff and the student (if appropriate).

Inclusion Support Subsidy (ISS):

Funding that supports education and care services (long day care, Kindergarten, OSHC, vacation care etc) to include children with disabilities in their programs or services.

Intellectual Disability (ID):

Three main factors are used to define an intellectual disability. The first is a significantly below average intelligence (that is, an IQ of 70 or less where the IQ score is obtained from a standardised intelligence test). The second is difficulties with everyday life skills (such as the ability to dress or bath without help or express thoughts clearly. Tests of adaptive behaviour may be used to measure these skills. The third is that both the above factors must be present before the individual turns 18 years of age. More than three-quarters of people with an intellectual disability have a mild intellectual disability. The remainder have either a moderate, severe or profound intellectual disabilities.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ):

A standard score derived from intelligence tests. It represents the intellectual age of the child (that is the age at which the average child would perform at a given standard) divided by the child’s chronological age at the time of testing. The scores are organised such that 100 is an average score (i.e. when the intellectual age and chronological age are the same) but any score between 90 and 110 is considered average.

Joint attention:

When two people share an object, information or focus. The ability to gain another person’s attention and tell/show/share is required. An important early skill in the development of social and communication skills.

Multi-disciplinary team:

A team of professionals working as a team sharing information, observations, expertise and problem solving for the benefit of the individual with ASD. Multi-disciplinary team members may include speech language pathologists, psychologists, physiotherapists, teachers and occupational therapists.


A term used for individuals who meet neurological and cognitive milestones and are therefore typically developing.


The National Disability Insurance Scheme, being implemented by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). The NDIS is a new way of providing individualised support for eligible people with permanent and significant disability, their families and carers.

Non-school organisation (NSO):

An organisation funded by the department to provide programs that support children in their educational setting.

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC):

Care provided to a child onsite before and after school hours at a standard fee. Contact your school to see if this service is provided.

Occupational Therapists (OT):

Help people to improve their ability to do everyday tasks.


Parents and Citizens’ Association.


Medical professionals who specialise in the treatment of children.


As defined under Section 10 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006, a parent of a child is any of the following persons:

  • the child’s mother
  • the child’s father
  • a person who exercises parental responsibility for the child
  • a person under Aboriginal tradition who is regarded as a parent of the child
  • a person under Torres Strait Islander custom who is regarded as a parent of the child
  • a person granted guardianship of a child under the Child Protection Act 1999
  • a person who exercises parental responsibility under a decision of order of a Federal or State court.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS):

A diagnostic category under the DSM-IV-TR that was used when there was a severe and pervasive impairment in the developmental of reciprocal social interaction or verbal and non-verbal communication skills or when stereotyped behaviours, interests and activities are present, but the criteria are not met for a specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder.


Picture Exchange Communication System. A patented low-tech AAC.


Therapists who help people develop their physical abilities and functional skills.

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS):

An evidence-based practice in the management of challenging behaviour. PBS works to reduce instances of challenging behaviour through teaching new skills and behaviours that assist an individual to have their needs and wants met, adjusting the environment to promote positive behaviour and removing punitive consequences. PBS relies upon teachers having a clear understanding of the challenging behaviour and why it occurs.


The use of language in social contexts (for example, knowing what to say, how to say it and when to say it).

Prep year:

A non- compulsory five day per week program where children stay all day (usually from 9am to 3pm) available at primary schools. Prep gives children the best start to formal schooling (Year 1). Children need to be five by 30 June in the year they enrol in Prep. Early or delayed entry to Prep are options which may be considered in specific circumstances and where it is in a child’s best educational interests.

Principal Advisor, Education Services (PA, ES):

The key contact person at the regional level for enrolling students in special school.

Principal Education Officer, Student Services (PEO, SS):

The primary contact person at the regional level for parents of children with disability.


An item or toy that will encourage and support a child’s imaginative play or communication.


Relating to stimuli that are produced and perceived within an organism, especially those connected with the position and movement of the body.


A medical professional who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Psychiatrists may also prescribe medication for their patients.

Psychologist/Clinical psychologist:

A therapist who works with people to understand, prevent and relieve their psychologically based problems. A psychologist may assist with strategies to manage emotions, behaviour, support learning or develop social skills, assessments and observations, and support for the whole family.

Receptive language:

How a child understands information given via speech, signs, body language, and visually (written words, images, photos, symbols).

Routine cues:

Predictable sequences habits, orders or activities which give a clue or warning as to what will happen next and thus what the individual will be required to do e.g. a school bell or predictable routine can be a routine cue.

Schools Directory:

You can use the Schools Directory to find a school in your local area by searching on the school name or suburb. Alternatively, you can narrow your search by using the Region or Type of school fields or the map shown.

For information on early childhood education programs and to find your nearest kindergarten program, visit the Early Childhood website.


School of Distance Education.

Self-care skills:

Skills for dressing, feeding, toileting, eating, applying sunscreen and managing personal belongings.


Tasks of daily living carried out by a person e.g. dressing, toileting, washing hands, blowing nose, applying sunscreen.

Self-stimulatory behaviour:

Seeking activities or sensations for the purpose of calming themselves or gaining a particular sensation.

Many people with autism report that some self-stimulation serves a regulatory function for them (ie. calming, increasing concentration, or shutting out an overwhelming sound).

Sensory processing:

How sensory information is taken in through the senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, digestion and hearing) and processed by the brain.

Shoebox tasks:

Patented structured activities that support children to use their visual and sequential strengths. Tasks can be the size and shape of a shoebox (hence the name) and generally all the elements of the task can be contained in the box. Shoebox tasks ‘show’ what the child has to do rather than relying on language and actively involve the child (he or she has to make, sort, post, match, trace, connect items) supporting understanding.

Social StoriesTM:

Provides a description of an event or situation and seeks to provide social information regarding perspectives, cues, and appropriate responses. Social stories follow a set format in their design and construction.

Social Reciprocity:

Playing an equal role in a social event: both initiating and responding to another, e.g. taking turns in a conversation.

Social Skills:

The ability to interpret and respond to social cues and fit in to social environments.

Special Education Programs (SEP):

Programs that give specialist support to students with disability in state schools.

Special Education Teachers:

Teachers with specialist knowledge and skills, who support the educational programs of students with disability.

Special school:

A school that only provides education to students with disability.

Speech-language pathologists:

Therapists who assists students with special needs in communication.


Done in the same way each time.

Story-based intervention:

A written or visually represented sequence of information designed to assists the reader to understand the how what, when, where, who, and why of a situation. Information is provided in a story format and seeks to provide the reader with skills to respond appropriately to specific situations.

SWPBS Schoolwide Positive Behaviour Support:

A proactive, team-based system approach and decision making framework that guides selection, integration and implementation of evidence-based practices for improving academic and behavioural outcomes for all students in a safe school environment.

Tablet application:

A program or “app” which may be used on a hand held tablet device. It is important to determine what the purpose of the apps is. Apps can be used to teach specific content or skills, support understanding, and help with organisation, remembering and prompting or for the purpose of a game, break or motivator.

Theory of Mind:

The ability to infer and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that may differ from our own.

Transition time:

The supported movement of students between home and/or educational settings (Prep school, ECEC setting), where they are introduced to new surroundings, routines, roles and expectations.


A student’s disability has been confirmed by a member of the EQ verification team as meeting the department’s criteria.

Vertical schedule:

A vertical group of symbols, pictures, words or objects depicting the major transitions and activities of the day or session.

Visual cueing system:

Cues or sequences that help children understand language, organise themselves, remember information and participate in activities and interactions. Includes checklists, schedules, cue cards, real objects, story based interventions, work systems, and visual reward systems.

Work system:

A visually clear means of presenting tasks (often horizontally left to right) that systematically shows what needs to be done, where to start, how much is to be done and what to do when finished. Can be shown via images, symbols, words or activities. Helps develop independence.