Dictionary of Terms

Early intervention is full of terms that people constantly use in writing and in conversation, and it’s important to know what those terms mean. We are pleased to provide this handy reference to early intervention terminology, and hopes it helps our readers quickly connect with the meaning of pivotal words and phrases in the field.

Term - Autism Spectrum Disorders

Meaning – (ASD) An umbrella term used to describe an array of neurobiological disorders that affect a child’s ability to interact, communicate, relate, play, imagine, and learn. ASD is also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The autism spectrum consists of the following disorders: Autistic Disorder or Classic Autism, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder or Asperger Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

Term - ASQ-3

Meaning – ASQ-3™ is an accurate, family-friendly way to screen children for developmental delays between one month and 5½ years—and determine which children need further assessment or ongoing monitoring.

Term - ASQ-SE

Meaning – ASQ:SE is a screening tool that identifies infants and young children whose social and emotional development requires further evaluation to determine if referral for intervention services is necessary.

Term - Developmental delay

Meaning – The term used when a young child is slower to reach milestones than other children of the same age. The delay may be in the way a child communicates, moves, thinks and learns, and/or behaves with others. Professionals usually only use the term “developmental delay” when the cause of the delay has not been identified. Children with developmental delay continue to learn throughout life, but they take longer to develop new skills and may learn in different ways. For example, most children can learn skills quickly and by watching others, whereas children with developmental delay may need to be taught skills more explicitly.

Term - Disability

Meaning – A physical, sensory, intellectual or behavioural impairment which affects development.

Term - Early childhood education and care professionals

Meaning – Early childhood education and care professionals are teachers or child care workers who work in preschools, long day care centres, occasional care centres and family day care with children under the age of six years.

Term - Early childhood intervention professionals

Meaning – Specialist early childhood intervention (ECI) services are offered by a range of professionals, including: early childhood special education teachers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, psychologists, social workers, doctors, nurses, orthoptists, audiologists and others, depending on the needs of the child and family.

Term - Echolalia

Meaning – The repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of others. Children with ASD use this in the process of learning to talk and serves a communicative purpose for the child.

Term - ECIS

Meaning – Early Childhood Intervention Services

Term - Eligibility

Meaning – The requirements a child must meet to be able to receive early intervention services. This will include the age of the child and whether or not the child has a disability or developmental delay.

Term - Emotional regulation

Meaning – Emotional regulation means being able to manage strong feelings so that they don’t overwhelm us or get in the way of what we need to do. Helping children learn to manage their emotions leads to an increased ability to “bounce” back from negative experiences (this is also known as resilience).

Term - Eye Gaze

Meaning – Nonverbal form of communication. The act of looking at another individual’s face to see what they are looking at and then signal interest in interacting.

Term - Family Plan (FP)

Meaning – A family plan (FP) is a written plan which outlines specific goals for a child’s development which are based on the family’s priorities. The FP document is developed collaboratively in a meeting between the family, the early childhood intervention professional and others (e.g. preschool) working with the child and family.

Term - Family-centred practice

Meaning – Working in partnerships with families to address the issues of most concern to them

Term - Individual Education Plans (IEP)

Meaning – Educational programs that have been adapted or modified to meet a child’s individual learning needs.

Term - Key Word Sign

Meaning – Key Word Sign is where people communicating with a child use both natural language and also produce hand signs for the words that carry the most important information. Key word signing puts an emphasis on the most important words in a sentence or phrase, rather than signing every word.

Term - Key Worker

Meaning – One professional is chosen as the main point-of-contact for families during their ECIS journey. They will work with the family around the child’s disability/additional support needs and empower families by providing them with support, resources and information to help them make informed choices.

Term - Learning styles

Meaning – ach individual child has his or her preferred was of absorbing, processing and remembering information. The common learning styles are: visual (through the eyes), auditory (through the ears), tactile (through hands-on experience) and kinaesthetic (through the whole body and movement). When a child is taught using their preferred learning style, they learn more effectively.

Term - Natural Environment

Meaning – Settings that are natural or normal for young children without disabilities. This may include the home, a child care setting, or other community settings in which children participate.

Term - Occupational Therapist

Meaning – ECIS practitioner who works with families to develop children’s daily living, play, motor and perceptual skills, positive behaviour support, school readiness, and address sensory issues.

Term - Physiotherapist

Meaning – ECIS practitioner who works with children and their families to maximize the child’s movement potential by facilitating mobility and providing specialised equipment. Therapy programs assist the child to participate in play, preschool and home activities.

Term - Positive behaviour support plan

Meaning – Positive behaviour support plan is a plan which is developed with the aim of reducing challenging behaviours. It may contain strategies to work out why particular challenging behaviour occurs, ways to make sure there is a consistent approach to teaching and learning and encouraging new positive behaviours and ways to respond to any challenging behaviour when it happens.

Term - Sensory processing

Meaning – Sensory processing is the way in which the body’s central nervous system receives messages from the senses (e.g. sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) and generates responses. Most people are naturally able to receive sensory information and organise it quickly into appropriate behavioural and physical responses. For some children with sensory processing issues however, there may be difficulties with how their brain takes in information received through the senses and produces responses to this sensory information.

Term - Social stories™

Meaning – Social stories™ were originally developed by Carol Gray for use with children with autism spectrum disorder. They are now also being used to help other children with a variety of learning delays, as well as with children who are developing typically. Social stories™ are used to explain social situations to children and help them to learn socially appropriate behaviour and responses. A social story™ can be created for almost any social situation, such as starting school, or visiting the library. They can also be used to teach children specific skills/ routines such as using the toilet.

Term - Speech Pathologist

Meaning – ECIS practitioner who works with families to develop children’s communication skills including augmentative (non speech) communication strategies. Also provide advice and support for children with eating and swallowing difficulties.

Term - Strategies

Meaning – Practical tools, activities and supports to assist a child to develop and learn.

Term - Transdisciplinary Practice

Meaning – Involves a team of professionals working together to deliver individually tailored early intervention services to children and their families. The services delivered include early education, therapy, counselling and family support. Families are valued members of this team and are involved in all aspects of intervention.

Term - Transition planning meetings

Meaning – Meetings held to plan for your child starting school. They are usually organised by the principal and are held once your child’s enrolment has been confirmed at a specific school.

Term - Visual supports

Meaning – Visual supports include pictures, schedules, choice boards, real objects and social stories™ which provide a way of communicating with a child which is easier to understand than using spoken word alone. Visual supports are not used to replace speech, but rather to support spoken language.