Glossary of Rehabilitation Terms


Activities for Daily Living
The activities a person performs throughout the day, such as dressing, toileting, bathing, cooking, etc.

Acquired Brain Injury
An injury to the brain that occurs after birth, including lack of oxygen to the brain, bleeding, infection, stroke, tumor or traumatic brain injury.

Acute Care
In-hospital medical care. May or may not involve therapists at this stage.

Acute Rehabilitation
In hospital medical care and therapy, with the focus on improving function, such as bowel and bladder control, communication skills, movement skills, self-help skills, orientation and learning.

Alert Program
A program that provides steps for teaching self-regulation awareness. Also see, How Does Your Engine Run.

A lack of oxygen to the brain, damaging brain cells.

Anoxic Injury
Lack of oxygen flow to the brain resulting in damage to brain cells. Can occur from a traumatic or non-traumatic event.

Aquatic Therapy 
A type of rehabilitation therapy that uses the therapeutic properties of water. Warm water enhances muscle relaxation, the buoyancy unweights the body, while the compressive properties of the water provide an opportunity for cardiovascular work.

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS)
A neurobiological, developmental disorder that impairs a person’s social interactions and nonverbal communications skills. A person with AS may show some features of autism but may not have the full-blown clinical picture. Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics, and the disorder can range from mild to severe.

Assistive Technology Program
The interdisciplinary team of speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists at the Children’s Assistive Technology Center are specially trained to teach children and adolescents up to age 21 how to regain their independence.

The study of hearing and hearing disorders.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Test
A test that can determine the accuracy of hearing for persons who are asleep or who can’t participate in a regular hearing test. It measures the way the brain reacts when the ear hears sound.

Auditory-Verbal Therapy
A type of therapy in which an auditory-verbal therapist guides and coaches parents to help their child use hearing as the primary sensory modality in developing spoken language, without the use of sign language or emphasis on lip-reading.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. This devices can provide a voice for patients who are either nonverbal or low verbal. 

Aural Rehabilitation
Educational procedures used with hearing impaired persons to improve the effectiveness of their overall communication ability.

A biological disorder of the brain that impairs a person’s communication and social skills. An abnormality in interpersonal relationships exhibited in early childhood and characterized by self-absorption to the detriment of influence by external reality.

Axonal Stretching
Occurs with acceleration or deceleration injury to the head. This movement squeezes and stretches the long, fragile axons that connect the nerve cells, and may gradually disconnect and eventually kill the cells. Stretching also makes them leaky, which can causes fluid build-up and swelling in the brain tissue, leading to further damage.

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Behavioral Audiometric Testing  
A method to determine degree and type of hearing loss.

Brain Injury

Brain Swelling
May occur after an acquired brain injury.The pressure on the cells causes a disruption of blood flow and lack of oxygen to the brain, which may lead to further nerve damage.

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Central Auditory Processing Disorder Testing
To identify problems with understanding speech, following directions or listening.

Cerebral Palsy
A group of neurological disorders with etiology in the central nervous system, particularly at motor control centers, that may occur prenatally, perinatally or postnatally, before basic muscular system coordination is achieved.

Cochlear Implants
A device that allows hearing. Electrodes are placed in the cochlea and attached to an induction coil buried under the skin behind the ear.

Coma State of unconsciousness where the person is unresponsive to their surroundings. 

Less severe type of brain injury. The result of the head suddenly stopping due to being hit by an object. Usually involves a change in mental state and possible disruption or damage between nerve cells in the brain.

Contusion (bruising)
Results when the brain is slammed against the bone of the skull. Can also kill neurons.

Bruising and contusions that occur after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) at the site of the blow to the head (coup) and the direct opposite side of the head from the blow (contra coup).

Craniofacial and Cleft Palate

Craniosacral Therapy
A therapy technique that addresses the subtle rhythm produced by the ebb and flow of the craniosacral fluid in the brain. Techniques focus on freeing restrictions and rebalancing the system.

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The use of rhythmic movements in a therapeutic manner in physical and occupational therapy to enhance emotional and physical well-being. (same as Music and Movement)

"Dance for Fun"
A dance program for special needs children, led by physical/occupational therapists. Children practice balance and coordination skills, as well as following directions and working in a group. Available at our North Druid Hills location.

Day Programs and Recreation
Help persons following a TBI to develop basic functional skills and provide daily living, leisure and recreation activities.

Day Rehabilitation Program
Intensive outpatient therapy program working to maximize functional skills, address psychological and behavioral needs and address vocational and educational rehabilitation.

An inability to read. A severe reading problem that is of neurological origin.

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Early Intervention Program
Programs that provide instructional resources to help children who are performing below grade level obtain the necessary academic skills to reach grade level performance in the shortest possible time. These programs serve children who are at risk of not reaching or maintaining academic grade level. Early intervention programs are typically state programs for children birth to 3 years old, who have, or are at risk for developing, a handicapping condition or other special needs that may affect development. Services may be provided in the patient’s natural environment, and assistance is provided in transitioning children to early school programs at 3 years old.

It is the right of all students with and without disabilities to participate in an educational program that is positive and enriching.

Electrical Stimulation- Types of treatments that:

  • Can help to increase a patient’s awareness that they have a muscle that should be contracting
  • May give added support and help strengthen the muscles in an afflicted limb for patients who have the ability to contract a muscle but can’t maintain a contraction
  • Stimulate the nerves and the nerve endings, allowing them to begin firing and possibly regenerate

There are two types of electronic stimulation:

  • TENS unit helps with pain
  • NMES unit helps with re-education and strengthening

Emergency Physician
Specialist who initially diagnoses and stabilizes a patient in the acute phases of an injury

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Fast ForWord 
A software/training computer treatment program for language and reading intervention used to increase receptive language and auditory processing skills. The program helps children to understand how words are formed and how language is used.

Fine Motor Skills
Skillful, discrete, spatially oriented movements requiring use of small muscle sets, as in speech and the grasping and use of small objects.

Fluency Disorder
A term used to describe any interruption in the flow of oral language; not restricted to stuttering.

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Gross Motor Skill
The movement of large refined muscles for activities such as locomotion and balance.

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Handwriting Therapy
The facilitation of proper posture, strength and stability throughout the entire body, as well as improvement of fine motor control, bilateral hand use and coordination, visual perception and visual motor skills. All of these components are necessary to produce good handwriting skills and sucess with written communication.

Hand and Upper Extremity Therapy
Therapy for the shoulder, arm, forearm, wrist and hand after surgical or non-surgical intervention. The goal of therapy is to increase function and independence.

Hanen Program
The Hanen Program is a parent training program coming from Canada. Speech language pathologists who have had specific training may run parent groups to teach parents how to stimulate and develop a child’s language skills using therapy techniques as well as natural parenting interactions. Two of the Hanen programs have materials that are very popular and useful for parents. These may be used or recommended in individual treatments by therapists who are or are not trained in the Hanen programs. It Takes Two to Talk is for parents of children with general communication disorders and More Than Words is for parents of children with communication disorders secondary to autism spectrum disorders.

Happy Tails

Hearing Aids
Any electronic amplifying device that brings sound into the listener’s ear.

Hearing Loss
Hearing loss in a child's ear can have many causes. The early identification of childhood hearing disorders is important in treating them.

A pool of blood. This can occur in the brain following impact or rupture of a blood vessel, and may lead to further brain injury by damaging the nerves in contact with the hematoma or due to the squeezing of the nerves due to increased pressure.

The therapeutic use of horseback riding as a medium for physical, speech and occupational therapies. The gait of the horse provides sensory input to the patient to help them improve balance, coordination and proper body alignment for sitting, walking and other function skills.

How Does Your Engine Run
A program that assists families, teachers and therapists in helping children to choose appropriate strategies to change or maintain their state of alertness, so they can function better at home and at school.

Hypovolemic Shock
May occur after an injury when a person looses a lot of blood and the loss can result in damage to brain tissue.

Occurs with there is a blockage or disruption in the flow of cerebral spinal fluid, causing increased pressure in the brain.

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Increased Intracranial Pressure
Build up of pressure within the skull, caused by excess fluid, swelling or bleeding.

Infant Assessment
A physical, occupational or speech evaluation of a baby 12 months of age or younger.

Interactive Metronome®
A computer-based training program shown to improve attention, coordination and timing in patients with a wide range of cognitive and physical difficulties, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD). It provides a non-invasive way to stimulate learning and development.

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The therapeutic use of karate can improve balance, coordination, social skills, strengthen muscles, improve self-image and help achieve other therapeutic goals of a child who has been treated by physical and/or occupational therapy.

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A “play library” of traditional and adapted toys, books and computers that make play accessible to children with all types of disabilities.

Limb Deficiency Program 

Listening Therapy Program
This is a general term for the use of specifically engineered music and sounds to produce a therapeutic response for the listener. There are many programs available for a variety of diagnoses and populations. The provider of a listening therapy program has been specially trained to administer and monitor the client’s response to the specific program utilized.

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How one moves; examples are rolling, crawling, walking or driving a power wheelchair.

Multiple modes of intervention used to supplement treatment and help address pain management and muscle re-education; such modalities are electrical stimulation, iontophoresis, ultrasound, ice, hot packs, taping, laser and TheraTogs™.

Music and Movement
A treatment approach based on neurological and biomechanical models. Music and movement are used to elicit tone normalization, range of motion, balance and muscle strengthening. Motor planning and coordination are also affected by music and movement. Therapists who are specially trained may use music to help patients reach therapy goals in rehabilitation. Music can be used to work toward physical, cognitive, social and/or emotional goals set by the team. Music and movement can be applied to many different diagnoses.

Myofacial Release
MFR is a gentle bodywork therapy of stretches and massage techniques using direct, hands-on touch and maneuvers to the entire body which promotes healing and relieves pain. MFR aims to release constrictions or blockages in the connecting tissue and thus alleviating tension and/or pain. It helps with posture, orthopedic issues, headaches, pain control, muscle spasms, etc. 

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Neurodevelopmental Treatment   
NDT is an advanced therapeutic approach based on the principles of human neurology and physiology practiced by experienced P.T.s, O.T.s, and S.L.P.s. This is a hands-on approach working with clients who have central nervous system difficulties controlling movement. Therapists using NDT have completed extensive advanced training and work with clients with neurological challenges such as cerebral palsy, stroke, head injury, helping them to become as independent as possible. Clients who have minimal to severe motor difficulties can benefit from an NDT approach.

Pertaining to the nervous system in both its normal and diseased states.

Specializing in the disorders of the nervous system.

Specialist in the areas of behaviors, personality changes, and mood changes, memory changes and sleep/wake cycles of patients with brain injuries.

Psychologist who specializes in brain-behavior relationships, looking at cognition, emotion, intellect and academic/vocational skills following a brain injury.

Surgical specialist who operates on the brain and nervous system.

Newborn Hearing Screening
A screening for all infants to detect hearing loss, preferably prior to hospital discharge.

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Occupational Therapy
Specialists licensed in teaching patients to regain independence in self-care activities that are important to daily living. They focus on arm function, eye-hand coordination, sensory integration and fine motor skills.

Ocular Motor Screening and Therapy
Screening of eye movements to evaluate difficulty with tracking, saccadic movements, nystagmus, visual perceptual skills, and scanning that may be causing difficulty with functional skills such as inability to complete motor tasks, balance/vestibular problems, handwriting difficulties, reading, etc. Therapy would incorporate strengthening the eye(s) to help correct the functional skill(s). 

Oral Pharyngeal Motility Study (OPMS)

  • A videoflouroscopic swallow study to identify abnormal swallowing behavior and determine alternative means of swallowing safely when necessary.
  • A radiographic procedure that allows the visualization of the oral activity during chewing and the oral stage of swallowing, the triggering of the pharyngeal swallow in relation to the bolus and the motor aspects of the pharyngeal swallow, including movements of the larynx, hyoid, tongue base, pharyngeal walls and cricopharyngeal region.
  • An X-ray to determine the safety of a person’s swallowing ability to handle liquids and foods during feeding.


Orthotics and Prosthetics
Specialists licensed in designing and creating braces and protheses (artificial limbs) that help patients function better in their daily lives.

Other Encephalopathies
Damage to the brain due to infection, tumor or metabolic disorders

Otoacoustic Emission Testing
A test to detect cochlear damage.

Outpatient Therapy
Therapy services provided after a patient has been discharged from the hospital to their home. Services may include occupational, physical and speech therapy.

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Medical specialist involved in rehabilitation:

Physical Therapist
Licensed specialists who work in the area of the neuromuscular system. Physical therapists work on improving flexibility, balance, coordination, movement, posture, endurance and strength throughout the body, using various exercises and activities with patients of all ages.

Language development in the context and environment in which it is generated. A set of rules governing the use of language in context.

Preparation and evaluations needed to determine a person’s interests and skills with regards to finding and starting a job.

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Rehabilitation Nurse
Provides nursing care to the rehab patient.

Resonance Disorder
Acoustical effect of the voice, usually the result of a dysfunctioning in the coupling or uncoupling of the nasopharyngeal cavities.

Respiration/Rib Cage Management
Techniques used by therapists to promote rib cage mobility, expansion and increased breath support, which can translate into improved ease of breathing, better vocalizations and improved posture/movement.

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Scar Management
Caring for post-operative incisions to reduce the risk of infection and to minimize the laying down of scar tissue after injury, surgery or burns. Scar management involves reducing the size, thickness and sensitivity of the scar over time by using such techniques as cross friction massage, compression with special garments, splints and range-of-motion programs.

Seating and Mobility
A specialty clinic at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where a physical therapist and specialty vendors work together with families to evaluate a patient’s need for any necessary equipment and manual and power wheelchairs.

Seizure Disorders
Can be caused by injury in the temporal and/or frontal lobes and can lead to a disruption of the electrical activity of the brain.

Sensory Integration
The ability to take information from the environment and our bodies, make decisions about what is important and organize it into motor and social responses. An individual is constantly learning about the environment through information from the senses. Sensory integration occurs when the individual can effectively organize this information in the nervous system, so it can be used to respond to the environment. The way an individual responds to various kinds and amounts of sensory input is, in part, the function of the nervous system’s ability to modulate that input. When effective modulation of sensory input occurs, the nervous system makes fast, accurate judgments about sensory input and regulates the nervous system’s arousal level, preparing it for action. When the nervous system is at an optimal level, the discrimination or interpretation of input for development of skill can occur. A patient with sensory modulation may have difficulty regulating their attention and arousal and organizing behavior. Children with discrimination difficulties may have problems discerning sensory input for refining motor skill development.

Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT)
Is a diagnostic tool to distinguish between typical children and children with sensory integration and learning deficits. The test assesses praxis (motor planning) and sensory processing and integration of the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, kinesthetic and visual systems, and thus helps in prescribing a course of intervention in these areas. The test is designed for children between the ages of 4 years and 8 years 11 months. The 17 subtests are usually administered in two sessions, totaling 1.5-2 hours.The test is scored by time, accuracy and completion of task.The test can only be administered by a provider who has been SIPT certified, which means they have completed course work on SI theory;course work on administration and interpretation of the SIPT; practical examinations with the SIPT; and a written competency regarding the SIPT.

Skull Fracture
Broken or cracked bones of the skull. These can be simple fractures to compound fractures, which could cause loose bone fragments to place pressure on the brain or enter the brain tissue.

Social Skills
Sometimes known as “people skills,” the ability to interact appropriately with others in a variety of situations. People on the Autism spectrum have difficulty with social skills.

Social Work
Licensed specialists skilled in workings with families and patients. Social workers help families with their social, emotional and financial needs. They often help families deal with feelings and stress related to participation in their child’s medical needs and help them locate community resources.

Social Worker/Case Manager
Serves as a link between the patient, the family and the team who are providing care. Provides education, resources and emotional support, helps plan for discharge providing options and helps with issues between facility and insurance or financial sources.

Hypertonicity of a muscle, characterized by hyperactivity of the stretch reflex.

Speech Therapy
Licensed specialists who are responsible for the evaluation and treatment of language (understanding and communicating), speech, cognition (thinking, problem solving, memory) and swallowing.

Spinal Cord Injury
Damage to the spinal cord in the neck or back, which results in loss of movement and/or sensation below the level of injury.

The Children's Sports Medicine Program

Stroke or Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA or Brain Attack)
A disruption of the flow of blood in the brain or bleeding in the brain.

A disturbance in the normal fluency and time patterning of speech.

Sub-acute Rehabilitation
In hospital or skilled nursing facility care focusing on medical stability and rehabilitation similar to acute rehabilitation.

Support Groups
Established to help families and/or persons with brain injuries to discuss, explore and resolve issues relative to their condition.Learning to cope with the common problems through encouragement of others and empowerment.

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Therapeutic Exercises
Activities that are part of a home program directed by a physical therapist with very specific instructions to help patients recover and gain strength after an injury. These activities supplement the activities done during physical therapy sessions. Interventions with multiple modes for multiple body regions designed to improve/increase muscular flexibility/strength, proprioception, and neuromuscular control.

Tongue Thrust
When, in a resting position, the anterior or lateral positions of the tongue contact more than half the surface area of either the upper or lower incisors, cuspids or bicuspids or protrude between them. Or when, during the swallow of any two of three media, there is a visible increase by the tongue forced against the teeth, protrudes between the teeth or contacts the surface area of the teeth.

A condition in which the child holds his head tilted to one side (ear to shoulder), with his chin/face pointing up in the opposite direction. It is most often caused by a tight sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle in the neck.

Across many disciplines; across many professions (such as P.T., O.T., Speech, Social Work, etc.).

Trauma Surgeon
Physician who specializes in the diagnosis and management of the overall care of the acutely injured patient with multiple traumas. This specialist will perform non-brain surgeries and other medical therapies to limit brain damage.

Traumatic Brain Injury
A blow, jolt or penetrating injury to the head that distrupts brain function. There are ranges of injury, mild to severe. Mild may involve a brief change in mental status or level of consciousness. Severe may involve a prolonged period of unconsciousness and/or loss of memory after the event. Deficits from a TBI may be short or long term involving the individual’s ability to function.

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Vestibular Disorder
Everyone achieves balance through three separate systems that are combined in the brain: vision, touch and inner ear. A vestibular disorder can develop when disruption in at least one of those systems occurs. In children, teens and young adults, these disorders can have a negative impact on their growth and development.

Vocational Rehabilitation
Training services for employment following a TBI.

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
Works to evaluate past vocational or educations level of patients and current vocational skills to work toward helping patients resume appropriate and realistic educational or employment settings upon discharge.

Voice Disorder
Any deviation in pitch, intensity, quality or other basic vocal attribute that consistently interferes with communication, draws unfavorable attention, adversely affects the speaker or the listener or is inappropriate to the age, sex or perhaps the culture or class of the individual.

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