Topics are in alphabetical order. To find a particular abbreviation, select from this list: AACALSASDCCNCPCVAISAACMNDMSPDPMLDVOCA

AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is the term that describes various methods of communication to get around problems with ordinary speech. AAC includes simple systems such as pictures, gestures and pointing that “add on” to speech. More complex help involves the use of sophisticated computer technology.
Find out more: What is AAC?

AAC User
Someone who uses an AAC method to assist with their communication.

Acquired
A disease, condition or characteristic that develops after birth. Common acquired conditions include stroke/CVA, brain injury, brain tumour, dementia, motor neurone disease (MND), multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. These conditions are more common in adults than children.

AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is the term that describes various methods of communication to get around problems with ordinary speech. AAC includes simple systems such as pictures, gestures and pointing that “add on” to speech. More complex help involves the use of sophisticated computer technology.
Find out more: What is AAC?

AAC User
Someone who uses an AAC method to assist with their communication.

Acquired
A disease, condition or characteristic that develops after birth. Common acquired conditions include stroke/CVA, brain injury, brain tumour, dementia, motor neurone disease (MND), multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. These conditions are more common in adults than children.

Aided Communication
Methods of communication that involve additional equipment, such as a picture chart, a communication book, a computer or special communication aid. Low-tech aided methods may involve equipment that does not need power to function. Hi-tech aided communication includes devices that need batteries or mains power.
Also see glossary term: Unaided communication.
Read more on our website page: What is AAC?

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
An acquired and degenerative condition, most often affecting people in the 40 to 70 year age group. It is the most common degenerative disease of the motor neurone system, with the term reserved for the form of MND that involves upper and lower motor neurones. The disease affects the motor cells (neurones) in the brain and spinal cord. Without nerves to control the muscles, there is loss of control to move around, speak, swallow and breathe. Symptoms may include muscle weakness/waste and paralysis. In most cases ALS does not affect intellect, memory or the senses.
Also see glossary term: Motor neurone disease (MND)Note: MND is more commonly used as a generic term in the UK for all variants of the disease, with ALS a term more commonly used in the US.
Useful information at: MND Scotland

Aphasia
Loss of language and communication skills, usually after suffering a stroke. (Dysphasia is the partial or complete impairment of the ability to communicate.)

Apraxia

Loss of ability to perform skilled, purposeful movements and gestures with normal accuracy, although the muscles are normal. A person with apraxia of speech will find it difficult or impossible to move their mouth and tongue to speak.

See also: Dyspraxia

Asperger syndrome
A developmental condition that is a form of autism. People with Asperger’s have fewer problems with speech, but may still find it difficult to understand and process language.
See also: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

Augmentative and Alternative Communication

See: AAC.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

A developmental, spectrum condition that affects children throughout their lives and often referred to simply as “autism”. A congenital condition, it affects people in a variety of ways and to varying degrees, characterised by difficulties with social interaction. It can affect someone’s ability to communicate because social interaction is a two-way process. Many children with an ASD have delayed language development.
See also: Asperger syndrome; Complex communication needs; Learning disabilities

Brain / Head injury
An acquired condition resulting from a trauma to the head that damages the brain. Causes include road traffic accidents, assaults, falls and other accidents. Communication problems are common after a brain injury. Many people experience more than one area of difficulty, depending on the areas of the brain affected and the severity of the injury: language impairment (aphasiadysphasia); speech disorders that affect clarity and control (dysarthriadyspraxia); memory impairment and attention difficulties.
Useful information at: Headway – the Brain Injury AssociationChild Brain Injury Trust

Brain tumour
An acquired condition, which may affect children or adults. A tumour, whether malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous), can damage brain tissue and interfere with various functions, such as muscle weakness and difficulty with balance, coordination, vision, hearing, speech, communication or swallowing. These symptoms arise because the tumour is disturbing the function of the part of the brain it’s growing in. Sometimes it simply because the tumour is taking up space in the skull and putting pressure on the brain.
Useful information at: MacMillan Cancer Support, Brain Tumour UK

Cerebral palsy (CP)
A developmental condition, CP exists at birth with symptoms usually appearing by the time a child is three. It is not progressive. This group of chronic neurological conditions affect body movements and muscle coordination, because of damage to one or more specific areas of the brain. “Cerebral” means related to the brain (or cerebrum) and “palsy” refers to complete or partial muscle paralysis. There are different types of CP and no two people are affected in the same way. Effects range from mild to profound. Some people with cerebral palsy may have learning disabilities or be deaf. Speech may be difficult if the facial muscles are affected. Problems with vision, hearing, motor skills or cognitive skills can also affect communication.
See also: Complex communication needs; Learning disabilities.
Useful information at: Scope; Capability Scotland; The Cedar Foundation

Complex communication needs (CCN)
A term used in relation to complex developmental conditions that affect children throughout their lives. It refers to severe speech, language and communication impairments including autism spectrum disorders (ASD), cerebral palsy (CP), certain learning disabilities and profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD)

Congenital (= developmental)
A disease or condition/characteristic that is present at birth and affects a child’s development throughout his/her life. Examples include cerebral palsy (CP), autism (ASD) and Asperger syndrome, Down syndrome and other learning disabilities, multiple disabilities and complex communication needs (CCN).

Dementia
An acquired condition, generally affecting people over the age of 40. It is progressive, with symptoms including loss of memory and mood changes. People with dementia often have problems with communication and reasoning as the condition affects the language skills used in understanding and the ability to communicate when talking, reading and writing. The most common types are Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
Useful information at: Alzheimer’s Society; Alzheimer Scotland; Dementia Action Alliance

Developmental (= congenital)

Down’s syndrome
Down syndrome (also called Down’s) is the most common specific cause of learning disabilities. The Down’s Syndrome Association advises: “Down’s syndrome is not a disease. People with Down’s syndrome are not ill and do not ‘suffer’ from the condition.”
Useful information at: Down’s Syndrome Association; Down’s Syndrome Scotland

Dysarthria
Speech that is slurred, slow, and difficult to understand.

Dysphagia
Difficulty in swallowing.

Dysphasia
Partial or complete impairment of the ability to communicate.
See also: Aphasia

Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia is a difficulty forming words and letters when speaking because of a partial difficulty performing co-ordinated movements, which is not related to muscle weakness or comprehension.
See also: Apraxia

Huntington’s disease
An acquired condition, usually affecting people between the ages of 30-50. Previously called Huntington’s chorea, it is a progressive brain disorder that causes neurodegeneration leading to motor, cognitive and psychiatric problems. It affects all areas of communicative functioning.
Useful information at: Huntington’s Disease Association

ISAAC
The International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) is a worldwide organisation that focuses on the needs of people with complex communication needs. These people may benefit from AAC systems to maximise their opportunities and enhance their life.
Website: www.isaac-online.org

Laryngectomy
A laryngectomy is the partial or complete surgical removal of the larynx (voice box), usually as a treatment for laryngeal cancer. Rehabilitation after surgery focuses on learning to produce sound and to speak again. There are several methods for this.
Useful information at: MacMillan Cancer; Cancer Research UK

Learning disability
A birth condition that affects children and continues throughout their adult life. It is characterised by difficulty understanding new or complex information, learning new skills and living independently. Severe learning disability is commonly due to specific genetic or physical abnormalities, with Down syndrome the most common specific cause. Another genetic cause is Fragile X syndrome – all boys but only a third of girls have mild, moderate or severe learning disabilities. Some people with a learning disability also have other physical and emotional conditions; for example, some people with cerebral palsy can have a learning disability. Although autism is not a learning disability, around 50% of people with autism may also have a learning disability.
See also: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), Cerebral palsy (CP), Complex communication needs (CCN), Profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD)
Useful information at: Mencap; Enable Scotland; Down’s Syndrome Association; Down’s Syndrome Scotland. On mental health: Mind; Scottish Association for Mental Health; Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health.

Locked-in syndrome
A rare, acquired neurological condition characterised by complete paralysis of voluntary muscles in all parts of the body except for those that control eye movement. The person loses all ability to speak or move, even though their thinking and reasoning function normally. This syndrome may result from traumatic brain injury or diseases that affect circulation or nerve cells.
See also: Brain injury, Motor neurone disease (MND)

Motor neurone disease (MND)
An acquired condition that most often affects people aged 40 to 70. It is a progressive degenerative disease of the motor neurone system . It affects the motor cells (neurones) in the brain and spinal cord. The nerves stop controlling the muscles and the person struggles to move around, speak, swallow and breathe. Symptoms may include muscle weakness/waste and paralysis. In most cases, MND does not affect intellect, memory or the senses, but people experience varying degrees of vocal or physical impairment that may cause problems with communication.
Note: MND is more commonly used as a generic term in the UK for all variants of the disease, with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) a term more commonly used in the US.
Useful information at: MNDA, MND Scotland

Multiple sclerosis (MS)
An acquired neurological condition, normally diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Physical symptoms include vision problems, fatigue, spasms, tremor and difficulty swallowing. Speech may be affected in various ways such as slurring (dysarthria), weak voice, pitch control, or pauses between syllables. This happens if parts of the brain are damaged, for example connections between the brain and the spinal cord (the area known as the brainstem).
Useful information at: Multiple Sclerosis Society

Parkinson’s disease (PD)
An acquired condition that usually affects adults over the age of 50. It is a progressive neurological condition, where a lack of the chemical dopamine causes movements to become slower and a tremor often develops. Parkinson’s can cause speech problems such as dysarthria.
Useful information at: Parkinson’s UK

Prion disease
A rare acquired condition that mainly affects adults. A small percentage of cases run in families. It is a group of progressive neurodegenerative conditions, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). It can cause dysarthria – speech that is slurred, slow, and difficult to understand. A person may have difficulty finding words, repeat words or sentences, and experience a reduction in the content of language.
Useful information at: Medical Research Council Prion Unit

Profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD)
A congenital condition affecting children and adults. PMLD incorporates both intellectual or developmental disabilities and physical disabilities. Most people with PMLD will need to use a wheelchair and will have impaired hearing and vision as well as non-verbal communication. They don’t use formal communication, such as words and symbols, although some people may use or understand some gestures. This makes communication very difficult.
See also: Complex communication needs (CCN), Learning disabilities
Useful information at: PMLD Network; Mencap; Enable Scotland.
On mental health: Mind; Scottish Association for Mental Health; Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health.

Spinal injury
An acquired condition affecting children and adults. Injuries to the cervical spinal cord (the neck) may result in dysarthria – speech that is slurred, slow, and difficult to understand.
Useful information at: Spinal Injuries Association

Stroke / cerebrovascular accident (CVA)
An acquired condition, mainly affecting older adults. Stroke, sometimes called a cerebrovascular accident, is the medical term for sudden loss of sensation and control caused by rupture or obstruction of a blood vessel of the brain, e.g. a blood clot. In a child, an interruption to the brain’s blood supply for a very brief time may cause a stroke. Common communication difficulties after a stroke are aphasia (loss of language and communication skills) and dyspraxia (difficulty forming words and letters when speaking).
Useful information at: The Stroke Association, Chest, Heart and Stroke Association in Scotland

Unaided Communication
Methods of communication that do not involve using equipment, such as speaking, gesturing or signing.
See also: Aided communication
Find out more: Getting started: communication without technology

Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA)
Any device whose main function is to use output speech as a means of communication. VOCAs can range from simple single-message devices that use recorded speech, to complex computer-based systems that store many messages and use a computer-generated voice.
Find out more: VOCAs

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