When you first get involved with Speech & Language Therapists and other healthcare professionals, you can come up against a bewildering array of jargon and abbreviations. Most speech & language therapists do try to avoid this but there are times when only a technical term will do.

The Blethers Jargon Buster is in alphabetical under each heading and should hopefully help you make sense of some of the technical terms and abbreviations you might come across in reports, support for learning documents and websites. Do not be embarrassed by not knowing what some of these terms mean and do not hesitate to ask your speech & language therapist to explain! It’s all too easy to use words that only make sense to another speech and language therapist and it keeps us on our toes if you pull us up about it! The main aim of any speech therapy report or discussion is that parents and carers understand their child’s communication disorder, there is no such thing as a daft question! and speech & language therapist worth their salt will be more than happy to explain technical jargon to you so that you fully understand what they are trying to tell you.

As ever, if you have something you think should be included here, drop Isla an email to blethersslt@gmail.com

Abbreviations and Acronyms

  • ADD Attention Deficit Disorder. This would be a child who cannot pay attention easily but who is not overly physically active.
  • ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This would be a child who cannot pay attention easily, is overly physically active and may be described as someone who ‘can’t sit still’.
  • ADI (R) Autism Diagnostic Interview (Revised). A professional may use this standard set of interview questions with a client’s family to get information about the child’s developmental history in the process of diagnosis.
  • ADOS Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.
  • ASD or ASC Usually this means ‘Autistic Spectrum Disorder’ or ‘Autistic Spectrum Condition’. ASD is used more commonly than ‘ASC’. Be aware that, in some medical reports, ASD is used as an abbreviation for Atrial Septum Defect which is the medical term for ‘a hole in the heart’.
  • ASL Additional Support for Learning (Scotland only).
  • CAMHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
  • CDC Child Development Centre.
  • DISCO Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders. A bit like the ADI, this is a standardised interview to be used in the process of assessing a child who may be on the autistic spectrum.
  • DSM IV or V Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4 or 5 (due to be published in 2013). A publication from the American Psychological Association which is used to diagnose mental health conditions including autism.
  • EP Educational psychologist, sometimes written as Ed Psych.
  • PECS Picture Exchange Communication System. A communication system where a child learns to exchange a picture for something they want. Very good for children who do not speak or are on the autistic spectrum. It often supports development of spoken language.
  • SLT Speech & Language Therapist.
  • TEACCH Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children. I’m not sure why the last C and the H have been swapped round, probably to make a pronounceable word! It must be said that this is a highly effective approach in spite of the strange acronym.
  • WNL Within Normal Limits. This means that a child’s score on assessment or pattern of communication falls within the average range of ability for their age group.

Technical Terms

  • A Beginners Guide To Grammatical Terms If you are either a parent of a child who has a language disorder or you’re planning to train as a speech & language therapist in the future, then this post is for you! When I went to my very first Linguistics lecture way back in October 1992 the lecturer, one Professor Jim Hurford (you’ll find his biog here if you are interested!), handed us all a bundle of paper which he dubbed ‘The User Friendly Dictionary of Grammar’ or ...
  • Age equivalent Some standardised assessments (see standardised assessment entry) give an ‘age equivalent’ score. The actual score a client gets on a test is compared to the average score for different age groups. The age group their score matches is given as the ‘age equivalent’. For example a child aged 6 years 4 months scores 31 on a test. 31 is the average score for the age group 5 years 6 months – 5 years 11 months so the child’s age equivalent ...
  • Articulation The physical act of moving your mouth and tongue around to make speech sounds.
  • Communication Any behaviour that is intended to send a message to someone else. It could be speech, gesture, facial expression, writing… Have a look at the About Communication page for more detail.
  • Comprehension/Receptive language The ability to understand words and sentences that people say to you. ‘Comprehension’ means the same as ‘receptive language’.
  • Discrimination The ability to tell the difference between speech sounds.
  • Expressive Language or Expression The ability to use words and put them together into grammatical sentences. ‘Expressive language’ is used more commonly than ‘expression’.
  • Higher Level Language/Comprehension Often separated out from ‘comprehension’, higher level language is a step beyond being able to understand words and sentences. Its about being able to use language for reasoning (see reasoning entry in Jargon Buster), problem solving and ‘reading between the lines’. It’s not just about understanding words but also non verbal communication like facial expressions and tone of voice.
  • Hypo/hyper ‘Hypo’ means ‘under’ and ‘Hyper’ means ‘over’. For example, someone who is hypersensitive to sound is oversensitive to noises and may get a fright even from a non threatening sound like a door closing. Someone who is hyposensitive to sound is undersensitive to noises and may not react with the right level of urgency to a threatening sound like a gunshot.
  • Idiom Another word for ‘figure of speech’. Phrases like ‘keep your eyes peeled’, ‘don’t let the cat out of the bag’ and ‘kick the bucket’ are all idioms.
  • Inference – ‘reading between the lines’, the ability to use the information you have in front of you to make a guess at what’s going on that you can’t see. For example, if you go into the kitchen and find your partner looking sheepish with a blob of chocolate at the side of their mouth, you can guess that they’ve probably raided the fridge and eaten that piece of chocolate cake you were saving for later!
  • Informal assessment Any assessment that is not ‘Standardised’ (see entry for standardised). Speech & language therapists are really good at informal assessment because they can be tailored to look at something very specific in a way that standardised assessments can’t. It is also true that some children simply cannot cope with the demand of a standardised assessment so doing one wouldn’t give the therapist any useful information. Observation of a child is a kind of informal assessment which can be extremely useful.
  • Intentional Communication Deliberate and planned attempts to communicate. Babies learn to do this remarkably early on in life and it is fundamental to the development of language and more complex communication.
  • Intonation The way the pitch of your voice rises and falls as you speak. How do you know if someone is asking you a question? Because the pitch of their voice rises towards the end of the sentence. This is an example of intonation.
  • Language A speech & language therapist will usually use ‘language’ to mean any sort of spoken communication although ‘Language’ also refers to written communication. Language is just one type of communication
  • Neurotypical The majority of people in the world have brains which function in a broadly similar or typical way. Rather than describing this as ‘normal’, many people prefer to think of it as ‘neurotypical’.
  • Non-verbal communication Any communication that isn’t speech; things like gestures, eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, intonation, posture. You can think of it broadly as ‘Body language’.
  • Observation Simply watching a child doing day to day activities, often in school or nursery. A skilled therapist can gain a lot of information from watching a child in this way. Observation is useful for gathering examples of a child’s typical communication skills and their interaction with others.
  • Percentile Sometimes called ‘percentile rank’. In most standardised assessments (see standardised assessment entry), the client’s score can be converted into a percentile score which compares them to others of the same age. The normal range of ability is 16th to 84th percentile. If a child has a percentile rank of 43, then their score is higher than 43% of people who take the test.
  • Phonology The ‘computer program’ your brain uses to tell you which sounds go where in words and which sounds belong to your native language.
  • Pragmatics The use of language in social interactions, sometimes called ‘social communication’.
  • Pre Intentional Communication You can think of this as ‘accidental’ communication. A good (and simplified!) example of this is a baby crying because it is hungry. In the first few weeks, the baby simply cries in response to the discomfort of hunger but, crucially, the parents interpret the cry as a request for food and give the baby a bottle. Over time, the baby begins to learn that crying results in being fed and starts to do it with the intention of getting ...
  • Reasoning Using logic to think and understand. Reasoning is what you do when you work out how to solve a problem, how to help someone else or to plan out how to do something.
  • Semantics Anything relating to meaning in language. All words we use have some meaning and those meanings often relate to each other. For example we know that apples, pears and bananas are all different, each word has its own meaning, but they are also all related because they are all fruits and things you can eat. Sentences also have meanings which can be more tan the added meanings of the words inside them. Think about figures of speech like ‘You’re driving ...
  • Social Communication Communication for purely social purposes. Most people do a lot of this, think about why you meet friends for lunch or at the pub. In most cases, it’s simply to enjoy some social communication.
  • Social Skills The skills you need to take part in social conversation, things like empathy, knowing how to read facial expressions, knowing when it’s your turn in a conversation, knowing how much information to give your listener. Social skills are very much subconscious for most of us, that is we ‘just do it’ and it is often VERY obvious when someone has problems with this area of communication.
  • Speech To most people, speech simply means talking but Speech & language therapists are more specific. We tend to use ‘speech’ to mean ‘pronunciation’ or how you say words and speech sounds.
  • Standardised assessment Any assessment which has been designed and tested scientifically to objectively compare an individual to the abilities of their peer group. This type of assessment will tell a therapist how their client is doing relative to others of the same age group and whether or not that client’s skills are within the average range of ability.