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When discovering that your child may have differing needs or abilities, you instantly can become saturated in a world of new lingo and jargon, three letter acronyms, and medical language that might leave you with more confusion and uncertainty.  We hope the following list will help clarify some of the common language you might hear within therapeutic settings.  

Adaptive response: an appropriate action in which the individual responds successful to some environmental demand.  Adaptive responses require good sensory integration, and they also further the sensory integrative process. 

ADL/ADLS: activities of daily living.  Examples include: bathing, grooming, dressing, hygiene related skills, etc. 

Bilateral coordination: the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time in a controlled and organized manner. This can mean using both sides of the body to do the same thing, as in using a rolling pin or using alternating movements, like when walking or climbing stairs, or when using different movements on each side, like when cutting with scissors while holding the paper with the other hand. 

Dyspraxia: poor praxis or motor planning that is often related to a decrease in sensory processing.

Eye-hand coordination: the efficient teamwork of the eyes and hands, necessary for activities such as playing with toys, dressing, and writing. 

Extension: the act of straight in the neck, back, arms, or legs. 

Fine Motor: referring to movement of the muscles in the fingers, toes, eyes, and tongue. 

Fine motor skills: the skilled use of one’s hands- the ability to move the hands and fingers in a smooth, precise, and controlled manner. Fine motor control is essential for handling of classroom tools and materials- may also be referred to as dexterity. 

Flexion: the act of bending or pulling in a part of the body.

Gravitational insecurity: extreme fear and anxiety that one will fall when one’s head position changes.  This is often related to poor processing of vestibular and proprioceptive information. 

Gross Motor: movements of the large muscles of the body. 

Gross motor skills: coordinated body movements involving the large muscle groups, for example, running, walking, hopping, climbing, throwing, and jumping.

Hypersensitivity: oversensitivity to sensory stimuli, characterized by a tendency to be either fearful and cautious, or negative and defiant. 

Hypersensitive to movement: a sense of disorientation and/or avoidance of movement that is linear and/or rotary.

Hyposensitivity: the under-sensitivity to sensory stimuli, characterized by a tendency to either crave intense sensations or to withdraw and be difficult to engage. 

Interoception: the sense that provides information about the internal state of our body, i.e. how our body is feeling on the inside. For example, awareness of hunger, thirst, pain, need for bathroom, or need for rest. 

Motor control: the ability to regulate and motor the motions of one’s muscle group to work together harmoniously to perform movements. For example, the ability to move your toothbrush across your teeth requires a particular amount of control in your hand and arm. 

Motor coordination: the ability to use multiple body parts for a particular action.  For example, dribbling a basketball requires the coordination of your arms and hands to bounce the ball, coordination of your eye muscles to come together and apart in watching where the ball is moving, and coordination of your feet and legs to move your body around the basketball court. 

Motor planning: the ability to conceive of, organize, sequence, and carry out an unfamiliar and complex body movement in a coordinated manner.  Also referred to as praxis. 

Muscle tone: the degree of tension normal present when one’s muscles are relaxed or in a resting state. 

Nystagmus: a series of automatic, back-and-forth eye movements.

Prone: the horizontal body position with the face and stomach downward. 

Proprioception: the perception of sensation from the muscles and joints. It tells the brain when and how muscles are contracting or stretching, and when and how the joints are bending, extending or being pulled or compressed. This information enables the brain to know where each part of the body is and how it is moving. 

Rotary movement: turning or spinning in circles 

Self-Regulation: the ability to control one’s activity level and state of alertness, as well as one’s emotional, mental, or physical responses to senses; self-organization.

Sensory Defensiveness: child’s behavior in response to sensory input, reflecting over-reactions or a low threshold to a specific sensory input

Sensory Diet: the multi sensory experiences that one normally seeks on a daily basis to satisfy one’s sensory appetite; a planned and scheduled activity program that an occupational therapist develops to help a person become more self-regulated. 

Sensory discrimination: the ability to perceive various aspects of sensation (light, touch, texture, smell, taste, etc)

Sensory input: the streams of neural impulses flowing from the sense receptors in the body to the spinal cord and brain. 

Sensory integration: the process by which we receive information through our senses, organize this information, and use it to participate in everyday activities. 

Sensory integrative dysfunction: the inefficient neurological processing of information received through the senses, causing problems with learning, developmental, and behavior. 

Sensory Modulation: the process by which the brain takes in various forms of sensory inputs and sorts them all out. It is the ability to effectively regulate the degree to which one is influenced by various sensory inputs. Efficient sensory modulation allows the central nervous system to regulate such things as attention and arousal level by enabling one to attend to important stimuli, filter out irrelevant stimuli, and modify the amount of stimuli one is exposed to. 

Sensory Registration: initial awareness of a single input; assigning value and emotional tone to a stimulus. 

Supine: the horizontal body position with the face and stomach upward. 

Tactile: pertaining to the sense of touch on the skin. Also refers to various qualities attributed to touch, including detecting pressure, temperature, light touch, pain, and discriminative touch

Tactile defensiveness: a sensory integrative dysfunction in which tactile sensations create negative emotional reactions.  It is associated with distractibility, restlessness, and behavior problems. 

Vestibular system: the sensory system that responds to the position of the head in relation to gravity and accelerated and decelerated movement; it integrates neck, eye, and body adjustments to movement. 

Visual discrimination: differentiating among symbols and forms, such as matching or separating colors, shapes, numbers, letters or words

Visual Figure Ground: differentiation between objects in the foreground and background

Visual motor: referring to one’s movements based on the perception of visual information 

Visual motor skills: the ability to take in visual information, process it, and be able to coordinate your physical movement in relation to what has been viewed. It involves a combination of visual perception and motor coordination. Difficulty with visual motor skills can result in inaccurate reaching, pointing, and grasping of objects, as well as difficulty with coping, drawing, tracing, and cutting. 

Visual perception: the ability to perceive and interpret what the eyes see. 

Visual perceptual skills: the ability to interpret and use what is seen in the environment. Difficulties in this area can interfere with a child’s ability to learn self-help skills like tying shoelaces and academic tasks like copying from the blackboard or finding items in a busy background. 

Visual-Spatial Processing Skills: perceptions based on sensory information received through the eyes and body as one interacts with the environment and moves one’s body through space. Including: depth perception, directionality, form constancy, position in space, spatial awareness, visual discrimination, and visual figure-ground. 

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