Occupational Therapy Glossary

Adaptive response – an appropriate action in which the individual responds successfully to some environmental demand; requires good sensory integration and furthers the sensory integration process

ADL/ADLs – Activities of Daily Living

Dyspraxia – deficient 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

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 efficient handling of classroom tools and materials – may also be referred to as dexterity.

Gravitational Insecurity – extreme fear and anxiety that one will fall when one’s head position changes

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

Hypersensitivity to Movement – a sense of disorientation and/or avoidance of movement that is linear and/or rotary

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

Motor Control – the ability to regulate and monitor the motions of one’s muscle group to work together harmoniously to perform movements

Motor Coordination – the ability of several muscles or muscle groups to work together harmoniously to perform movements

Motor Planning – the ability to conceive of, organize, sequence, and carry out an unfamiliar and complex body movement in a coordinated manner, a piece of praxis

Muscle Tone – the degree of tension normally present when one’s muscles are relaxed, or in a resting state

Perception – the meaning the brain attributes to sensory input

Postural Adjustments – the ability to shift one’s body in order to change position for a task

Postural Insecurity – a fear of movement/head/posture changes due to poor control of one’s trunk or posture

Postural Stability – being able to maintain one’s body in a position to efficiently complete a task or demand, using large muscle groups at the shoulders and hips

Praxis – the ability to interact successfully with the physical environment; to plan, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions, and to do what one needs and wants to do. Praxis is a broad term indicating voluntary and coordinated action. Motor planning is often used as a synonym for praxis.

Proprioception – the unconscious awareness of sensations coming from one’s joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments; the “position sense”

Rotary Movement – turning or spinning in circles

Self-Help Skills – competence in taking care of one’s personal needs, such as bathing, dressing, eating, grooming, and studying. Also referred to as Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

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

Sensorimotor – pertaining to the brain-behavior of taking in sensory messages and reacting with a physical response

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

Sensory Diet – the multisensory 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 constant flow of information from sensory receptors in the body to the brain and spinal cord

Sensory Integration/Sensory Processing – the normal neurological process taking in information from one’s body and environment through the senses, of organizing and unifying this information, and using it to plan and execute adaptive responses to different challenges in order to learn and function smoothly in daily life

Sensory Integrative Dysfunction – the inefficient neurological processing of information received through the senses, causing problems with learning, development and behavior

Sensory Integration Treatment – a technique of occupational therapy, which provides playful, meaningful activities that enhance an individual’s sensory intake and lead to more adaptive functioning in daily life

Sensory Modulation – increasing or reducing neural activity to keep that activity in harmony with all other functions of the nervous system; maintenance of the arousal state to generate emotional responses, sustain attention, develop appropriate activity level and move skillfully

Sensory Processing Skills – the ability to receive and process information from one’s sensory systems including touch (tactile), visual, auditory (hearing), proprioceptive (body position) and vestibular (balance). Behavior, attention and peer interactions are greatly influenced by the child’s ability to process sensory stimuli.

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

Tactile – refers to the sense of touch and various qualities attributed to touch, including detecting pressure, temperature, light touch, pain, discriminative touch

Tactile Defensiveness – the tendency to react negatively and emotionally to unexpected light touch sensations

Vestibular – refers to our sense of movement and the pull of gravity, related to our body

Vestibular Sense – the sensory system that responds to changes in head position and to body movement through space, and that coordinates movements of the eyes, head and body. Receptors are the inner ear.

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

Visual Figure-Ground – differentiation between objects in the foreground and in the background

Visual Motor – referring to one’s movements based on the perception of visual information

Visual Motor Skills – the ability to visually take in information, process it and be able to coordinate your physical movement in relation to what has been viewed. It involves the 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 copying, 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, visual figure-ground.

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