The ABC’s of Psychiatric Acronyms

ADHD, ODD, IEP? Sitting in a meeting with educators and/ or mental health professionals can be intimidating, particularly when they are speaking about your child. How about when the acronyms are flying out of everyone’s mouths, and everyone seems to understand this new language except you? The DSM-IV is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders put out by the American Psychiatric Association. It contains the standard classifications of mental disorders that is used for diagnosis by mental health clinicians. Acronyms are often used as a shortcut language and is very common among clinicians today. Unfortunately it is so common that the professionals often forget that the “lay person”, namely the parent, does not necessarily know what the acronyms stand for. I facilitate a parent group where many of the children have a diagnosis. It is amazing how even the parents in this group speak in acronyms. Everyone seems to understand each other, however, on occasion, another parent will interrupt and ask what a particular acronym stands for and means. I feel it is important to publish some of the common acronyms used today and a brief definition, according to the DSM-IV, of each.

ADHD-Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: clinical features include the following: difficulty sustaining attention, often does not seem to listen, easily distracted frequently interrupts, talks excessively, difficulty following directions, fidgets in seat.

AS-Aspergers Syndrome: severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, and the development of repetitive, restricted patterns of interests, activities and behaviors.

IEP-Individualized Education Plan- a plan devised to meet the specific and unique educational needs of one child.

IQ- Intelligence Quotient: general intellectual functioning as assessed with one or more standardized intelligence tests (such as Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised, Stanford-Binet, Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children).

LD- Learning Disability: achievement on individualized standardized tests in mathematics, reading or written expression is significantly below what is expected in relation to age, schooling and intelligence level.

MR- Mental Retardation: significantly subaverage intellectual functioning., with marked limitations in various areas of adaptive behavior as well. IQ is defined as 69 or below.

OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are time consuming or cause significant impairment. Obsessions are recurring thoughts, images or impulses, (ie: hand washing) that cause anxiety or stress. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts (counting, repeating words silently) which occur in an attempt to reduce anxiety or stress.

ODD- Oppositional Defiant Disorder: defiant and negative behaviors such as being persistently stubborn, unwilling to compromise, deliberately tests limits, argumentative, verbal aggression, lasting about six months, without serious violation of the basic rights of others.

PDD Pervasive Developmental Disorder: this category is used when there is significant impairment in the development of social skills, or verbal and nonverbal communication skills, or when there are stereotyped behavior, interest and activities. (also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder).

Carol Bottstein