Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account.

A savings account that helps people with disabilities and their families save for housing, education, transportation, medical and other expenses related to their disability. It helps individuals with disabilities, including autism, save for future needs without losing access to other resources.


Changes or adjustments that help meet a person’s individual needs. Examples include getting extra time for training, taking a test orally instead of in writing and working one-on-one with coworker.

advocate. (verb)

To speak up for your wants and needs.

alternative and augmentative communication (AAC).

Methods of communication for people who can't use speech (talking) to communicate; examples include sign language and using a computer for speech.


Strong feelings of worry or fear about everyday activities.



Believing that you can do something.

credit card.

Lets you borrow money to pay for something and then you pay the money back later.


debit card.

Takes money directly out of a bank account.


Telling others about your disability.


emerging communicator.

Also called a beginning communicator. Someone who is just getting started with alternative and augmentative communication (AAC).

employment assessment.

A test or tests to see what kind of job you may like or be good at.

executive functioning skills.

Skills that help you stay organized and respond to situations. They help you with things like planning, paying attention and managing time.

experienced communicator.

Someone who can communicate clearly with alternative and augmentative communication (AAC).


government benefits.

Government programs that help people with disabilities with things like health care, housing, independent living skills and paying for college.


Also called legal guardian. The person who has legal responsibility to take care of a child or adult.



Not wanting or needing a lot of help from other people.

Individualized Education Program (IEP).

A plan that identifies programs, goals, services and supports to make sure a student with a disability gets a free and appropriate education at school.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.

A meeting that must happen at least once a year to make sure a student’s IEP has the right programs, goals and services to get the appropriate education at school.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) team.

The team that works on an IEP to make sure it meets a student’s needs. The team can include the student, parents, teachers, a school district representative and service providers, like a speech therapist or an occupational therapist.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) transition planning.

Goals in a student’s IEP that help plan for life after high school. Schools must measure and report on the goals.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

A U.S. law that makes sure that students with disabilities get free and appropriate education in public schools that meets their individual needs.

intensive support.

See levels of support. Hourly support needed for most daily activities.


job coach.

Someone who helps you learn how to do your work and the daily tasks that you’re responsible for.

job shadowing.

A kind of job training in which you work along with an employee and participate in their daily activities.

job skills assessment.

Questions that help you find out what jobs and careers may be good for you.


legal guardian.

See guardian.

levels of support.

Some support: Support not needed for most daily activities.

Moderate support: Daily support needed for some but not all daily activities.

Intensive support: Hourly support needed for most daily activities.

life insurance.

Provides money for people like your partner and your children when you die.



A U.S. government program that provides health coverage to many Americans, including eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Medicaid is managed by each state, and each state sets its own program guidelines.

Medicaid waiver program.

When states waive (don’t enforce) Medicaid rules so they can provide services to people who may not qualify for Medicaid. An example of a Medicaid waiver is the Home and Community-Based Services waiver. Some states have waiver programs just for people with autism.


Someone who teaches you or gives you help or advice.

moderate support.

See levels of support. Daily support needed for some but not all daily activities.


organizational tools.

Tools that can help you with planning and completing a task. Examples include checklists, calendars and daily planners.



In school, someone who helps teachers and students but doesn't have a license to be a teacher.

paratransit services.

Transportation services that are more flexible than public transportation, like trains and buses that have a fixed route and schedule. Paratransit often uses a minibus. But it also can be shared-ride taxis, a carpool or a vanpool.

peer mentor.

Someone you trust who is your age or who has similar life experiences as you. A peer mentor listens without judgment and supports you in pursuing your goals and dreams.

picture cards.

Cards that identify a word, phrase or idea with a picture.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

A tool that helps people communicate with pictures.


What you like or want more than something else.


Finding a solution to a problem.

professional financial representative.

A business professional you hire to help you make decisions about money.

public transportation.

Buses, trains, subways and other kinds of transportation for use by the general public.


reasonable accommodations.

Realistic changes in the workplace that help employees with disabilities do their job. Examples include adapting certain equipment or lighting, changing the way tests and trainings are provided or offering flexible work schedules.

rideshare services.

Transportation services provided by private individuals in their own cars. Examples include Uber and Lyft.

role play.

Acting out a conversation or situation to practice for being in real life situations. For example, you can role play answering questions in a job interview.


school psychologist.

A child psychologist who works for a school or school district to help students who have mental health conditions, including problems with thinking, feeling and behavior.


Being able to communicate your needs and preferences to others. It includes understanding your needs and legal rights, knowing what help and support you need, and communicating your needs to others.

self-advocate (noun).

Someone who can communicate their needs and preferences to others.


Taking action to deal with challenging emotions or behavior or sensory discomfort. For example, you may count or take deep breaths to calm yourself down.

sensory break.

A short break from activities to help you self-regulate. For example, you may take a sensory break, like leaving the room for a short time, to reduce discomfort from sounds, sights, lights or other people. Or you may take a break, like taking a walk, when you need to boost your energy or to be better at paying attention.

sensory experience.

Something that stimulates (activates) your senses, including sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste, balance and orientation.

sensory preferences.

What you know about how you see, hear, smell, taste or feel things and what you need to be able to participate in settings and activities. For example, if you need to avoid bright lights to feel comfortable, your preference may be to turn to the lights down or to sit in a darker part of the room.

sensory toy.

A toy that helps manage one or more of your senses to help you calm down and focus your attention. Examples include fidgets, toys that light up, sand art and massage balls.

social communication.

See social communication skills.

social communication skills.

Skills needed to communicate with people. Examples include being able to have a conversation with someone; using non-verbal communication, like body language; and using language for different reasons, like to give information or to ask a question.

social connection.

Feeling comfortable being around someone.

Social Security.

A U.S. government program that pays money to people with limited income, including people with disabilities and people who are retired or don’t have jobs.

social skills.

Skills needed to communicate and interact with people; skills can be verbal (talking) and nonverbal (gestures, body language and appearance).

social skills group.

A group that meets to practice social skills.

social preferences.

What you know about how you interact best with others and what you need to be able to participate in settings or activities. For example, you may prefer one-on-one conversations with people rather than being in a group conversation. Or you may prefer going to a movie with friends rather than going to a party with friends.

some support.

See levels of support. Support not needed for most daily activities.

special needs trust.

A savings fund that provides money to a person with disabilities but doesn’t affect if the person gets government benefits, like Social Security or Medicaid.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

A U.S. government program that provides cash to people with disabilities who have limited income (less than $2,000 in their name).

support levels.

See levels of support.

support person.

Someone who helps you with things like communication, transportation, medical care and daily living.

support team.

A group of people who support you with things like communication, transportation, medical care and daily living. The team may include parents and other family members, friends, mentors, health professionals, job coaches, teachers and paraprofessionals.


Tools or services that help people with autism in their daily lives. Examples of supports include activities that get you involved in the community, communication devices, job coaching, mentors, social skills groups and summer camp programs.



Working with other people to complete a task or achieve a goal.

Ticket to Work.

A U.S. government program that connects people age 18-64 who get Social Security disability benefits and want to work with free employment services, including job counseling, vocational rehabilitation, job training and job placement.

time management.

Planning and controlling the amount of time you spend on daily activities.

token system.

A program to help you achieve goals. You get a physical token (something you can hold in your hand) when you complete a task. You collect them and trade them later for a reward. Tokens can be things like poker chips, marbles or coins.


visual prompt.

Also called a visual cue. A picture, video or written instructions that help you learn or know to do a task or follow directions.

visual schedule.

A support that uses pictures to show the steps needed to complete a teask.

visual script.

A written conversation of appropriate communication in social situations. Examples include what to say to a teacher, bus driver or a cashier at a store.

vocational rehabilitation (VR).

A program that helps people with disabilities find and keep jobs.

vocational specialist.

A trained professional who helps people with disabilities set goals and understand their skills for getting and keeping a job.


Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA).

A U.S. law that helps Americans get education, training and support services to help them get and succeed in jobs and careers. It also helps employers hire and keep skilled workers.