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Acronyms and Glossary of Terms


ABIAcquired brain injury
ACE-III Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination – III
ADHCAgeing, Disability and Home Care (part of NSW Family and Community Services)
CALDCulturally and linguistically diverse
FASFetal alcohol syndrome
FASDFetal alcohol spectrum disorder
HASIHayes Ability Screening Index (note: HASI can also refer to Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative)
I-CANInstrument for the Classification and Assessment of Support Needs
IDIntellectual disability
IDRSIntellectual Disability Rights Service (note: IDRS can also refer to Illicit Drug Reporting System)
MoCAMontreal Cognitive Assessment
NADANetwork of Alcohol and Drug Agencies
NANTNeuropsychological Assessment Needs Tool
NGONon-government organisation
RBANSRepeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status
SIB-RScales of Independent Behaviour – Revised
TBITraumatic brain injury
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Glossary of Terms

Abstract concepts refer to concepts of a higher order derived from the usage and classification of real or concrete objects. For example, the concept of emotions is formed through grouping specific demonstrable feelings such as anger and happiness.

Acquired brain injury (ABI) refers to an injury to the brain that results in deterioration in cognitive, physical, emotional or independent functioning. It can result from traumatic causes such as car accidents, falls and assaults, or from non-traumatic causes such as stroke, hypoxia (insufficient oxygen), infection, tumour, substance misuse and degenerative neurological diseases.

Adaptive behaviour refers to social, conceptual and practical skills that have been learned by a person in order to function in their everyday lives.

Borderline intellectual disability is a term used to refer to people who are assessed as having an IQ between 71 and 80 who do not meet the IQ requirement to be diagnosed with intellectual disability but who still may have difficulties in a number of areas of adaptive functioning.

Cognitive functioning (or ‘cognition’) refers to the processing of information by the brain, i.e. a person’s ability to think, concentrate, formulate ideas, reason and remember. There are several domains of cognitive functioning, including attention, memory, visuo-spatial skills and executive functioning.

Cognitive impairment (or cognitive disability) is a term used to recognise a broad range of disorders that affect cognitive functioning. Each domain of cognitive functioning can be selectively or jointly impaired across a range of developmental, neurological, acquired brain injury, mental illness, substance-related or dementia conditions. The terms ‘cognitive impairment’ and ‘cognitive disability’ are interchangeable, and workers in the community service sector are likely to come across both terms depending on the specific sector or service with which they are working.

Comorbidity (and related terms such as ‘dual diagnosis’, ‘co-existing or co-occurring disorders’ that are often used interchangeably with ‘comorbidity’) can have a different meaning depending on the particular health and community sector. In the drug and alcohol sector, this term is often used to refer to a person who presents with a drug and alcohol problem in addition to a diagnosed mental illness or symptoms of a mental health issue. In other sectors, such as the intellectual disability sector, this term is used to refer to a person who has a mental illness in addition to intellectual disability.

Compensatory strategies refer to skills and behaviours that a person learns to improve their functioning in a specific area in which if they have difficulties, e.g. memory, comprehension, attention or vision.

Complex needs refers to needs that a client may present with to a drug and alcohol service in addition to drug and alcohol issues/co-existing drug and alcohol and mental health issues, such as cognitive impairment (including intellectual disability, acquired brain injury and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) and/or involvement with the criminal justice system. This is the definition used for this resource but it is acknowledged that there are many other areas of complexity in which drug and alcohol organisations may provide support.

Executive functioning is a term used to describe the many tasks the brain performs that are necessary to think, act and solve problems. Executive functioning includes tasks that help people learn new information, remember and retrieve information, plan, make decisions and use information to solve problems.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and fetal alcohol syndrome and related disorders are terms used to describe a range of conditions and harms emerging from prenatal exposure to alcohol consumption. These conditions include fetal alcohol syndrome, partial fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder, and alcohol-related birth defects.

Holistic practice refers to providing care to a person that takes into account all aspects of his or her life, considering physical and mental health, living circumstances and sense of social connectedness.

IQ (intelligence quotient) is a score derived from a set of standardised test designed to assess intelligence.

Institutionalisation refers to the adverse effects of spending time in highly institutionalised environments such as prison, psychiatric units, large residential units, hospitals and out of home care. These adverse effects impact on a person’s psychological and physical health, living skills and patterns of behaviour, and continue long after a person has returned to the community.

Intellectual disability (ID) is a cognitive impairment that is medically defined as consisting of three elements:

  • An individual is assessed as having an IQ below 70 (2 standard deviations below the mean)
  • An individual displays at least 2 deficits in adaptive functions (such as communication, self-care, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health and safety), and
  • An individual acquires the disability before 18 years of age.

Intergenerational trauma refers to the cumulative and lasting impact of trauma over the lifespan and across generations that stems from trauma experiences. Events that damage people, families and communities, particularly processes relating to conflict, sovereignty and cultural identity, can contribute to the development of intergenerational trauma.

Neuropsychological assessment refers to an assessment conducted by a neuropsychologist using a range of standardised tests, including tests of memory and problem-solving, to gather detailed information on how the brain is functioning.

Remand refers to being detained in custody before and during trial having been refused bail, being unable to meet bail conditions or not having applied for bail.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an acquired brain injury caused by an external force, for example, as a result of a car accident, fall or assault.