Glossary of Terms


Absence seizure

A seizure causing a brief loss of awareness, which is often characterized by staring into space for a few seconds. Other symptoms include lip-smacking, eyelid fluttering, and chewing motions.

Adjunct Treatment

An adjunct treatment is one used in addition to another treatment (add-on therapy).


Able to walk.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

A law that was implemented in 1990 prohibiting discrimination based on disability.

Anti-Seizure Drug / Anti-Epileptic Drug (AED)

A medication used to control both convulsive and nonconvulsive seizures; sometimes called an anticonvulsant.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

An evidence-based therapy focused on decreasing harmful behaviors and increasing and reinforcing helpful behaviors.


A degenerative disease of the nervous system. Many symptoms of Ataxia mimic those of being drunk, such as slurred speech, stumbling, falling, and incoordination.

Atonic Seizure

A seizure characterized by a sudden loss of muscle tone; may cause the head to drop suddenly, objects to fall from the hands, or the legs to lose strength, with falling and potential injury; usually not associated with loss of consciousness. Previously known as “Drop Attacks”.

Atypical Absence Seizure

Similar to absence seizures except they tend to begin more slowly, last longer, and may include slumping or falling down.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

A developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact.


Brand name drug

A prescription medication that is marketed with a specific brand name by the company that manufactured it (Tylenol is the brand name for the medicine Acetominophen).


Cerebral Palsy (CP)

A group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture due to abnormal brain development.

Clonic seizure

Repetitive, or rhythmic jerks that involve all or part of the body.

Cognitive function

Brain-based skills that are used to acquire knowledge, think, and remember.

Complex partial seizure

A seizure that involves only part of the brain and impairs consciousness. Name newly changed to Focal Seizure.


A disorder that is present in association with another.


A sudden, violent, irregular movement of a limb or of the body, caused by involuntary contraction of muscles and associated especially with epilepsy.

Corpus Callosotomy

A surgical technique that disconnects the cerebral hemispheres and is most effective in reducing atonic and tonic-clonic seizures.

Cortical Dysplasia

An abnormality in the development and organization of the cerebral cortex that can cause seizures and other neurologic disorders.

Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)

A decreased visual response due to a neurological problem affecting the visual part of the brain. Typically, a child with CVI has a normal eye exam or has an eye condition that cannot account for the abnormal visual behavior. Children with CVI display characteristic behaviors.


Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

A neuromodulation therapy designed to help in the management of refractory seizures. It requires a neurosurgeon to place electrodes in a specific area of the brain called the thalamus.

Developmental Delay

Refers to a child who has not gained the developmental skills expected of him or her, compared to others of the same age.

Drug-Resistant Epilepsy

Also known as refractory epilepsy or pharmacoresistant epilepsy, is defined as the failure of two antiepileptic drugs to sustain seizure freedom.

Drop Attacks/Drop Seizures

See Atonic Seizure.

Durable Medical Equipment (DME)

Any medical equipment.




Electroencephalogram (EEG)

A diagnostic test that measures brain waves, the electrical impulses in the cerebral cortex. This test helps a doctor to diagnose epilepsy.


A disorder characterized by transient but recurrent disturbances of brain function that may or may not be associated with impairment or loss of consciousness and abnormal movements or behavior.

Epilepsy Syndrome

A disorder defined by seizure type, age of onset, clinical and EEG findings, family history, response to therapy, and prognosis.


A neurologist with specialty training in epilepsy.


Focal seizure

A newer term for a partial seizure.


Generalized Paroxysmal Fast Activity (GPFA)

An EEG pattern associated with a Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome diagnosis.

Generalized seizure

A seizure that occurs all through the brain.

Generic drug

Generic version of a brand-name drug marketed at a lower cost.

Grand mal Seizure

An outdated term. See Tonic-Clonic seizure.



The time required for the amount of a drug in the blood to decline to half its original value, measured in hours; a drug with a longer half-life lasts longer in the body and, therefore, generally needs to be taken less often than a drug with a shorter half-life.


A condition in which there is too much muscle tone so that arms or legs, for example, are stiff and difficult to move.


A condition in which there is decreased muscle tone. Those with hypotonia have floppy, soft muscles and may have increased flexibility, poor posture, and tire easily.


An abnormal EEG pattern of excessive slow activity and multiple areas of epileptiform activity; associated with infantile spasms.



Referring to the period during a seizure.


Of unknown cause.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

American legislation that ensures students with a disability are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)  that is tailored to their individual needs in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

Infantile Spasms

A sudden jerk followed by stiffening; spasms usually begin between age 3 and 12 months and usually stop by age 2 to 4 years, although other seizure types often develop; in some spells, the arms are flung out as the body bends forward (“jackknife seizures”), but in others, the movements are more subtle.

Intellectual Disability

A disability characterized by significant limitation in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior that is present before the age of 22. It replaced the older, outdated term of Mental Retardation and was signed into law in 2010 (Rosa’s Law).


Ketogenic Diet

A high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet used to control seizures in some children with seizures, that are difficult to control with medications.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A scanning technique that creates pictures of the inside of the body and the brain; uses a strong magnet (does not use x-rays); more sensitive than CT.

Medicaid Waiver

State-developed home and community-based services waivers (HCBS Waivers) that meet the needs of people receiving long-term care services and supports in their home or community, rather than in an institutional setting. States can waive certain Medicaid requirements under HCBS waivers.

Myoclonic Seizure

A brief muscle jerk resulting from an abnormal discharge of brain electrical activity; usually involves muscles on both sides of the body, most often the shoulders or upper arms.



A doctor who specializes in the treatment of epilepsy and other disorders of the brain and nervous system.

Non-Convulsive Status Epilepticus (NCSE)

Status epilepticus without obvious tonic-clonic activity. Patients with NCSE have an altered mental state. An EEG is needed to confirm the diagnosis.


Occupational Therapy (OT)

Occupational Therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Examples include self-care routines like getting dressed; writing, holding a pencil; assisting with self-regulating and sensory processing.


Partial Seizure

A seizure that occurs in a limited area in only one hemisphere of the brain. Now called Focal Seizure.

Physical Therapy (PT)

Therapy for the preservation, enhancement, or restoration of movement and physical function impaired or threatened by disease, injury, or disability that utilizes therapeutic exercise.


The postictal phase is the period of time immediately following a seizure.


Rescue Medication

Rescue medicines are fast-acting anti-seizure drugs that help to stop a seizure quickly before it progresses to a medical emergency.

Responsive Neurostimulation Device (RNS)

RNS consists of a small neurostimulator implanted within the skull under the scalp. The device detects abnormal electrical activity in the area and delivers electrical stimulation to normalize brain activity before seizure symptoms begin.


Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Often called Sensory Integration Disorder, SPD is a condition that affects how your brain processes sensory information (stimuli). Sensory information includes things you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. SPD can affect all of your senses, or just one.


An event of altered brain function caused by abnormal or excessive electrical discharges in the brain. Most seizures cause sudden changes in behavior or motor function.

Slow Spike Wave

An EEG pattern associated with a Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome diagnosis.

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)

A federal insurance program of the United States government. It is managed by the Social Security Administration and designed to provide income supplements to people who are physically restricted in their ability to be employed because of a notable disability.

Status Epilepticus

A prolonged seizure (usually defined as lasting longer than 30 minutes) or a series of repeated seizures without regaining consciousness. Status epilepticus is a medical emergency and medical help should be obtained immediately.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

A Federal income supplement program. It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and. It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.


Tonic Seizure

A seizure characterized by stiffening of the muscles sustained for more than a few seconds

Tonic-Clonic Seizure

A convulsion; the newer term for grand mal or major motor seizure; characterized by loss of consciousness, falling, stiffening, and jerking; electrical discharge involves all or most of the brain.


Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS)

A pacemaker-like device, surgically implanted in the upper chest and connected to an electrode implanted on the vagus nerve in the neck. When the device is stimulated, it can reduce seizure activity.

Video EEG

A video EEG (electroencephalogram) records what you are doing or experiencing on video recording while an EEG test records your brainwaves. The purpose is to be able to see what is happening when you have a seizure or event and compare the picture to what the EEG records at the same time.


West Syndrome

An epileptic syndrome characterized by infantile spasms, mental retardation, and an abnormal EEG pattern (hypsarrhythmia); begins before 1 year of age.