Glossary of Terms


The use of pressure on acupuncture points as a method of alternative medicine.


The restoration of the harmonising balance of the body's life energy (Ch'i) by the shallow insertion of fine needles into the body's meridian points. Often successful in curing physical ailments.


Repeating a positive phrase to yourself, either silently or aloud, in order to improve your self-image. Best done when relaxed after a period of meditation, or in bed at night before falling asleep.


Fear of open spaces, which may leave the person a virtual prisoner in their own home.

Alexander Technique

A postural therapy which involves relearning how to stand and move so that the neck, head and back are in the correct alignment. Difficult to learn from books: therapists are listed in local phone books.


Children who become dependent on their parents and tend to lean emotionally on others when they grow up, making it hard for them to form balanced relationships.


Pain in the chest caused by insufficient blood reaching the heart muscles, and made worse by physical exertion.


The use of essential oils that derive from flowers, plants and trees. Can be used to cause stimulation or relaxation, ward off infection or maintain bodily resistance.

Asperger Syndrome

Brain develops differently so the person may not be able to read signals from other people or think in abstract ways. They may be highly intelligent and keen to mix with people but find socialising and forming relationships extremely difficult. One of the biggest problems is that they appear to be insensitive to other people.


Wheezing and inability to breathe: may be episodic or chronic, in which case a sufferer must lead an exertion-free life. Might be an allergic reaction or stress-related.


Muscles badly co-ordinated, so that the person makes clumsy movements. May occur with cerebral palsy.


Constantly moving fingers, feet, limbs, trunk, head or facial muscles, common with cerebral palsy.


Condition characterised by lack of emotional response to others, abnormal self-absorption and limited ability to communicate.

Autonomic Dysreflexia

Paralysed people with a lesion above T4 can suffer a rise in blood pressure resulting from full bladder, bowel or sexual arousal. The pulse rate goes down and you feel alternately flushed and chilled, with goose pimples and a headache. This is dangerous and requires medical attention. In the meantime, sit up and try to empty the bladder and bowels.

Behavioural Therapy

Aims to change behaviour by substituting destructive habits with good ones, with the use of therapeutic tools.


Integrating of mind and body processes to enable a person to experience a heightening of the energy flow within their body. Based on the theories of Wilhelm Reich.

Birth Marks

Caused by a tumour of blood in the skin. Can be treated with skin grafts and laser therapy.


A sexual activity which involves restriction, power and trust. The submissive surrenders to the dominant partner and agrees to be tied with padlocks, ribbon or rope, or to take or hold a position without movement (mental bondage). Rewards are given for obedience but the sub may need to wait. There are safe ways to apply bondage but there are also dangerous ways, so learn the ropes! See also S&M.

Brittle Bones or Osteogenesis Imperfecta or OI for short

A usually inherited condition where the bones are fragile and the body small. The person may also be deaf. Much of early life may be spent in hospital. Women may need to be careful not to break hips during sex or childbirth.

Cerebral Palsy

Caused in the womb or at birth by lack of oxygen, meningitis encephalitis or German measles (rubella). Muscles may be weak, with tremors and uncoordinated speech, hearing and sight. The body may not grow or be deformed. Some CP involves intellectual impairment, while others may be extremely intelligent. Spasms may cause particular problems with sex, and meeting a partner may be difficult as speech and facial expression are often affected. Care should be taken with smells from stale saliva. SCOPE (formerly the Spastics Society) can provide practical help and counselling.


The treatment of disease by the manipulation of the spine.


Permanent opening in the lower abdomen, to replace anus because the colon has been surgically removed, usually due to bowel cancer. People with an ostomy often need lots of encouragement to regain the confidence to enjoy intimacy again.


Stimulating the vulva, especially the clitoris, with the mouth during sex play.

Cystic Fibrosis

Inherited condition in which mucus blocks the function of the pancreas and lungs to produce difficulty in breathing and the body becomes thin.

Dismorphophobia/body dysmorphic disorder

BDD: Excessive preoccupation over minor or imagined defects in personal appearance which leads to extreme social withdrawal.


Problems with reading, writing and spelling.


Difficulty swallowing and chewing because of ataxic mouth muscles. Many people with cerebral palsy need to drink through a straw and produce a dramatic display from a plate of spaghetti!


Difficulty in speech because some muscles are uncoordinated or the nerves to the throat and mouth are damaged.


Skin disorder which may be allergic, psychological or environmental in origin. Some people can't go into hot rooms and may avoid being seen. Many have grown up with people being uneasy about touching them and so may crave personal contact, while at the same time fearing it.


An epileptic person suffers disturbances of consciousness and/or electrical discharge in the brain. There's no known cause, but it may be stimulated by emotional upset. Petit Mal attacks make them go blank for short periods of time, while Grand Mal attacks make them lose consciousness and go jerky or behave strangely. Most people with epilepsy take drugs which keep them attack-free but these may make them drowsy.


Sucking and licking the penis with the mouth for sexual pleasure.

Female Ejaculation

A squirt of fluid from the urethra before or during orgasm. Contains some urine but is mostly comprised of a fluid similaor to male prostatic fluid. The phenomenon was once widely recognised but was, until recently, denied by the medical profession. Women who are ignorant of the nature of their ejaculate are embarrassed because they think they are "wetting the bed" so avoid having orgasms.


A fetish is an object, situation, type of body or part of the body which triggers orgasm. The term has recently been adopted by clubs, magazines and the clothing industry, to include pervy behaviour, clothing and imagery, and sometimes pure fashion.

Friedreich's Ataxia

Hereditary spinal ataxia - degeneration of lateral and dorsal columns of the spinal cord so that the tendon reflexes are diminished. Balance, co-ordination and speech are usually affected.

Giles de la Tourette Syndrome

The person tends to spit and swear in public and has other behavioural traits which makes mixing socially and travelling a challenge.

Hearing Impairment

Hearing impairment may be congenital or caused by German measles in pregnancy, cerebral palsy, infections such as meningitis or deep sea diving accidents. They can be usefully divided into three categories:

1) people who are deaf since birth — people may have some hearing or none and don't know words or have a limited vocabulary and use sign language

2).people who lose all hearing and may have tinnitus (ringing/other sounds in the ears) or poor balance. They know words and use lip reading.

3) people who have lost a certain amount of hearing and may also have tinitis. They use hearing aids and the loop system. They use speech but may need you to talk to the ear which works best.

Deafness is the most socially isolating of disabilities, and people who live with it need patience and consideration from the rest of us. Many have a lack of trust in the hearing population because they've been so left out. There are deaf people in Outsiders and, because their impairment is hidden, they need to explain their situation in order to communicate.


When one side of a person's body is paralysed and/or deficient in sight and/or hearing. Sometimes the paralysed side will attempt to mimic the non-paralysed side. May be congenital or more usually result from difficult childbirth or a stroke.


Therapy based on the idea tat the body has its own healing and defence mechanisms which can be activated to eliminate illness.


Condition caused by defective drainage of spinal fluid causing pressure on the brain. A drainage valve is inserted at birth. The person may be weak, with perceptual or visual impairment. Sometimes associated with epilepsy.


Similar to Colostomy, but where ileum was removed.

Juvenile Arthritis

Also known as Stills disease. Restricted growth and stiff joints, cause unknown. May spend much time in hospital, have difficulty in breathing and limited mobility. He/she may look much younger than they are and be of small stature.

Kippel-Feil Syndrome

Absence of neck due to absence or fusion of cervical spine.

Lichen Sclerosus

A misunderstood condition causing pain and possible deformity of the vulva in women.


Partial or complete surgical removal of breast, usually to eliminate cancer.


Mental and/or physical stimulation which usually leads to orgasm. May be done on one's own or by a partner. Two people mastubating each other is called mutual masturbation.


A technique of mind calming which can lead to decreased stress levels and a greater sense of well-being. Methods may range from seeking to control or eliminate thoughts, as in Transcendental Meditation, or TM, to merely watching them without identifying with them, a traditional Buddhist method, often while observing the breath.


Change of life, when women stop having periods because of hormonal changes. HRT can help alleviate the effects, although that is discouraged because of health issues. Both women and men may feel emotionlly and physically upset or depressed and insecure during their 'midlife crisis', and the existence of a 'male menopause' (the Andropause) is accepted in some circles.

Multiple Sclerosis

MS: A progressive disease caused by the destruction of the myelin sheath of the motor and sensory nerves. At the onset, eyesight may fade but then returns. MS) affects balance, sight, continence, physical sexual arousal, sensitivity, speech and personality, and there may be continual pain. Depression and euphoria may be experienced. Sexual activity and emotional happiness improves the condition.

Muscular Dystrophy

Usually inherited and starting in childhood. Causes increased muscular weakness, and the person is unable to relax the muscle after contracting it. They may become unable to walk and the lungs may be weak. They may be very small, thin, fat, and there may also be testicular atrophy.


Some people are naturally fat and enjoy their size rather than hating it. Medical advice can alert you to the associated medical problems such as varicose veins, osteoarthritis, flat feet, hernias, skin infections, heart and lung problems, high blood pressure and diabetes. Exercise helps circulation and weight loss, but beware of 'tricks' to lose weight such as vomiting, eating bran and laxatives before meals or taking amphetamines to cut down on hunger.


Degenerative joint disease.


Strictly means unable to move. Muscles may be flaccid, rigid, with tremor, contracted, spastic or in spasm. The word is sometimes also used to include numbness or sensory inhibition. This is probably responsible for much of the confusion about disability which leads people to believe that if a person cannot move, they must be unable to feel or experience desire!


Paralysed in the legs and abdomen but able to move from the waist up.

Parkinson's Disease

A condition which usually starts around the age of 50 but sometimes much earlier. More common in men. A reduction in the dopamine in the brain reduces the effectiveness of nervous impulses so that voluntary movements are impaired. The body also experiences tremors and stiffness when still. Facial expressions may be reduced, so that you can't smile, speech affected and sexual difficulties may be experienced.

Personal assistant

PA: the modern and more respectful version of a carer. The PA is employed by the disabled person to perform the tasks they specify.


Irrational panic in a certain situation or as a result of contact with an animal, object, crowds of people, etc. See Agoraphobia.


A viral infection which was rife in the UK until the 50s. Children in the western world are now vaccinated but polio still exists in other countries. It affects the spine and weakens the muscles, so that sometimes breathing is restricted. Two or four limbs may be affected, plus the chest and back. Some people recover more fully than others: some can walk, others cannot. The spine can be soothed by massage. Sexual functioning is usually unaffected, though some men can experience delayed ejaculation.

Politically Correct

PC A term used to identify something in a more socially acceptable, unpatronising and unprejudiced way. Helps people think about the situation more sympathetically but, it is often taken to extremes today beyond reason.


Red patches and silvery scales on scalp and body which break out sporadically. Makes people feel self-conscious and avoid hot rooms, so they may become isolated.


Traditional treatment of psychological problems by discussing them with a trained therapist. There are many different schools of therapy, and a course of treatment may take a long time, and the condition is little understood.


(Also called tetraplegic) paralysis of the arms and legs, i.e., higher up in the body than someone who's paraplegic.


The term used for a period when a disease becomes less troublesome for a while: the condition improves but may then get worse again.

Retrograde Ejaculation

When semen is ejaculated into the bladder instead of out the end of the penis. Sperm can be rescued for fertility purposes, and orgasms can be enjoyed without ejaculation - you have the advantage of 'no mess' which some partners might prefer.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Condition of stiff joints resulting from swelling of the synovial membrane. Leads to fibrosis of the joints. Cause unknown - there may be a psychological element. The person becomes weak, tired and stiff, feels especially bad in the mornings and may have pain at night. Sex can help you feel better, but don't put your weight on affected joints.


Alternative medicine technique using deep massage and manipulation techniques to reorder the body and bring its main parts, the head, shoulders, thorax and legs, into vertical alignment.


S&M. Sexual pleasure from the giving or receiving of pain and/or humiliation and control. Similar to B&D and CP.


Lateral curvature of the spine which usually begins in adolescence. May produce chronic pain and shortage of breath.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

STDs can be passed on to the person you have sex with and they don't cure themselves, so any soreness, discharge, contact with an infected person or worries should be discussed with your GP or local clinic (usually listed in the phone book under Sexually Transmitted Diseases or Genito-Urinary Medicine). Remember that some symptoms come and go with no cause for alarm: but on the other hand, some diseases (such as HIV) are initially symptomless, so you should get checked at regular intervals. Not all discharges are caught from other people, so even if you've never had sex, you should still get checked. Many disabled people are assumed to be sexless, so dont get the standard check-ups. A survey of women in institutions in New York showed that 80% of them had vaginal infections - mostly excessive yeast which resulted from sitting in wheelchairs all day. There's no need to worry that you might catch something every time you have sex, but with AIDS and Hepatitis on the increase, it's wise to practise safer sex. Condoms will help protect both of you from infection, and greatly lessen the risk of pregnancy. There are many delightful forms of sexual pleasure which don't involve intercourse.


Type of physical manipulation developed in Japan to promote and maintain health and treat specific ailments.

Small stature

Usually inherited, but may result from a variety of causes including achondroplasia (ossifion of the cartilage); chromosomal syndromes, Stills disease, brittle bones, cerebral palsy, etc. Some people need to wear callipers or may be unable to walk, while others may have curvature of the spine and chest problems.