Glossary of Terms

Often communication is hampered by simple misunderstanding. We use the same terms and assume that we are using the same definitions for those terms. So that everyone is on the same page we have defined what we mean when we use certain terms.


Cognitive Disability

“Cogntive Disability”, defined by the EDI at Cornell University, is when a physical, mental, or emotional condition creates for a person a serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. Cognitive disabilities are held distinct from a self-care or independent living disability.

In our view, a cognitive disability more accurately represents a processing difficulty in functioning which does not impair the ability to think about and self-manage the environment. Individuals with cognitive disabilities can, with the right skills and tools, have parity with their peers and be self-sufficient.Cognitive disabilities may be lasting, compensated, resolved, or temporary. They may be the result of outside circumstance (medications, toxins) or they may be inherent (ADHD).

They may be the result of injury, as in Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), or an illness such as (Multiple Sclerosis). Cognitive disabilities can impact behavior, emotional state, and mental processing. There are overlaps between illnesses, diseases (mental health), and cognitive disabilities. One can have bipolar disorder and NOT have a cognitive disability, or one can be depressed and have a cognitive disability.

The term “cognitive disabilities” is often used to cover a broad range of issues. At Cognitive Compass we view a cognitive disability not necessarily as an intellectual impairment but as a condition where a person has a greater difficulty with mental tasks, usually due to a processing difficulty and not from an inability to reason or think.

While most of these disabilities are related to a physiological or biological component of an individual, such as in traumatic brain injury or autism, they may also be related to the chemistry of the brain, such as in mental health issues. Some cognitive disabilities are so minor that an individual may not ever realize that he or she has one.

In general, the expression of a cognitive disability is considered ‘neurodivergent’ or outside the standard norms of a culture’s thinking styles. Most cognitive disabilities are identified by their clinical diagnosis; autism, ADHD, TBI, PTSD, however at Cognitive Compass our emphasis is on the functional aspect; attention, memory, auditory or visual processing, or similar issues which can be addressed through the right skill sets and assistive technologies.

Invisible Disabilities

The term “Invisible Disabilities” describes a feature of cognitive disabilities. The majority of disability is in fact invisible, that is, it is not apparent simply by looking at someone.


“Neurodivergent” referes to the natural variation of human cognition, which includes though processes, emotions, and behaviors. Cognitive Compass uses a neurodivesity-based management skills program; a program which encourages managers to recognize different thinking styles and respond to them in a way that optimizes successful outcomes. Neurodiversity represents a broad spectrum of functioning, which can typically be seen as ‘neurotypical’ and ‘neurodivergent’.

A Neurodivergent though process can be temporary, situationally induced, genetic, or acquired due to injury or illness. While the origin or the divergence is important, Cognitive Compass focuses on manifestations of divergence. We support and encourage habits and processes that allow for the greatest range of functioning for any individual, but also allow each individual to ascertain what the changes and methods are that are best for themselves.

We encourage both rebuilding of functionality where possible, and the use of compensatory tools when needed. We also firmly support a person’s right of self-determination, and the legitimacy of any given neurological style. The term “neurodiversity” does not have to represent disability – although the term “neurodivergent” usually does.


While the term “neurodiversity” is used in a variety of ways in the media, we at Cognitive Compass, think of neurodiversity as a way to describe the range of neurological thinking styles that occur across the spectrum of human functioning.

When we view cognition through a lens of neurodiversity it provides us with an approach to learning and disability that supports the understanding that diverse neurological conditions, including such things as traumatic brain injury, mental health issues, learning disabilities, and autism represent the breadth of variation in thinking.

These neurological differences should be respected as a social category on par with gender or ethnicity, and should be recognized for the inherent value that they bring to the workplace and community.

“Neurodiversity” does not refer to a disability or an ability, but rather, addresses the range between these two states. Within this spectrum one can identify cognitive processes for a given culture or environment as either neurotypical or neurodivergent.


Within the concept of viewing neurodiversity as a way to see cognition as a process that occurs across a spectrum of thinking styles, there is the recognition that within organizational cultures and environments there are styles of communication, expression, and organizing that are more common than others. We refer to these common styles as neurotypical behaviors.

Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory is a perspective that states that people learn within a social context. It is facilitated through concepts such as modeling and observational learning. People, especially children, learn from the environment and seek acceptance from society by learning through influential models… [Read more at Wikipedia.]


TBI stands for “Traumatic Brain Injury”. According to the Mayo Clinic traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when an external mechanical force causes brain dysfunction.

TBI usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. An object penetrating the skull, such as a bullet or shattered piece of skull, also can cause traumatic brain injury.

Mild traumatic brain injury may cause temporary dysfunction of brain cells. More serious traumatic brain injury can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and other physical damage to the brain that can result in long-term complications or death.