Autism is such a broad spectrum that a whole vocabulary of both official and slang terms has arisen. As I am aware that you may not be familiar with the terms used in this blog or may have different ways of referring to certain things I have written this brief and simplified list to explain the definition of abbreviations and the meaning or understanding of certain colloquial terms I use.
I am aware that certain sensitivities arise around the use of certain terms (for instance some people refer to themselves as an autistic person, others prefer person with autism). I will try to be respectful of this in my writing, but for ease I will tend to use the terms that I find most acceptable in my day to day speech.
ASC – Autism Spectrum Condition
A blanket term used to refer to the whole range of corresponding conditions that make up autism. Autism is broadly speaking a grouping of three overlapping neurological conditions categorised as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD).
ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder
As ASC. This is no longer the accepted term in England as the word disorder has negative connotations and is seen to be misleading. This however was the terminology used here until very recently and still in use worldwide.
ASC is the politically correct terminology if (like me) you live England, but ASD will be the term you hear must often virtually everywhere else.
A slang term for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome.
DSM - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
A handbook used widely by medical professionals in diagnosing and categorizing mental and developmental disorders. This is an American publication so for areas using different manuals (eg the World Health Organisation's ICD-10) will use different terminologies (see ASD/ASC above)
HFA (High Functioning Autism) and Asperger’s Syndrome
HFA is traditionally used to refer to someone deemed to be cognitively higher functioning (defined as having an IQ over 70). The overlap of diagnosis between HFA and Asperger’s Syndrome has been vague at best, and the most recent release of the DSM as grouped the two together. Depending on context I use both HFA and Asperger’s when referring to my diagnosis.
Meltdown & Shutdown
The extreme reaction to over stimulation where the brain ‘resets’ leading to loss of cognitive function for a period of time. If the response is externally projected, adrenaline fuelled, loud and active it is usually referred to as a meltdown. If the response is internally projected, withdrawal and unresponsiveness it is usually referred to as shutdown.
NT – Neurotypical
A term used commonly to refer to those without an ASD.
On the Spectrum
Refers to an individual diagnosed with an ASC
SO – Sensory Overload
Sensory issues are a common feature of ASCs. An overload or oversensitivity to certain senses can trigger a Sensory Overload. The brain stops filtering the incoming signals and extreme oversensitivity to that sense can occur.
A term used to describe the repetitive self-stimulating traits seen in many autistic individuals often performed subconsciously as a means of calming and reducing cognitive overload. Examples are rocking, tapping of hands or repetition of words