10 autism buzzwords you need to know

Autism buzzword wordcloud

By Kaelynn Partlow

Whether you’re fairly new to the autism community or you have been involved for some time, you’ve likely heard several popular “buzzwords” relating to autism. A buzzword is a word or phrase, that becomes popular for some time.

The autism community is very vast, and ever-evolving as new research is conducted, medications and treatments are produced and autistic individuals speak out about their experiences and best practices. As the community changes, the vocabulary does too.

Here are ten common terms and phrases associated with the autism community, and their meanings:

1. Different Not Less

This one is pretty self-explanatory; simply meaning that those of us on the autism spectrum operate differently, but that doesn’t mean we’re less than anyone else for that difference.

2. Stimming

Stimming is short for self-stimulatory behavior and is sometimes also called “stereotypic” behavior. In a person with autism, stimming usually refers to specific, repetitive behaviors that can include hand-flapping, rocking, spinning or repetition of words and phrases. Stimming is almost always a symptom of autism, and it’s usually the most obvious.

3. Comorbidity

Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two or more chronic conditions in an individual. For example, many things are comorbid with autism, including epilepsy and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and ADHD.

4. Sensory Processing

Autism frequently comes with a wide range of sensory issues that can involve both hyper-sensitivities (over-responsiveness) and hypo-sensitivities (under-responsiveness). This can include sights, sounds, smells, taste, touch, balance, and general body awareness.

Autism buzzword wordcloud

5. Elopement

Elopement refers to an individual with cognitive challenges or special needs who wanders, runs away from or otherwise leaves a caregiving facility or safe environment.

6. Perseveration

This is a repetitive or persistent action or thought, after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased. To perseverate is to become stuck on something and to be unable to mentally “shift gears”.

7. Meltdown

This refers to an extreme response to a specific situation. It can happen when an individual becomes overwhelmed in their current situation and appears to temporarily lose behavioral control. This loss of control can look like crying, shouting, laying on the floor, and sometimes engaging in dangerous behaviors such as self-injury or aggression.

8. Scripting

Scripting is the repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of the speech of others, often taken from movies, videos, and sometimes from other sources, such as books or something another person has said.

9. Neurotypical/Neurodivergent

These are terms used to differentiate between people whose neurological development is consistent with what most would perceive as “normal” in their ability to process linguistic information and social cues; and people whose neurological development is delayed or otherwise different. While originally coined among the autistic community as labels for both non-autistic persons, as well as persons with ASD, the concept was later adopted by both the neurodiversity movement and the scientific community.

10. Mainstreaming

This generally refers to the placement of a disabled person alongside non-disabled peers in a typical envirernment, with or without the use of special/additional supports.

Kaelynn P:artlow

My name is Kaelynn Partlow. I live in Greenville, SC and I am 22 years old. I work full time at a fabulous nonprofit organization teaching kids on the autism spectrum. I love my job and my family! I am also passionate about dog training, and work with service dogs in my free time.

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