After a request for an 'Idiot's Guide to Autism' for beginners, I thought I would begin with some key terms and buzzwords that are by some used within the autistic community, professionals and within research circles. Listed below are a few basic definitions I have compiled myself. I hope these short definitions can help begin to build bridges in communication between different groups with varying levels of knowledge and experience. These words are only a mere selection and is not an exhaustive list.
I know this readership will have varying experience of working with and supporting individuals with autism and the autistic community. This is very much a 'beginner's' post, I will be building on this in the future. I have tried to keep the language as accessible as possible and I hope that you can gain insight from this short 'dictionary' style post. I will be posting a longer post early October.
Autism - a lifelong developmental disability1, as described by NAS involving potential difficulties and differences in communication, perception and experiencing life. It is a ‘spectrum condition’, meaning no one person is the same as the next and has the potential to experience different challenges in layman’s terms. It also can be referred to as ASD and ASC (see post 3).
Asperger’s Syndrome - part of the autistic spectrum; it is a form of autism which is described as ‘high functioning’. Many people with Asperger's will live full and enriching lives, equally many will encounter many challenges. Just like with autism, there is no one 'standard' person with a diagnosis of Asperger's. I recommend you access the NAS site here if you wish for more detail.
ASC and ASD - acronyms for ‘autism spectrum condition’ and ‘autism spectrum disorder’. Some prefer the use of ASC as it implies a state rather than being disordered or ‘wrong’ (which can have a huge impact on some individuals’ self worth)
Meltdown - a loss of behavioural control. Can be expressed through: anger or violence exhibited in a verbal or physical manner, crying, shaking and ‘refusal’ to comply. These are different to tantrums, which are goal based, meltdowns can rather communicate overload, frustration and pain.
Shutdown - a retraction reaction from the environment, information and stimuli. Can be expressed through: not responding to verbal requests or commands, unable to make decisions effectively (if at all) and trying to hide away or escape. These again can communicate overload and pain.
Social anxiety - anxiety regarding social situations. This can involve starting and maintaining conversation and entering a room full of strangers for example but not limited to these two situations.
Trigger - something that causes strong, overwhelming and often distressing feelings like anxiety. A trigger can be something someone says, memory, place, event, smell, noise, etc. Each individual has different triggers. Even individuals without a diagnosis of autism may have triggers
PDD-NOS - pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified; a condition where an individual has some autistic traits but not all.
NT - ‘neurotypical’. Used by some within the autistic community and within research circles to describe individuals who do not consider themselves to be autistic and have no diagnosis. Describing having a ‘typical nervous system’.
Aspie - a noun used by some people with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome to describe themselves. The term ‘autie’ may be used equally by someone with autism in the same instance.
CAMHS - child and adolescent mental health services; the NHS service in the UK to which a child can be referred for a diagnosis of autism
Trait - a behaviour or characteristic that is associated with a diagnosis of autism. Two examples include honesty and loyalty.
1 http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx Accessed 22nd September 2016 at 20:41