Glossary of terms

While some terms may seems obvious, there will be others you may never have come across, and still others people will just assume you know. The following might help:

AQ test – A screening questionnaire for ASC, developed in 2001.

ASC – Autism Spectrum Condition, an alternative to ASD removing the use of the word “disorder” – see ASD.

ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder, defined in two key manuals, DSM-5 and ICD-11, as a life-long condition reflecting a difference in brain wiring. These differences can lead to challenges with social interaction and communication, restricted/repetitive behaviours, and sensory sensitivities. It manifests differently in each person and experience can vary moment-to-moment within each person according to environment and energy levels.

Asperger’s Syndrome – This label has been subsumed by ASC – Level 1 and no longer exists as a separate diagnosis. Despite this, many people diagnosed pre-DSM-5, continue to use this descriptor and some clinicians still use it as a diagnosis.

Aspie – A colloquial term for a person diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It seems to be an acceptable term for use by and between those with the diagnosis. Note, some like it, some don’t, so check first.

Autistic Burnout – The result of extreme overload. It can last for days, weeks even years. The desire for over-stimulation to stop can be misinterpreted as a desire to not exist and may play a part in the higher rate of suicide within the Autistic population.

Autie – A colloquial term for a person diagnosed with Autism.

Broad Autism Phenotype – This describes the idea that individuals in the general population can exhibit Autistic characteristics at a sub-clinical level i.e. that the level of difficulty experienced does not register as clinically significant and some might say would not warrant a full diagnosis. More commonly found, but not exclusive to, families where Autism is already identified.

BWRT – Brain Working Recursive Therapy, developed by Terence Watts. This non-invasive, fast working therapy reroutes our natural sub-conscious response to a particular stimulus to produce a different, preferred response. Often used with PTSD and sensory processing challenges but found to work for sensory sensitivities too.

Double Empathy – A theory proposed by Dr Damian Milton, which suggests that regardless of neurology, everyone struggles to understand the perspective of someone different to themselves. In other words, Neurotypical people struggle to empathise with Autistic people as well as vice versa.

DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Published by the American Psychiatric Association. Current version DSM-5 (2013).

ICD – International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Published by the World Health Organisation. ICD-11 (2022)

Interoception – This is our 8th sense – our ability to sense our bodily signals, helping us know when we are hungry, cold, whether we need the toilet, whether we are tired, afraid etc. Some Autistic people struggle to recognise these signals.

Neurodiversity – The term used to describe individuals who differ neurologically from the biomedical benchmark (Neurotypicals), encompassing conditions such as Autism, dyslexia, ADHD etc. Crucially, this difference is viewed as natural rather than pathological.

Neurotypical (NT) – The term used to describe those individuals who show typical brain development and function. This word is often used to replace the loaded word “normal”.

OCD – Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder. A clinical condition which can co-occur with Autism, characterised by obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviours which impact daily life.

Ritvo – A screening questionnaire for ASC, developed in 2011.

RRBs – Repetitive, Restrictive Behaviours. Some of the more visible behaviours of Autistic people. The definition spans stimming behaviours – repetitive movements and/or words, special interests, routines, and rituals.

Stimming – A shortening of ‘self-stimulatory behaviour’. It is a human behaviour, not one purely the preserve of the Autistic community. Stims are usually repetitive movements or sounds. They have a variety of functions: self-soothing, self-regulation, pleasure, and a form of communication etc.

Undercover Autistic – A person who can essentially pass as Neurotypical most of the time. This may or may not be an intentional choice. The person can be any gender. A formal diagnosis of Autism is not required to identify as an Undercover Autistic.