Definitions

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Here is a list of some common definitions you may find used throughout the blog! This list is non-exhaustive and will be updated periodically as I become aware of new terms.

Neurodivergent: a person with neurological differences such as autism, ADHD, or learning disabilities; someone whose brain develops atypically

Neurotypical: a person without neurological differences such as autism, ADHD, or learning disabilities; someone whose brain develops typically

Allistic: a non-autistic person; this word differs from ‘neurotypical’ in that it specifically refers to a non-autistic person and includes non-autistic individuals that present with other forms of neurodivergence, such as a learning disability or ADHD

Neurodiversity: a social movement based on the idea that autism and other neurological differences are something to be embraced and accepted rather than cured; rejects narrative that autism and other neurological disabilities are inherently tragic or something to be feared
**Controversial in that it is often accused of downplaying or ignoring the struggles of nonverbal autistic individuals and their families

Functioning labels: labels intended to describe an autistic or disabled person’s ability to ‘function’ in society (i.e., “high-functioning” or “low-functioning”)
**Controversial as many autistic people and their loved ones find them to be misleading, in that they do not clearly define individual challenges (verbal communication, physical limitations, etc.) or level/type of support or accommodation required; often believed to either invalidate the struggles of so-called “high-functioning” people or downplay the contributions of so-called “low-functioning” individuals

Person-first language: language that identifies the ‘person’ before the disability (e.g., a person with autism); widely used in clinical or professional practice and considered “politically correct”
**Controversial as it is often accused of “pathologizing” disability or implying that disability is something negative that one should be ashamed of

Identity-first language: language that places the ‘identity’ before the person (e.g., an autistic person); the preferred language of the neurodiversity movement, as individuals within this movement see autism as a part of their identity
**Controversial as some may consider it dehumanizing or self-limiting

Stimming: short for self-stimulation; repetitive movements or vocalizations made by autistic people or other neurodivergent individuals to help regulate sensory input and/or express intense emotions such as happiness; common forms include rocking, hand flapping, pacing, and bouncing; also called “stereotypy” in clinical practice

Executive functioning: refers to the cognitive ability to plan, organize, and executive tasks in a timely manner; this is typically impaired in autistic individuals

Sensory processing disorder: a common neurological condition that often co-occurs with autism; an affected individual may experience sensory stimuli as being more or less intense than neurotypical individuals

Sensory overload: occurs when sensory stimuli becomes too overwhelming for an autistic person to handle; may result in meltdown or shutdown; often occurs in crowded, noisy, and/or bright environments

Meltdown: an expression of intense emotion as a result of being overwhelmed by sensory stimuli; individual may cry, lash out, or self-injure

Shutdown: a state in which an autistic person stops responding to environmental cues as a result of being overwhelmed by sensory stimuli; an individual may be unable to speak and may remain fixed in one position

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