Glossary and Acronyms

autism glossary

We have provided here a few of the more commonly used acronyms and terminology you may come across while reading up on Adult Autism

AS: Autism spectrum.

ASD: Autism spectrum disorder.

Asperger’s disorder/syndrome: A form of ASD, characterized by normal IQ but impairments in social interaction and communication.

ADD/ Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Disorder in children associated with three main kinds of problems: overactive Behaviour (hyperactivity), impulsive Behaviour, and difficulty in paying attention

Atypical antipsychotic: A newer type of medicine, used to treat psychosis, which has a better side effect profile than older antipsychotic medications; sometimes used to treat some of the symptoms of autism.

ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder : A neurological disorder characterized by social/ communication deficits, fixated interests and repetitive behaviours.

Clinical trial: A research study conducted with patients which tests out a drug or other intervention to assess its effectiveness and safety.

Cognitive: Pertaining to cognition, the process of being aware, knowing, thinking, learning and

Cognitive Behaviour therapy: A type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence Behaviours. CBT is commonly used to treat depression and anxiety.

Control: In clinical trials comparing two or more interventions, a control is a person in the comparison group that receives a placebo, no intervention, usual care or another form of care.

Echolalia: Repeating words or phrases, often over and over, without necessarily understanding their meaning.

Epilepsy: A brain disorder involving recurrent seizures; sudden changes in Behaviour due to excessive electrical activity in the brain.

Executive function: The cognitive process that regulates an individual’s ability to organize thoughts and activities, prioritize tasks, manage time efficiently and make decisions.

Fine motor skills: Activities which require the co-ordination of smaller body muscles, for example, writing.

Gluten-free, casein-free diet: A diet believed by some to help improve the symptoms of autism. It involves elimination from the diet of gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains) and casein (a protein found in dairy products).

Gross motor skills: Body movements which utilize larger muscle groups such as sitting, kicking and jumping.

Hidden curriculum: Important social skills that everyone knows, but no one is taught.

HFA / High functioning autism: Autism in individuals with normal/ near-normal IQ.

IQ: Intelligence quotient.

Joint attention: Ability to follow someone else’s gaze and share the experience of looking at an object or activity.

Key word sign: A manual signing system sometimes used to augment verbal communication for individuals with ASD; formerly known as Makaton.

LFA: See Low-functioning autism.

Low-functioning autism: Autism associated with an intellectual disability.

Mainstreaming: The concept that students with special needs should, when appropriate, be integrated with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible.

Motor planning: The brain’s ability to conceive, organize and execute a sequence of complex physical actions.

Neurological: Having to do with the nerves or the nervous system.

Neurology: The medical science that deals with the nervous system and disorders affecting it.

Neurotransmitter: A chemical messenger released from one nerve cell which makes its way to another nerve cell where it influences a particular chemical reaction to occur.

NT / Neurotypical: commonly abbreviated as NT  and meaning having a neurocognitive functioning that is considered typical. The term NT is often used to describe people who are not autistic, though formally, the more accurate term is “allist.”

Observational Study: A study in which the investigators do not seek to intervene, and simply observe the course of events

OCD / Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Disorder where a person has recurrent unwanted ideas (obsessions) and an urge (compulsion) to do something to relieve the obsession.

Occupational therapy: Therapy which focuses on improving development of fine and gross motor skills, sensory integration and daily living skills.

On the spectrum:  On the Autism Spectrum (AS or ASD)

Open trial: A clinical trial in which the investigator and participant are aware which intervention is being used for which participant (that is, not blinded).

Opioid: A substance with pharmacological action like that of opium or its derivatives (for example, morphine).

OT: Occupational therapy.

Outcome measure: The measure of an effect or impact of an intervention on the participants.

Placebo effect: Psychological benefit to the participant through a belief that they are receiving treatment.

Placebo: An inactive intervention, received by the participants in the control group in a clinical trial, which is indistinguishable from the active Intervention received by patients in the experimental group.

Pragmatics: Use of language in the social contexts.

Presuming competence: The assumption that every individual is capable of learning and growing and wants to be included, accepted, and given opportunities to contribute.

Prevalence: A measure of the number of cases of a disorder in a defined population at a particular point in time. It differs from incidence, the rate at which new cases occur in a population during a specific time period.

Risk factor: An aspect of a person’s condition, lifestyle or environment that increases the probability of occurrence of a disease or condition:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: A class of antidepressant medicines sometimes prescribed to help manage anxiety and repetitive Behaviours associated with ASD.

Spectrum: Typically, when referred to as in “On the Spectrum”, means on the Autism Spectrum (AS)

STIMMING / Self-stimulatory Behaviour: Commonly referred to as a ‘stim’. Any kind of repetitive or stereotypic Behaviour (for example, staring at lights, flapping hands, rocking etc), which is believed to provide some form or sensory stimulation.

Sensory integration therapy: Therapy which aims to improve the way the brain processes and organizes the senses.

Stereotypy: Persistent repetition of body movements, ideas, or words.

Theory of mind: Ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others and to understand what another person thinks, feels, desires, intends or believes.

Tic: A repetitive movement that is difficult, if not impossible, to control.

Twice exceptional: People who are cognitively gifted while also having a learning disability and/or special needs.

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