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Glossary of Autism Terms

AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication)

Communication methods and tools used to supplement or replace speech for individuals who have difficulty with verbal communication. This may include picture-based systems, sign language, or speech-generating devices.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

A therapeutic approach that uses behavioral techniques to teach and reinforce desired behaviors while reducing challenging behaviors in individuals with autism.

ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

A neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by challenges in social interaction, communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviors.

Asperger's Syndrome

A form of autism characterized by average to above-average intelligence and difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication.

Assistive Technology

Devices or tools designed to help individuals with autism overcome communication, sensory, or learning challenges. Examples include communication apps, visual schedules, and sensory aids.


A complex neurological condition that affects an individual’s social skills, communication, and behavior.

Autism Advocate

An individual who actively promotes awareness, acceptance, and support for individuals with autism, their families, and the broader autism community.

Autistic Traits

Behavioral characteristics commonly associated with autism, such as repetitive behaviors, sensory sensitivities, and difficulties in socializing.

Central Coherence

The ability to perceive and interpret information in context, which can be impaired in individuals with autism.

Co-occurring Conditions

Other medical or psychiatric conditions that commonly coexist with autism, such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, epilepsy, or gastrointestinal issues.


Comorbidity refers to the presence of two or more co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions in an individual. In the context of autism, comorbidity refers to the occurrence of additional conditions alongside autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many individuals with autism often have comorbid conditions, meaning they have other diagnoses or conditions in addition to autism.

Early Intervention

Services and therapies provided to children with autism during their early years (typically between birth and age 3) to promote development, communication, and social skills.


The repetition or echoing of words or phrases spoken by others, often seen in individuals with autism.


Elopement is the act of leaving a designated area without permission or supervision, often putting the individual with autism at risk. Elopement, also known as wandering or bolting, can occur due to various reasons, including sensory overload, a desire for exploration, or an attempt to escape from perceived threats or discomfort.

Executive Functioning

Cognitive processes involved in planning, organizing, problem-solving, and self-regulation, which may be challenging for individuals with autism.


Increased sensitivity or intolerance to certain sounds, often experienced by individuals with autism.


Heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as touch, sound, taste, or smell, which can be common in individuals with autism.

IEP (Individualized Education Program)

A legal document developed for students with disabilities, including autism that outlines their specific educational goals, accommodations, and services to support their learning needs.


The practice of providing equal opportunities and support for individuals with autism to participate in mainstream settings, such as schools, workplaces, and communities.

Joint Attention

The ability to share attention and focus on an object or event with others, which can be impaired in individuals with autism.


Overwhelm or loss of emotional control resulting from sensory overload, frustration, or anxiety, often observed in individuals with autism.


The recognition and acceptance of neurological differences, including autism, as a natural variation of human neurology.

PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified)

A diagnosis previously used to describe individuals who did not fully meet the criteria for autism but showed significant developmental challenges.

Person-First Language

A respectful way of referring to individuals with autism that emphasizes the person rather than the diagnosis. For example, “a person with autism” instead of “an autistic person.”

Pragmatic Language

The social use of language, including understanding and using non-literal language, turn-taking, and maintaining conversations, which can be difficult for individuals with autism.

Repetitive Behaviors

Stereotyped, repetitive movements or actions, such as hand-flapping, rocking, or lining up objects, commonly seen in individuals with autism.

Restricted Interests

Intense or obsessive interests in specific topics or activities, often exhibited by individuals with autism.

Sensory Integration

The brain’s ability to process and interpret sensory information from the environment, which can be atypical in individuals with autism.

Sensory Integration Therapy

A type of therapy that helps individuals with autism improve their ability to process and respond to sensory information through structured activities and exercises.

Sensory Overload

Overwhelm caused by an excessive amount or intensity of sensory stimuli, leading to stress or discomfort for individuals with autism.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Difficulty in regulating and interpreting sensory input, often leading to heightened or diminished responses to sensory stimuli, commonly observed in individuals with autism.

Social Communication

The ability to understand and use verbal and nonverbal cues to interact with others, which can be impaired in individuals with autism.

Social Communication Disorder (SCD)

A condition characterized by difficulties in using verbal and nonverbal communication for social purposes. It is often diagnosed alongside autism.

Social Skills Training

Therapeutic interventions aimed at improving social interaction and communication abilities in individuals with autism.

Special Interests

Intense focus or enthusiasm for specific topics, often pursued by individuals with autism.


Self-stimulatory behaviors, such as hand-flapping, spinning, or rocking, often used by individuals with autism to self-regulate or cope with sensory overload.

Theory of Mind

The ability to attribute mental states, such as beliefs, intentions, and emotions, to oneself and others, which can be challenging for individuals with autism.

Visual Supports

Visual supports are tools that help individuals with autism communicate and understand their environment better. They can be pictures, written words, objects, signs, cards, lists, maps, labels, schedules, or scripts. Visual supports can help autistic people with redirection, cause and effect, rules and expectations, weekly and daily routines, and feelings and emotions.

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