Key Vocabulary: Words You Need To Know About Autism
Applied Behavior Analysis:
Therapy originally designed by Dr. Lovaas at UCLA. Uses a method of teaching language and behaviors by reinforcement. Currently, the only “approved” treatment for autism. Supported by extensive clinical evidence.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD):
This is a disorder where a person isn’t able to focus on the task at hand and often has impulsive or challenging behaviors. Often diagnosed with autism. There are three subtypes:
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD):
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS):
This is a disorder on the autism spectrum where a person has relatively normal speech and social difficulties. A child may not be diagnosed until they are older. This diagnosis is now part of the Autism Spectrum Disorders.
This diagnosis used to be given to individuals who are severely challenged with communication and behaviors and who require significant support.
High Functioning Autism:
Like Aspergers, it has been folded into the larger diagnosis of ASD. It denotes a person with autism who has at least average intelligence.
Autism which appears between 18 and 36 months. A child appears to be developing typically, with average communication and social skills, and who “loses” these skills over a short period of time (often less than three months).
Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
Denotes a diagnosis given when a typically young child did not meet the DSM criteria for a diagnosis of autism, but who displayed many of the symptoms of autism.
Physical Therapy (PT):
Therapy designed to improve physical skills and decrease sensitivities to overstimulation.
Fine Motor Skills:
Movements that involve smaller movements like writing, drawing, and buttoning a coat.
Gross Motor Skills:
Movements that involve larger muscle groups such as walking, jumping, and running.
A person with autism who has an unusual and specific area of intelligence, often in the area of math, artistic ability, memorization, or musical skills. This is present in approximately 10 percent of people with autism.
Self Stimulating/Self Soothing “Stims” or “Stimming”:
Repetitive behaviors like hand flapping, spinning wheels, or seeking pressure as a method of showing excitement or self-calming.
Speech and Language Therapy:
Therapy designed to improve pronunciation (speech) and functional communication (language).
The verbal repetition of words or phrases without using those words for functional communication or meaning. Some younger children with ASD will be echolalic before they begin to speak in sentences. Sometimes, echolalia includes the repetition of commercials or TV shows that the child is interested in.
A sudden, intense emotional release caused by a buildup of overwhelming anxiety, emotion, or sensory experiences. Meltdowns and tantrums are fundamentally different in that a tantrum is an attempt to manipulate, while a meltdown is outside the person’s control.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP):
A document detailing the personalized educational goals and supports for students who receive special education services.
A person with a disability who speaks up about their wishes, needs, and rights. Some self-advocates take on a public role in order to educate others about their condition and/or promoting disability rights.
The belief that, with the right supports in place, every individual has the capacity to understand and the potential to succeed. Often used in the context of supporting those with limited or no speech: Those who have found success with alternative methods of communication often describe a disconnect between their minds and bodies. “Presume competence” summarizes their conviction that lack of speech should not be viewed as a sign of low intelligence—it is safer to assume they have not found a method of communication that meets their needs.