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

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 or non-speaking autistic individuals and their families

Medical model of disability:

Social model of disability:

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 downplay the struggles of “high-functioning” people or diminish the contributions of “low-functioning” individuals

Support needs/levels of support: an alternative to functioning labels that focuses on the level of accommodation that an individual requires; someone may have “high” or “low” support needs
**Controversial as some consider them analogous to functioning labels

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- or disability-first language: language that places the ‘identity’ (in some circles) or the ‘disability’ 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

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

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

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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