A Guide To Actually Autistic Terminology

Throughout the autistic community you may hear numerous complex terms that are quite autism specific, these can be quite confusing so I have written this to act as almost a dictionary type page.


The way someone’s brain is wired, often analogous to a person’s diagnosis or lack thereof. For example, “autistic” is a neurotype, and so is “neurotypical.” 


Describes a group of people who have different neurotypes. For example, you could use the word “neurodiverse” to refer to a group of people that includes autistic people, neurotypical people, ADHD people, etc. 


A person whose neurology or brain wiring is substantially different from the norm. This word is usually used in reference to people with developmental and learning disabilities.


A term that originated in the autistic community, which refers to a person with typical neurology; someone who does not have a developmental or learning disability.

Special Interests

Refers to an autistic person’s passionate interest in a certain topic or activity, something they are very invested in and knowledgeable about. These are much more intense than neurotypical people’s interests. 


When an autistic person gives intricately detailed summaries of their topic of interest in single heaps. This can occur in conversation both online and offline. Also known as ‘speaking in paragraphs’


A topic or activity that a neurodivergent person is currently extremely focused on, often causing us to forget to do certain basic necessities like bathe and eat. Autistic people’s hyperfixations are often our special interests. 

Hyper focus

The state of being extremely focused on a hyperfixation. This is the time blind mental state that neurodivergent people enter when we become fixated on a thought, topic, interest, or activity.


When an autistic person is under-sensitive to stimuli and has trouble processing information through their senses. Can lead to repeated movements like rocking to try to stimulate their senses.


When an autistic person is over-sensitive to stimuli. They may find it almost impossible to regulate their emotional and behavioral responses to high levels of sensory stimulation leading to sensory overloads.

Safe Food

A food that an autistic person eats a lot and enjoys. It removes  some anxiety from eating as well as removing preparation work. It may also help with switching tasks as the person knows what is coming next and can look forward to it.


Short for self-stimulatory behavior; repetitive motions or actions that autistic people frequently do to regulate sensory and emotional input. Examples include hand flapping, rocking, chewing, etc.


An emotional “explosion” caused by sensory and/or emotional overstimulation. Meltdowns can involve crying, screaming, arguing, yelling, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior. Sometimes, autistic people can have more subtle versions of meltdowns that look more like panic attacks. 


A long-term state of executive dysfunction and sensory/emotional dysregulation. Burnout can be caused when an autistic person is in an environment that doesn’t meet their needs. Symptoms include lethargy, frequent nonverbal episodes, deteriorating personal hygiene, and an inability to do basic tasks.


An emotional “implosion” in an autistic person, caused by sensory and/or emotional overstimulation. Shutdowns can involve crying, being unable to speak (“going nonverbal”), becoming stiff and immobile, and trying to hide. 


Learned behavior that an autistic person employs to disguise the fact that they’re autistic (when they act neurotypical). Long term masking can be harmful to an autistic person’s mental health.

Non Speaking

Refers to anyone who is either unable to, or very infrequently able to, use their mouth and voice box to produce speech that communicates their thoughts. 1/3 of all autistic people are non speaking.


Augmentative and Alternative Communication: refers to any method of communication that is not sign or spoken language. It may refer to the use of a tablet, keyboard or picture exchange system.

Identity First

Describes autistic people’s preference for being referred to as “autistic” rather than “people with autism.” This is because autism can’t be separated from who we are, and it’s not a bad thing.


Describes the inability to experience, identify and express emotions. People with alexithymia may experience confusion around bodily sensations connected to emotions.

Functioning Labels

Labels such as high/low functioning are seen to be harmful to the community as they are often used to silence autistic people and don’t take into account the fluctuation and different needs of an autistic person.

Executive Function

A set of cognitive skills that help us to regulate and control our thoughts and actions. It includes planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, cognitive flexibility, initiation and monitoring of tasks.


When an autistic person repeats others’ words or sentences. They might repeat the words of familiar people (parents, teachers), or they might repeat sentences from their favourite video.


A condition that affects one’s physical coordination. It can cause someone to appear to move clumsily and can also impact drawing, writing and performance in sports. 70% of autistic people are also dyspraxic.

Autism Speaks

An organization that funds research into genetic causes and “treatments” for autism. They claim to represent autistic people, but there is only one autistic person on their board of directors, and they have repeatedly refused to listen to the needs of autistic people who reach out to them. They use fearmongering tactics to earn money, but almost none of that money goes towards directly helping autistic people.

ABA Therapy

Applied Behavioral Analysis is a branch of behavioral therapy that aims to change autistic people’s behavior through a system of regimented rewards and punishments. It was founded by the same man who pioneered gay conversion therapy, Ivar Lovaas. ABA is fundamentally coercive and abusive, even in its most watered-down forms. Many autistic people who have gone through ABA now have PTSD. 

Note That:

This is in no means a definite list, these are just some of the most commonly heard terms. If you would like any added then comment them down below. I hope this helped.

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