Sensory Regulation: The ability of an individual to integrate external stimuli into his or her personal experience. Examples include:
- Aversion to or craving for certain types/intensities of sensory input.
- Integrating multiple sensations and responding appropriately.
- Knowing where one’s body is in space; avoiding bumping into people or objects.
- Motor planning (using the body to accomplish a task).
A fair percentage of people with Asperger profiles are either hyper- or hypo-sensitive to touch, sound, taste, and/or sight (e.g bright light). There is significant variation among individuals for these traits. Some are affected only a little, while for others, seemingly-normal sensory stimuli can create significant barriers to living in the world. Sensory sensitivities tend to be the most severe in young children and often lessen over time; some individuals are much improved by adulthood. For example, a boy who cuts tags out of his clothing or refuses to eat certain foods may have an easier time with these sensitivities as he grows older.
Inflexibility: Resistance to change or variation. Rigid and unyielding in temper, purpose, demeanor, behavior, and/or will. Inflexibility can lead to challenges with:
- Coping with changes in familiar routines.
- Seeing more than one way to accomplish a task/solve a problem.
- Realizing there are exceptions to rules; tolerating other people bending rules.
- Accepting feedback, advice, suggestions, or help from others.
Theory of Mind (ToM): A term that refers to:
- Recognizing and understanding other people’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions.
- Processing social information quickly and efficiently.
- Being tactful; being able to tell “white lies.”
Executive Function: A term that refers to:
- Organizational and planning abilities.
- Working memory.
- Inhibition and impulse control.
- Self-reflection and self-monitoring.
- Time management and prioritizing.
- Understanding complex or abstract concepts.
- Using new strategies.
Central Coherence: A perceptive-cognitive style that lends towards and ability to contextualize, or to see the big picture. Individuals with strong central coherence can easily:
- Abstract a main idea from text or conversation.
- Recognize and categorizing information.
- Understanding complex or abstract concepts.
- Generalizing skills from one setting to another.
Individuals with weak central coherence:
- Can be more preoccupied with details, focusing on the nuances of the parts, rather than the gist of the whole. One might say that those with weak central coherence struggle to see the forest for the trees.
- On the flipside, they might have a unique ability to understand the details, to see the trees with refined perception.
Generalization: The ability to transfer general skills from one context to another.
Hidden Curriculum: Understanding the unwritten or implied social rules and knowing what to do or say in various social situations. “Hidden curriculum” is based on the work of autism researcher Brenda Smith Myles. It is the social information that is not directly taught but is assumed that everybody knows (Myles, Trautman, & Schelvan, 2004). The hidden curriculum refers to those unstated rules or customs that, if not understood, can make the world a confusing place and cause those of us who are not neurologically wired to automatically “get it” feel isolated and “out of it” (Endow, 2009a, 2010).
Social Pragmatics: Ability to:
- “Read the room.”
- Notice and correctly interpret other people’s non-verbal communication (gestures, body position, facial expression, tone of voice).
- Modulate one’s own nonverbal communication.
- Initiate, join, and maintain conversation. Listen.
- Use humor and sarcasm appropriately; understand other people’s use of sarcasm and humor.
- Perceiving and expressing one’s own feelings.
- Understanding/accepting one’s own strengths and weaknesses.
- Developing strategies to offset weaknesses and build on strengths.
- Knowing when one needs help; asking for help appropriately.
- Recognizing and protecting oneself from bullies.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): Published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), offers a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. It is used, or relied upon, by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, the legal system, and policy makers together with alternatives such as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), produced by the World Health Organization (WHO). The DSM is now in its fifth edition, DSM-5, published on May 18, 2013. While the DSM has been praised for standardizing psychiatric diagnostic categories and criteria, it has also generated controversy and criticism.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS): PDD-NOS is an old diagnostic category. It is no longer included as an option for an Autism Spectrum Disorder and is not part of the DSM-5, but is included in the ICD-10. The diagnosis of a pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified is given to individuals with difficulties in the areas of social interaction, communication, and/or stereotyped behavior patterns or interests, but who do not meet the full DSM-IV criteria for autism or another PDD. This does not necessarily mean that PDD-NOS is a milder disability than the other PDDs. It only means that individuals who receive this diagnosis do not meet the diagnostic criteria of the other PDDs, but that there is still a pervasive developmental disorder that affects the individual in the areas of communication, socialization and behavior. It is common for individuals with PDD-NOS to have more intact social skills and a lower level of intellectual deficit than individuals with other PDDs. Characteristics of many individuals with PDD-NOS are:
- Communication difficulties (e.g., using and understanding language).
- Difficulty with social behavior.
- Difficulty with changes in routines or environments.
- Uneven skill development (strengths in some areas and delays in others).
- Unusual play with toys and other objects.
- Repetitive body movements or behavior patterns.
Stigma: A set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.