Understanding the nuances of the ever-shifting vocabulary around Asperger/autism differences can be a challenge of its own. Below is a compilation of terms you will find on this website and possibly in other materials related to these topics.
Definition of Terms
While [Lorna Wing] was trying to think of a better term, she heard a phrase of Winston Churchill’s echo in her mind: “Nature never draws a line without smudging it.” This seems particularly true of autism. One of the most subversive aspects of Lorna’s concept was her suggestion that the continuum shades imperceptibly into garden-variety eccentricity. (“All the features that characterize Asperger’s syndrome,” she observed, “can be found in varying degrees in the normal population.”) . . . Ultimately, she adopted the term autism spectrum. She liked the sound of it, which evoked pleasing images of rainbows and other phenomena that attest to the infinitely various creativity of nature. Clinicians readily adopted the phrase, because it helped explain what they’d been seeing in the real world for decades (p. 353).Neurodiversity: “is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variations in the human genome. This represents a new and fundamentally different way of looking at conditions which were traditionally pathologized” (Robinson, 2013). In Neurotribes, Silberman describes the emergence of the term neurodiversity:
. . . an idea as old as Asperger’s notion that people with the traits of his syndrome have always been part of the human community, standing apart, quietly making the world that mocks and shuns them a better place. In the late 1990’s a student of anthropology and sociology in Australia named Judy Singer, who possessing many of those traits herself, gave that idea a name: neurodiversity (p.450).Neurotypical (NT): Neurotypical is a term coined by individuals with an Asperger profile to describe the majority of people who experience the world in a more prevalent way, and implies the absence of an Asperger profile or other neurological differences. This ironic label first came onto the scene in an Autism Network International newsletter. “With its distinctly clinical air, the term (sometimes shortened to NT) turned the diagnostic gaze back on the psychiatric establishment” (Silberman, Neurotribes, p. 441). This term, along with Neurodiversity, is commonly seen in online forums and within Asperger communities to differentiate fundamental modes of being in the world, without inherent judgement. Nonverbal Learning Disorder or Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD or NVLD): An educational term, not included as a formal psychiatric diagnosis in the DSM-5. AS/ASD is a nonverbal learning difference, but some people with NLD share only some traits with people with AS/ASD. Nevertheless, many traits do overlap, meaning that similar interventions may be useful for both populations. Social Communication Disorder (SCD): A new diagnosis included in the DSM-5. SCD describes individuals who have significant problems using verbal and nonverbal communication for social purposes, impacting their ability to communicate effectively, participate socially, maintain social relationships, or otherwise perform academically or occupationally. In the DSM 5, SCD and ASD are mutually exclusive diagnoses; however, another point of view is that SCD is just one aspect of AS/ASD, so that for most people an ASD diagnosis is likely to be the more comprehensive, useful, and accurate one. Females may be at a higher risk of getting the relatively weak SCD label. Emotional Regulation: Emotion regulation is the process through which an individual manages how they feel and communicate in response to particular external circumstances. In other words, it is the ability to recognize what emotions feel like and look like in one's self and others. Anxiety: An emotion characterized by an unpleasant feeling of dread over anticipated events. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, uneasiness, and worry, usually generalized and unfocused in response to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. It is often accompanied by tension, restlessness, fatigue, and problems in concentration. Anxiety can be appropriate, but when experienced regularly, interfering with daily functioning, the individual may suffer from an anxiety disorder. 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).
- 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.
- Recognizing and understanding other people’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions.
- Processing social information quickly and efficiently.
- Being tactful; being able to tell “white lies.”
- 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.
- Abstract a main idea from text or conversation.
- Recognize and categorizing information.
- Understanding complex or abstract concepts.
- Generalizing skills from one setting to another.
- 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.
- “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.
- 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.