Autistics and Acronyms & Abbreviations

V E R S I ON 1.2

From a wonderful 2020 list written by Anne Belle in Autism Inclusivity group on Facebook to help untangle things for the new or confused.

“It just dawned on me that a lot of the folks here may not know all the acronyms and special terminology we use here. Here I'll try to define a few but please add any I missed in the comments. (Edited to alphabetize and add)”

Miscellaneous Terms used in Group

DD: Dirty Delete, where a post or comment is deleted because the poster/commenter did not like replies, destroying member’s labour in the process (a banning offence)

Tone Policing: Tone policing attacks a person’s tone/emotion rather than address their input, seeking to destroy the validity of what they feel and how they express it - a putdown. ‘Speaking over’ an autistic is similar in that it devalues autistic voices

Bump: A common comment that freshens-up where a post is featured, making a post rise to the top of the pile... literally ‘Bring Up My Post’ (a ‘backronym’)

Ethnicity Terms in Group

BAME (UK): Black, Asian or minority ethnic - best to now name the minority/ies in full

BiPOC (USA): Black and indigenous people - if you mean Black, say it, if you mean indigenous, first peoples, say that

FIVM (CAN): Francophone, Indigenous or Visible Minority

GRT (EU mainly): Gypsy (for Romany people), Roma (more recent nomadic migrant peoples), or Traveller (travelling or nomadic Irish with Irish-roots)

MELAA (NZ): Middle Eastern, Latin American or African

POC: Person of Colour/Color

Identifying Labels or Categories of People

AA: Actually Autistic.  ONLY AUTISTICS MAY USE THIS.  Diagnosed and Self-Discovery Autistics. Please refer to your child as ‘Autistic’, not as AA.  It is a defining statement AA may make, and others may just read. It is only used to identify ones neuro-status in mixed neurology company, not as an abbreviation for ‘Autistic’ elsewhere. #ActuallyAutistic is the hashtag, capitalised so to make sense with screen-readers.

ACAB: looks similar but totally unrelated and means "All Cops Are Bast***s". Please don't get this mixed up with amab/afab

AFAB: assigned (gender) female at birth

AMAB: assigned (gender) male at birth

Allistic: Not-autistic person. May or may not be ND. (For example has ADHD only). The opposite of ‘autistic’ from the Greek 'allo', meaning other or 'over there'.

Aspie: (functioning label, like others - strongly discouraged) someone with "Asperger's syndrome" which is an outdated label for autism named after a uniformed Nazi doctor

A$: Autism Speak$

Autism Speak$: a scam anti-autistic abuse group that takes 97% of monies intended for autistics and gives it to non-autistics.

Âû: Autistic Union (Autistic/Pro-Autistic), a large Facebook grouping of mainly autistics & allies

AuDHD: Acronym used by some to indicate both autistic and ADHD.

Autie: Autistic person

Autism Mom/Autism Parent/sibling/grandparent etc: a relative of an autistic individual who co-opts (wrongfully appropriates) an autistics diagnosis to be part of their own identity, often completely disregarding the autistic individual in the process. Use ‘Mom to an autistic’, etc., please

Carer/Caregiver/Guardian: someone who helps an autistic/disabled person with daily tasks and ensures their safety and wellbeing

dx: diagnosis or diagnosed

Intersex: someone with biology that is neither strictly male nor female. amab/afab may not apply if being intersex was obvious at birth or if an arbitrary label was given. There are 37 variants of X/Y Chromosome genderings: For example... the X & Y Variations include 47, XXY OR Klinefelter Syndrome, 47, XYY (Jacob's Syndrome) , 47, XXX (Triple X). There are several variant disorders which include Tetrasomy X, Pentasomy X, 49, XXXX, 48, XXXY, 48, XXYY, and 49, XXXXY. There are approximately 72 self-chosen and psychosocial terms used to <identify> gender more variously.

Martyr Mom/Martyr Parent: Someone who uses their child's autism to complain and gather pity, often whilst making themselves appear saint-like

NB/enby/NonBi/NBi: Non-binary, someone who does not define themselves by a strictly male or female gender identity. Often (but not always) someone who uses gender neutral pronouns like ‘they/them’.  (Please: It’s best to reserve NB for ‘Non Black’ and to avoid ‘Enby’ as it is infantilising - Please USE “NBi” or ‘Non-Binary’.)

ND: neurodivergent

Neurodivergent: Having some some significant, original or acquired cognitive difference that impacts how someone communicates, thinks, behaves, is, etc. Examples: Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Hyper-empathy, Borderline Personality, Dystonia, Tourette syndrome, Bipolarity, etc. For a more definitive explanation from the horse's mouth, so to speak:

Neurodiverse:  All humans are neurologically diverse, whether they realise that or not, knowledge of which is a gift slowly being endowed on humanity by neurodivergents to a large degree.

NT: neurotypical, not autistic or neurodivergent

OT: occupational therapy/therapist

self-dx: ‘self-diagnosed’, ‘self-discovered’, or ‘self-identified’

Terms in the Autistic World

ABA: Applied Behavioural Analysis, the mainly North American go-to ‘therapy’ for autistic children that is actually very harmful and can lead to PTSD, anxiety disorders, dehumanisation.  PBS, EIBI, ESDM, Electro-shocking program (JRC) and other nasty interventions that incorporate much ABA (operant conditioning/human programming/’breaking’/dehumanisation) are also rejected by autistics

AIM: Autistic Inclusive Meets (large autistic organisation)

ANF: Autistic News Feed (Facebook source of autistic news)

ASAN: Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (large autistic organisation)

ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder, more commonly known (and preferred) as just Autism now, and sometimes rendered in NZ and UK as ASC, with ‘C’ meaning ‘Condition’

Au or Âû: Autistic Union (large autistic rights group)

AUK: Autistics United Kingdom (large autistic organisation)

Autistic: What most of us autistics choose to call ourselves.  It is an example, like ‘Poor’ or ‘Faithful’ of an Adjectival noun, an adjective becoming a noun (English-language autistic choice) and also an example of Word Reappropriation or reclamation, (again, by English-language autistic choice)

AW: Autistics Worldwide (large FB group)

AWN: Autistic Women and Non-Binary Network (large autistic organisation)

DD: Developmental Disability

Disability:  An experience that often arises from institutionalised and societal discrimination and failure to resource or allow full agency, including systemic barriers, derogatory attitudes, ignorance, entitlement and privilege of others, a lack of reciprocal empathy from the able (including ‘othering’), and many social exclusions.  Autism IS a disability, just as it may also be a difference, an alternative way of being, an identity, a cachet of certain traits, and a less common distribution of strengths and sensitivities, etc. all at the very same time.  (Disability is not a bad word!).

Echolalia: repetition or quoting of words or phrases in situations where it is not expected by NTs.  Also consider related terms: Lallolalia/Lalolalia, Palilalia, Coprolalia

GAD: Generalized Anxiety Disorder - a DSM diagnosis either additional to Autism, used wilfully to avoid diagnosing Autism, but also sometimes a diagnosis for non-autistics with some of these: restlessness, edginess, easily fatigued, mind blanking, irritability, constant tension, sleep disturbances

Functioning Label: any label other than autistic that is used to describe the "severity" of someone's autism. For example: Level 1, severe, low-functioning, Aspie. Functioning labels are strongly discouraged here.  Best to say it long-hand, just what you mean.

ID: Intellectual Disability

LD: Learning Disability

Masking/Camouflaging: suppressing natural autistic behaviour like stimming, and engaging in uncomfortable NT behaviour (like eye contact) in order to fit in and be treated with respect. Very emotionally and physically draining

Nonspeaking/Not speaking: someone who doesn't speak with their mouth but may use other forms of communication such as Makaton, ASL, typing, other AAC

Nonverbal: (use discouraged) someone who doesn't speak with their mouth, or more broadly, someone who "can't talk". Not preferred because of its binary connotations suggesting that ‘verbal/nonverbal’ are the sole possibilities, thereby ignoring augmented and assisted communication means.  Use ‘non-’ or ‘not-speaking’ or ‘not using mouth words’ to avoid this excluding pitfall please

NVLD/NLD: Non-Verbal Learning Disorder/Disability Dates

OCD: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, repetitive thoughts leading to repetitive actions, requiring intervention if of a magnitude that an ordinary good life is interfered with

PDA/ODD: Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a poorly-named replacement for a non-existent thing referred to previously as 'Oppositional Defiant Disorder' (ODD).  It might better be termed Persistent or Pervasive Drive for Autonomy.  It's recognition is spreading rapidly because it represents both a profile that fits some autistics, and a need to switch to low-demand parenting approaches.  Some view it as a broad coping mechanism, others as an inherently valid biology. PDA involves responding to demands with fright/fight/freeze/flight/fawn rather than 'not doing what we are told to do'. It is a can't matter, not a won't matter. 

PDD: Pervasive Developmental Disability

PDD-NOS: outdated label for Autistic people who presented atypically. Seldom-used and unhelpful

Polling: Where an autistic asks a question over and over in order to gauge the state of your mind or how you are right now towards him/her.  If not met with a reply in the usual cheery way, the autistic may keep checking back, or give-up.  Non-autistics tend to instead ask "are we all gud?", or "wassup?", or "you OK?", or - the classic seemingly meaningless phatic communication phrase - "how are you?"

SAD: Social Anxiety Disorder, a diagnosis too often used since the advent of the DSM 5 as a means of avoiding diagnosing autism. Also see Seasonal Affective Disorder below for second meaning of SAD acronym

SCD/SC(P)D: Social Communication (Pragmatic) Disorder:  Also too often a means of avoiding diagnosing autism

Sensory tools: may include above but also tools to eliminate sensory input like earmuffs or sunglasses

Social Model (of Disability): Many autistics believe disability to be a social construct rather than a medical fact, Something caused by society, as opposed to adhering to a pathological or medicalized model of what disability might be... i.e. something needing fixing, cure, exterminating, eugenics, medicating, to be pitied, a tragedy, an abnormality, our problem, defects, deficiencies, limitations, leaving us a burden, etc. The Social Model instead emphasizes disability as a result of the interaction between people living with impairments in an environment (things/concepts) and ecology (people/groups) filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers not of our making. 

SPD: Sensory Processing Disorder, an unofficial, broad label assigned to people with sensory processing or behavioral differences. Often comorbid with autism but not always.

Special Interest: Something an autistic person is extremely interested in and will often gather a lot of knowledge and/or paraphernalia related to.  If you mean passion, hobby, pursuit, area of fascination, etc. - wisely use those words instead please

Stim toys/tools/fidgets: items used to stim and self-soothe by sensory input

Stim/Stimming: a self-soothing or self-regulating action such as rocking, hand-flapping, humming, echolalia, chewing, etc

TAC: The Autistic Cooperative (the international autistic advocate body)

Related/Relatable General Health Terms

2e: twice-exceptional, Someone who has both a disability (eg autism diagnosis) and a gifted designation. May also be called a savant if very proficient at a particular skill.

AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication, so communication methods other than speech

Ableism: discrimination against disabled people and/or the belief that able-bodied people are superior.  Internalized ableism being the sad self-deprecating that even the disabled are able to have inside of them.

ADHD: (formerly also called ADD) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a cognitive profile that includes high energy and impulsivity. Though often thought of as a disorder that affects only young boys, it can affect anyone and is a lifelong brain difference.

Aversion/Exposure ‘Therapy’: a form of conditioning or programming that seeks to wrongly reduce sensitivities and sensory strengths in many, including autistics, also referred to as a type of human loss called ‘desensitization’

ASL: American Sign Language

Auslan: Australian Sign Language

BD: Bi-Polar Disorder (I or II)

BPD: Borderline Personality Disorder

BSL: British Sign Language

Comorbid: Several conditions occurring ‘associatively’ in the same person. For example anxiety and PTSD/cPTSD, or autism and dyspraxia. ‘Co-occurring’ or ‘co-existing’ are often better, less pejorative-sounding, more ‘lay-acceptable’ terms in almost all cases

cPTSD: See PTSD below

CRPS: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/Sympathetic Dystrophy

CW/TW: content warning or trigger warning placed at the top of a Post, then stating what content or triggers may follow.  Usually a series of lines will be added with just a ‘.’ period/full-stop on each line, to make the warned-about material invisible to those who chose to not click ‘see more’

DMDD: Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

DSM-5 (Mainly North America): The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition

ED*/BED/AN/BN/ARFID: all different abbreviations for eating disorders. Note: if you mention one put a CW on your post.

ED*: executive dysfunction, an informal term which describes day-to-day challenges with planning, time management, organization, and completing tasks. *Yes, there are three meanings for 'ED' at least, lol. Use context, but ask if unsure

ExD: A (proposed) less confusing acronym for Executive Dysfunction

EDS: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: A co-occurring condition featuring loose joints, joint pain, stretchy velvety skin, abnormal scar formation, hypermobility, and much more.  There are multiple types

Fibromyalgia: a serious disability characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues

ICD-11: The (UN) World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases, 11th Revision.  North America uses the DSM-5 for classification, billing, etc, See above.

IFL/PFL: Identity-first-language (eg autistic person, preferred by most autistic people) Person-first language (eg Person with autism, preferred by few)

Makaton (aka ‘Key Word Sign’ in Australia): A multifaceted communication system that uses sign, symbols, and sounds

ME/CFS: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

NZSL: New Zealand Sign Language

OT: Occupational Therapist

PMDD: Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and 

PME: Premenstrual Exacerbation are co-occurring with ADHD for some girls/women

PoTS: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (can co-occur with EDS, see above)

PT: Physical Therapist

RDSL: Ross Dependency Sign Language (aka Happy Feet)

RLS: Restless Leg Syndrome

RSD: Rejection sensitive dysphoria is powerful emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life

SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood condition usually occurring at the same time each year, involving fatigue, depression, demotivation, hopelessness, or social withdrawal

SLP/SLT: Speech and Language Pathologist, Speech and Language Therapist

SPED: Special education or Special Educator

Spoons: a metaphorical measure of mental and physical energy used by disabled to explain the impact of disability through graphic limitation of a scarce resource, in this case ‘spoons’

PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric condition occurring in some people who have experienced trauma. It causes feelings of stress, fear, and panic even in safe situations. PTSD risk is increased after undergoing ABA. cPTSD or ‘c’ for complex, is the type usually associated with autistics who have cumulatively experienced repeat or multiple traumas, i.e. not as easily explained as being shelled and shot-at in a war zone.

Governmental and Regional Terms

1:1: A caregiver, in a school setting or not, who provides individual support for a disabled/autistic person in their everyday activities, especially to help avoid dangerous situations

504 Plan (USA): Written material that seeks to ensure a pupil receives educational access and accommodations under the law aimed at success in the school/college environment

BIP: Behaviour Intervention Plan (rejected by autistics)

CDA (NZ): Child Disability Allowance

DSP (AUS): Disability Support Pension

IEP (US/CAN/NZ): Individual Education Plan (similar to EHCP)

EHCP or EHP (UK): Education Health and Care Plan (similar to IEP)

DLA (UK): Disability Living Allowance

CA (UK/NZ): Carer's Allowance

Co-taught or Push-In Teacher (US): Assists students with IEPs in learning material in the format they need

GP (NZ/AUS): General Practitioner, a patients first-call doctor or Family Doctor

IFS (NZ): Individualized Funding Service for people with a disability

LA/EA/TA (CAN): learning/education/teaching assistant, an adult who gives additional support to an autistic child while they're in school

LAC (AUS/NZ): Local Area Coordination of disability supports and services

NASC (NZ): Needs Assessment/Service Coordination for disabled people

NDIS (AUS): National Disability Insurance Scheme

OT: Occupational Therapist

ODSP [CAN]: Ontario Disability Support Program

Para (US): a paraprofessional, usually in an educational setting

PCP (US): Primary Care Physician

PIP (UK): Personal Independence Payment

RTLB (NZ): Resource Teacher : Learning and Behaviour

SENCO (UK/NZ): Special Education Needs COordinator

SLP/SLT: Speech and Language Pathologist, Speech and Language Therapist

SLP (NZ): Supported Living Payment

SSDI (US): Social Security Disability Insurance

SSI (US/CAN): Supplemental Security Income

TA: Teacher’s Aide/Teacher’s Assistant

TL;DR: means Too Long, Didn't Read 😉

Contact John Greally to add, delete, or correct. [ Button on Home Page ]

Thank you from:

Emma Dalmayne & John Greally (Autism Inclusivity Co-founders)


This Glossary was the work of Anne Belle

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