One look at a website dedicated to autism spectrum disorders may lead to confusion on the part of the reader. The Autism Dictionary aims to provide the definition of the most commonly used terms and acronyms associated with autism spectrum disorders.

autism Dictionary


  • AAC – Augmentative and Alternative Communication; communication through nonverbal means
  • ABA – Applied Behavior Analysis; a common type of autism therapy
  • AS – Asperger’s Syndrome; one of the five types of autism
  • ASC – Autism Spectrum Condition(s); a term preferred by neurodiversity advocates
  • ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder(s); refers to the five types of autism
  • DIR – Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-based; a common type of autism therapy
  • OT – Occupational Therapy; therapy used to address sensory and motor skill deficiencies, sometimes means occupational therapist
  • PDD-NOS – Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified; one of the five types of autism
  • PECS – Picture Exchange Communication System; a method of communication using picture symbols
  • RDI – Relationship Development Intervention; a common type of autism therapy
  • SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist; a speech therapist with at least a master’s degree and nationally certified and licensed
  • SPD – Sensory Processing Disorder; a commonly seen comorbid condition seen among those with autism spectrum disorders
  • ST – Speech Therapy; therapy used to increase a person’s skill with speech and language, sometimes means speech therapist


  • Autistic Savant – an autistic individual who has an extraordinary gift in a specific area; mathematics, art, and music are common gifts among autistic savants
  • Dyspraxia – impaired motor-planning
  • Echolalia – repetition of speech heard by others, can be either immediate or delayed
  • High-functioning Autism – individuals with autism who are not cognitively delayed
  • Neurodiversity – the idea that autism is not a disease but instead a different way of being human
  • Neurotypical – someone who is not on the autism spectrum; the phrase is commonly used by autistic individuals
  • Picture Board – a board consisting of PECS symbols used for communication
  • Self-injurious Behaviors – behaviors that cause injury to the individual; head banging is an example
  • Sensory-defensive – an individual who is over-sensitive to sensory input
  • Sensory-seeking – an individual who craves and seeks out a variety of sensory sensation
  • Stim – a form of self-stimulation or perseveration, examples are rocking, spinning, or humming
  • Talker – a computerized AAC
  • Theory of Mind – the ability for a person to realize that others have different thoughts, beliefs and desires than they do

This list provides a sampling of the more commonly used acronyms and phrases in the world of autism spectrum disorders. Next time you visit a website dedicated to autism spectrum disorders you’ll have a better understanding of the topic.

By Morgan