The Autism Acronym Glossary

Being a part of the Autism community is fantastic! It’s so wonderful to share tips with other parents or simply swap stories with people who have been or are currently on your unique journey as a parent of a child with Autism. On the other hand, new parents can find so many great resources that will help them on their new journey.

If you belong to online forums, Facebook groups, or even support groups, you might notice people using acronyms to discuss various topics surrounding Autism. This is a constructive and efficient way to share information, but if your child has only recently been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you might be wondering if you missed some sort of book or list that contained the autism acronym terms. Don’t worry; you did not miss anything. Due to the complexity and various levels of ASD, it has become somewhat easier for people within the community to refer to these terms by an acronym rather than use the full term or phrase each time.

Newer parents of children with ASD can feel overwhelmed by the autism acronym usage, especially if they don’t know where even to start searching for the meanings. At Simple Spectrum, we want to provide solutions for all individuals within this community, so we figured that we would compile a list of the acronyms most commonly used by parents, pediatricians, and therapists. Below are some terms used both formally and informally. We have also included items that may not be used informally but that are often referenced through abbreviations. Keep in mind, there are many other acronyms and terminology, but we chose the most commonly used.

Be sure to bookmark this page so you can refer back to it at any time!

The List of Acronyms and Terminology

  • AAC - Assistive Augmentative Communication
    • Speech therapists commonly use the acronym to communicate with someone with ASD using buttons, picture boards, or alternative ways of communication.
  • ABA - Applied Behavior Analysis
    • ABA is used to describe the science of applying learning principles to change and improve behaviors. Some examples of ABA would include positive reinforcement, behavioral supports, and other behavioral interventions that have been effective on children with Autism.
  • ADOS - Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale
    • The ADOS assessment is an instrument for diagnosing and addressing Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you want to read all about the ADOS test, check out a previous blog that dives deeper into its meaning.
  • AIA Network - Autism, Intolerance, and Allergy Network
    • The AIA Network is a group of individuals who focus on and study the issues and relationships between autism and food intolerances or allergies.
  • ARD - Admission, Review and Dismissal
    • The ARD is a meeting between parents and teachers to determine whether the student with ASD is eligible for special needs programs.
  • ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • ASD is commonly used to describe the general diagnosis of Autism, and it does not specify which type or level of Austim an individual has. You will see a lot of publications and companies, including ourselves, using the term ASD.
  • AS - Aspergers Syndrome
    • If you read our last blog on the types of Autism, then you know that Aspergers Syndrome is not used as a diagnosis anymore. This does not mean, however, that it is not used within the ASD community.
  • ASA - Autism Society of America
    • When it comes to finding resources online, parents often refer to the ASA website. The organization has been a pillar within the Autism community for decades.
  • BCBA - Board Certified Behavior Analyst
    • A BCBA refers to an individual with a certification in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)
  • CARS - Childhood Autism Rating Scale
    • CARS refers to a diagnostic assessment that rates children on a scale to assess their level of Autism - scale ranges from average to severe. It is mainly used to identify where a child lies on the autism spectrum, and results can be used in treatment plans.
  • DSM - Diagnostic Statistical Manual
    • The most up-to-date version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the DSM-5. Parents and physicians will often refer to this when discussing the way something is classified.
  • EIP - Early Intervention Programs
    • Parents often share resources and discuss the benefits of government-funded programs like EIP that were designed to identify and help treat children as young as 3 years old, with neurodevelopmental problems or disorders.
  • HFA - High Functioning Autism
    • This is an actual term in the DSM-5, but many parents on online forums or support groups try not to use it because it might come off as offensive. Since HFA is commonly used within medical resources, we wanted to include this term so you are at least aware of what it stands for.
  • IEP - Individualized Education Plan
    • IEP refers to an individual educational program that is provided to a child with a disability.
  • PDD-NOS - Persuasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
    • PDD-NOS refers to a collection of communication, socialization, and/or behavioral features associated with Autism. It was used as a general diagnosis that would be used to describe the subtypes of Autism - similar to how we currently use the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • PECS - Picture Exchange Communication System
    • PECS is another method of communication that uses pictures and symbols to communicate with a child with ASD.
  • SI - Sensory Integration
    • As you may know, most kids with ASD have sensory issues that impact their day-to-day lives. SI is a type of occupational therapy that is used to support a child’s ability to respond and regulate sensory input.

When it comes to understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder, a massive component of that is understanding what is being said within the ASD communities - after all, it’s a great support tool to have and be a part of. Knowing what the autism acronym meanings are and how to use them will make a huge difference when you utilize online resources. So the next time you are reading through a parenting blog or Facebook community post, instead of feeling overwhelmed with all of the acronyms and their meanings, simply refer back to this list! If you think there are any acronyms that we missed or would like us to include, visit our contact section and let us know!