Smiling mother cuddles and hugs excited daughter with autism.

If your child was recently diagnosed with autism, you will soon realize how unique and special the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community is. As you may know, there’s a lot still unknown about autism, so finding solutions may not be as simple as a quick Google search. If you have questions or want answers or tips on parenting, you might have to turn to people in the same position as you are: fellow parents of children with autism. It’s an excellent way for parents to find resources, swap stories, share tips, and more. You might notice parents using certain words or language to discuss various things surrounding autism. Some of the words are medical terms, while others are used more in everyday conversation amongst parents. Either way, it’s essential to know and understand these autism words and their meanings.

Autism Words To Know

  • ASD
  • Although ASD is not a word, it is used in place of Autism Spectrum Disorder. You will often hear parents refer to their child as having ASD. It is an umbrella term that can be used to describe all levels of autism. Use of the term ASD is often followed by the necessary level of care for the child (level 1, 2, or 3)
  • Perseveration
  • Perseverative behavior or perseveration is simply a repetitive behavior that causes a person to “get stuck” on a topic, action, or idea. You might be thinking to yourself, “wait, I do this too,” and that may be true, but one thing to understand is that there is a lot more to unpack and understand when discussing perseveration in children with ASD.
  • Perseveration may manifest differently for different children, but the three most common signs of perseveration typically fall into one of the following categories:
    • Verbal Perseveration
    • Cognitive Perseveration
    • Motor Perseveration
  • Echolalia
  • Echolalia is the official term but it is often referred to as “scripting” as well. You may hear this word frequently when parents discuss their children who repeat sounds, words, or phrases. Keep in mind that children with ASD can struggle with expressing their own words or thoughts, and as a result, they might “echo” sounds or words as a way of communicating.
  • Meltdowns
  • Although it may not seem like a scientific term, autistic meltdowns are actually an official term used by parents and therapists. Unlike tantrums that are usually willful or voluntary outbursts, meltdowns are an extreme response to a situation that your child might find overwhelming. There are three ways these meltdowns occur, and they tend to be related to a child’s sensory, emotional, or informational overload.
  • Stimming
  • Stimming refers to self-stimulatory behavior. If your child feels the need to alleviate the stressors of overstimulation, they may resort to stimming. Examples include spinning objects, clapping, rocking back and forth, echos, or other repetitive behaviors.
  • Neurotypical
  • Whether you are on an online forum or reading a medical journal, you will hear this term a lot. When discussing autism, it refers to an individual who does not have autism.
  • Sensory Overload
  • Sensory overload occurs when the brain is overwhelmed by one or more sensory inputs at once. If your senses are being triggered faster than the brain can process, it can cause the brain to enter into a fight, flight, or freeze mode. It can cause an individual to feel unsafe, overstimulated, and overwhelmed. Meltdowns are often the result of sensory overload.
  • Stereotypy l
  • Stereotyped behavior or stereotypy is defined as repetitive body movements that can be exhibited as verbal or nonverbal behaviors. They can range in complexity and vary from person to person. Although there is not an exact cause, there are several possible explanations for stereotyped behavior. The most common explanations include:
    • Self-regulation
    • Seeking sensory input
    • Self-expression
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
  • You will likely hear parents discussing their experience with ABA. ABA is 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.
  • Dietary Interventions
  • As we learn more about the possible connection between autism and the gut, many parents discuss the benefits of dietary interventions to help ease their child’s ASD symptoms (especially if they are picky eaters). When you hear parents discussing dietary interventions, they have most likely turned to nutritional supplements to address any dietary deficits or concerns for their children.


As you can see, there are many autism words and terms used by parents, pediatricians, and therapists to discuss ASD. A major component of understanding autism begins with understanding what is being said within the communities and that starts with knowledge. At Simple Spectrum, we hope to provide solutions for all individuals within this community, so we hope that this list will help you as you navigate through all of the resources available!