Some Common Terms

In the psychiatric and autistic communities there are a few terms that get brought up a lot so I am going to briefly explain a few of them. These are very basic definitions so please keep that in mind.

Stimming: stimming is repetitive movements or sounds used by someone with Autism and/or ADHD in order to stabilize mood or express themselves. People with Autism have an overactive Amygdala meaning our emotions can be very strong. The areas of the brain that help regulate emotion are under-reactive meaning we may need to use sources outside of ourselves to help calm our emotions. Stimming can also occur when someone is very happy; for instance, sometimes when I get excited I flap my hands very fast.

Comorbid: Two or more disorders that occur together quite often. Autism is comorbid with several disorders including: ADHD, OCD, Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders and Learning Disabilities.

Neurotypical: Someone who is not autistic. In some cases refers to someone who has no developmental disorders at all. Neurotypical people are just as awesome as Autistic people!

Neurodiverse: Someone with a mental disability such as Autism. I have seen this more refer to people with developmental disabilities but it can be used for anyone.

Sensory Processing Disorder: another comorbid disorder, SPD is when the brain has trouble interpreting stimuli it gets through our senses. Have you and/or a loved one been unable to eat certain foods because it feels wrong? Do certain textures feel like hell? Do you not feel like you get enough of certain stimuli? Then you have sensory issues! Does this mean you have SPD? It could mean that. There is no official diagnosis for it yet.  I have sensory issues but have not been diagnosed with SPD. Certain bright colors hurt my eyes REALLY BAD. I can wear dark sunglasses and my eyes can still hurt from the sun. 

Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3: The DSM uses these to tell overall severity (ie: how much support is needed) of Autism. This does not account for the variations among autistic individuals who are even on the same level. Level one means little support is needed. Level two means a good amount of support is needed. Level three means a large amount of support is needed. Levels one and two appear to be more common than Level three.

Meltdown: THIS IS NOT A TANTRUM. DO NOT CALL IT A TANTRUM. This is the point at which someone with Autism (and I think applies to some intellectual disabilities and ADHD) has reached the point of “no return”. Emotions are running high (remember our amygdalas are overreactive) and we can no longer self soothe. Many will cry and scream. They can be quite intense and the person having it as well as those around them will need time to return to being in a calm state after a meltdown. This is something that just happens. It’s uncontrollable when it gets to this point. This is one reason I hate the “joke” where people say “autistic screeching” because it’s making fun of not only nonverbal autistic people but also of the fact that many autistic people have or have had meltdowns.

Another term to look up is executive functioning. Many people on the autism spectrum struggle with this.

My own personal journey

Hi! Call me Ivory Pendragon (not my real name). I am a 26 years old woman and I have Autism Spectrum Disorder (among other things). I have a little brother who is also on the spectrum as well as younger cousin who is as well. Many of my friends have Autism too! I also have a boyfriend, have been to college and am working more and more on independence!

I was diagnosed around age 12 even though my parents knew I was different since at least the age of 3. Helping people is one of my passions. I want to bring more information out there from the perspective of an adult on the spectrum.

What is Autism?

So what is “Autism”?

According to the DSM V: “Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and social interaction and the presence of restricted, repetitive behaviors.”

But what does that mean? Basically autism is a developmental disorder/developmental disability, and that means you get it before you become an adult. Signs of Autism such as poor to little eye contact (or none at all), the presence of stimming (repetitive actions to stabilize mood – this will be explained later) and trouble understanding figures of speech can appear as early as 3 years of age.

Autism affects 1 in 54 children in the United States alone. This is a lifelong disorder. It is often undiagnosed among girls, with someone women learning of their diagnosis as adults. Autism is also a spectrum and that means, as Dr Steven Shore says, “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.” And he should know! He’s got autism too!

Autism can run in families and the latest theories as to where autism comes from is from our genes. Pretty cool, right? And even though we have struggles, people like me, my younger brother and my friends see the world in ways people without autism most likely don’t.