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Terms & Definitions


‘Autistic burnout’ is the intense physical, mental or emotional exhaustion. It is often accompanied by a loss of skills, emotions and energy. Navigating a world designed for Neurotypical people is a big cause of this for many of us. This can last from days to years.


Sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body's senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. There are many things that can cause this: too many noises, talking, heat, cold, a fabric from clothing or a seat, movement, lack of movement, etc. 


When we suppress our natural reactions in an environment or a situation (or multiple situations). We withdraw while our brains shut down until we can mentally process the situation that is triggering us.

Sensory Seeking

This is when there is a particual sensory input/output that we need that we seek out. A child who gives others hugs to feel pressure and contact, a person playing music non stop for the sound and rhythm. 


When our environment is too overwhelming and it triggers our need to escape or make it stop. Can present as "tantrums", self-abuse, crying, rocking, etc.

Sensory Avoidance/Sensitive

This is something that people who are very sensory sensitive are familiar with. If you are very sensitive to touch, you may avoid hugs or crowded rooms. If you are sensitive to sounds, you may avoid places with loud music or noises. 


This is a term for people who's brain processes, learns and/or behaves and functions differently from what is considered "typical". This is a very common term in the community among Autstics and people who have ADHD.


This is a self-stimulatory behavior that is marked by a repetitive action or movement that is used to self soothe and deal with emotions. This includes things such as repeatedly tapping on objects or the ears, snapping the fingers, blinking the eyes, rocking from side to side, using a stim or fidget toy.


This is used to refer to someone who does not display characteristics autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior. In simple terms, someone who has a "typically" functioning brain. They are not Autistic, have ADHD, etc. 


This is when someone is very sensitive to a certain form of sensory. Touch, noise, lights, etc. Their brain processes the input/output differently. A gentle hug may feel like a bear hug, a dim light may be blinding, etc. In a sense, it overamplifies the sensory.

Imposter Syndrome

This is something that affects a large majority of the neurodivergent community! We spend so much of our life masking who we are to make others comfortable and to find a sense of belonging, that we don't show our authentic selves. We end up feeling like an impostor. 

Hearing things like "You don't look like your Autistic" and "Wow you are really good at that for someone with Autism" really enforces the fact that we are faking it, not actually Autistic, just lazy, etc.


This is when someone is under sensitive to certain forms of sensory. It might take much more of the sensory to get the same feeling. They usually enjoy weighted blankets, need volumes louder than a typical person would enjoy, etc. In a sense, it dulls the sensory. 


Echolalia is the repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of the speech of others.


Tics are sudden twitches, movements, or sounds that people do repeatedly. People who have tics cannot stop their body from doing these things. It involves uncontrollable repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics), such as repeatedly blinking the eyes, shrugging shoulders, or blurting out offensive words.


Alexithymia is characterized by difficulties in identifying, describing, and processing one's own feelings, often marked by a lack of understanding of the feelings of others, and difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal.

Special Interest

A special interet is an area/topic that we feel very connected to. It makes us happy. We will research, watch, collect, read, or listen to everything we can find about that thing. Some people simply want to collect as many sloths as possible, others want to know everything about where they came from and how their body works. There are so many different types and styles of special interest. They can last anywhere from a few months to our entire lives. 


Masking and camouflaging are terms used to describe neurodiverse people who want to hide or minimize their traits to fit in with the neurotypical world. Many neurodiverse people have been through some form of trauma or abuse (especially bullying) and hiding our traits makes us feel safer.


Neurodiverse brains are often really good at focusing intensely on one thing at a time. 'Hyperfixation' is being completely immersed in something to the point of ignoring or forgetting about everything else. It's more common in ADHD/Autistic people and can be a great asset.

Executive Dysfunction

Executive function is the cognitive processes that help us regulate, control and manage our thoughts and actions. It includes planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, initiation of actions and monitoring of actions.

Executive Dysfunction is common among neurodivergent people. The ability to regulate those things is impaired and more difficult for us, which leads to distress and difficulty throughout our daily lives.

Self Care

Self-care is a process of taking care of oneself with behaviors that promote health and active management of illness when it occurs. Both types of self-care are needed, as described further below. Everyone engages in some form of self-care daily with food choices, exercise, sleep, and dental care.


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