Autism Lingo 101

There are many common terms you’ll read on autism blogs or groups that you may not know the meaning of right away. I’ll be your autism dictionary! Ask me if you come up with others!

Stim – Stim is short for “stimming,” which is also short for “stimulation.” When our bodies either lack or have too much outside stimulus, many of us will do certain repetitive behaviours in order to calm down. “Normal” people do them as well, things like tapping feet, biting nails, chewing pen caps, knitting – those are all more “socially acceptable” stims. Other people may fidget, dance, hum, or repeat words. Some pick their nose. Some pull out their own hair.
Usually, if you try to stop someone from stimming, it will only make it worse. Or they may stop one behaviour only to pick up another one. It’s best to let people stim for the most part, unless they are really hurting themselves. The moment will pass, and most people come up with more socially acceptable stims on their own, in order to avoid being stared at in public.

Social Hangover – This is what happens when us Autistics try to be social. It’s exhausting for us, so after all that effort and overstimulation, we often need a few hours or days to recover. Sometimes I feel drained after a day of work and need to tune out. Sometimes, if I’ve gone out to a party, I need days to get back to normal.

Spoons – The term “spoons” originated with a post by a woman with a chronic “invisible” illness, lupus, explaining to others how she has to allocate a certain amount of “spoons” each day in order to function. A non-disabled person has more spoons than a disabled person. A disabled person doesn’t know when they wake up, how many spoons they will have for the day – some days less, some days more. Getting out of bed and getting dressed takes up more spoons. Getting groceries takes more spoons, and so on and so on. It could be lunch time and you could be all out of spoons! So if a person says, “I’m all out of spoons for today!” they cannot cope any more. They need to rest or go home and wait til tomorrow when they’ll hopefully have some more.

Normie – A “Normie” is a derogatory term for a “normal person” or neurotypical person. It’s not a term most Autistic people use unless they are really angry at a neurotypical.

Curbie – “Curbie” is derogatory word for people who believe autism can be cured.

Neurotypical or NT – NT people are those who have the brain of the majority – non-Autistic, non-learning disabled. This is not a derogatory term. It’s nicer than saying “normal.”

Neurodivergence – Or the Neurodivergent Movement looks to celebrate our differences and have people come to an acceptance that some brains are different than others, but no less important. The Neurodivergent Movement includes Autism and all learning disabilities. It typically does not include mental illnesses, such as sociopathy.

Ableism – Ableism is the belief and act of considering the non-disabled body or person to be superior to all others. It also presents itself when accommodations are not made for disabled people and when people don’t consider disabled people’s needs or opinions. Often influential people or organizations will forget to take into account the very people they are supposed to help.

Biomed – Short for “biomedical,” it’s a group of “doctors” and parents who believe giving certain supplements, vitamins or homeopathic preparations to Autistic people will somehow cure them. While some things, like vitamin B12 supplementation are not particularly dangerous (just a waste of money really), others, like MMS, are poisonous and bleach-based, which have led to the death of some Autistic individuals. There are always people out there willing to make a buck off of scared parents. Just make sure you aren’t harming your child instead of helping them.

GFCF – GFCF stands for Gluten Free, Casein Free. Some people believe eating a GFCF diet resolves some autism symptoms. Others see absolutely no difference.

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3 thoughts on “Autism Lingo 101

  1. Ari says:

    Here is a link to the original of the “Spoon Theory” which was articulated by Christine Miserandino who has lupus. http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

    Some autistic self-advocates use the term “tokens” to refer to a similar concept of having a limited supply of energy and “cope” each day, and once they are gone, the next stressor, no matter how minor, is more likely to lead to overload, shut-down, or melt-down.

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