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Glossary

Navigate the world of neurodiversity using our key terms and their definitions.

Non-verbal communication

Communication through means other than words – for example, facial expression, posture, gesture and body movement.

Asperger Syndrome

An autistic spectrum condition that affects the way a person communicates and relates to others. People with Asperger syndrome usually have fewer problems with language than those with other forms of autism, and may not have the accompanying learning disabilities often associated with autism.

Attention deficit disorder (ADD)/Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention Defi cit and Hyperactivity Disorder, sometimes also the subtype which is ADD, i.e. without hyperactivity. ADHD is characterised by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. Contrary to popular perception, the brains of ADHDers are actually understimulated. ADHD is largely genetic and therefore, contrary to stereotypes, people usually do not grow out of it. Prevalence is estimated to be around 3.4% in adults.

Autism/Autistic spectrum conditions (ASC)/Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD)

A condition characterised by three main criteria: social communication diffi culties, repetitive and restricted behaviour. Most people on the autism spectrum also experience some form of sensory sensitivity due to functional hyper-connectivity across multiple brain regions, which, when experienced, may make the individual prone to feeling overwhelmed and anxious. For too long autism has tended to be defi ned only in negative terms, with a focus solely on the challenges people face. However, the neurodiversity paradigm - and the successes of autistic people in the workplace - is helping to change this. Autism, like other forms of neurodivergence, may be more constructively viewed not as a ‘disorder’ but as a neuroprocessing style that results in a fundamentally different experience of the world.

Autist

Autist is used to describe an autistic person in the singular form.

Dyscalculia

Associated with significant difficulty with numbers and calculation.

Dyslexia

Contrary to popular misconception, dyslexia is not only about literacy, although weaknesses in literacy are often the most visible sign. Dyslexia affects the way information is processed, stored and retrieved, with difficulties in memory, speed of processing, time perception, organisation and sequencing. High-ability dyslexic people often have good literacy skills. Some authorities use the definition, suitable for the workplace, of ‘an inefficiency in working memory’.

Dyspraxia

Impairment of the organisation of movement with associated problems of language, perception and thought.

Echolalia

Repeating back something said to you; many autistic people use echolalia.

Flexible working

Changes to hours or location of work to suit a worker’s caring responsibilities or as an adjustment  for disabled employees.

Hypersensitivity

An unusually high or intense response to a particular stimulus – for example, smell, texture or colour.

Executive function

The set of abilities used to plan complex cognitive tasks, to translate motivation into action.

Neurodiversity

The biological reality of infinite variation in human neurocognitive functioning and behaviour, akin to ‘biodiversity’ in the natural world. The term ‘neurodiversity’ is now also being used to describe the fast-emerging sub-category of workplace diversity and inclusion that focuses on including people who are neurodivergent.

Neurodiversity Movement

The Neurodiversity Movement is a social justice movement seeking equality, respect, inclusion, and civil rights for people with Neurodiversity.

Neurologically typical/neurotypical/NT

Given the biological fact that there is no 'normal' brain, neurotypical is best thought of as within parameters of neurocognitive style that have not been either medically defi ned as ‘disorders’ or culturally defi ned as ‘neurodivergent’. It’s important not to draw simple lines in the sand between ‘neurotypicals’ and neurodivergent people - human neurodiversity is a highly complex spectrum, in which everyone sits.

Neurominority

Neurominority refers to an underrepresented group of Neurodiverse people who may face challenges or bias from society.

Non-verbal communication

Communication through means other than words – for example, facial expression, posture, gesture and body movement.

Reasonable adjustments

Changes to working conditions – for example, equipment, duties or hours of work – to enable  disabled people to carry out their job.

Self-stimulation/stimming

Behaviours often used by people with autism to provide stimulation, assisting with calming, adding concentration or shutting out an overwhelming sound. Examples include rocking back and forth, skipping, vocalising or making repetitive noises, flapping hands or spinning round.

Spectrum

Variation in the way a condition affects or shows itself in individuals with that particular difference. Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that individuals have different traits, to different degrees.

Tourette’s Syndrome

What is Tourettes syndrome? Tourette’s Syndrome is a condition that normally starts in childhood. It affects the brain and nerves, causing people to have uncontrollable motor or vocal tics.

Triad of impairments

An autism theory that identifies neurological characteristics that affect communication, imagination, and social interactions.

Neurodiverse

This term is sometimes used instead of ‘neurodivergent’, yet is potentially problematic. A group can be neurodiverse - an individual is likely better described as neurodivergent.

Neurodivergent/ND

Having cognitive functioning different from what is seen as ‘normal’ - while the term appears to refl ect the ‘medical model’ above, it is a term that most neurodivergent people are comfortable with. The Diversity Project’s neurodiversity workstream focuses on neurodivergence that is largely or entirely genetic or innate - such as dyslexia - other forms of neurodivergence can be acquired, such as via an incidence of brain trauma

Ableism

Ableism means the practices or dominant attitudes by a society that devalue or limit the potential for people with disabilities. Ableism is the act of giving inferior value or worth to people who have different types of disabilities (physical, emotional, developmental, or psychiatric). This includes people who are neurodiverse.

#ActuallyAutistic

A hashtag created to highlight the importance of autistic voices and content about autistic people. “It has become both a battle cry and somewhat controversial thing to say, depending on who you are talking to. I use it when I want to identify or reach out to the ND movement.”

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