Connecting the Dots

An Abbreviated Glossary of the Neuroverse

Language is important. It helps us to understand and shape reality. Myths and misinformation about neurodivergence abound. We hope this abbreviated glossary will provide clarity on some common terms that you may come across in your journey with neurodiversity. This is a living document that we will add to as we go along. If you have any suggestions or other terms that you don’t understand and would like us to clarify feel free to email us at www.scattergramcc.com/contact

Alexithymia is the challenge of identifying or describing what emotion one is experiencing at any given moment.

Autistic burnout is a state in which an autistic person becomes continuously overwhelmed by stimuli, social expectations, and/or chronic stress with little to no support or self-care that results in long-term exhaustion and reduced tolerance to internal and external stimuli. It varies from person to person in how it may manifest, how much it might affect someone’s daily activities, and how long it might last. (https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/professional-practice/autistic-burnout#:~:text=Definition%20of%20autistic%20burnout&text=Autistic%20burnout%20is%20a%20syndrome,and%20reduced%20tolerance%20to%20stimulus)

Demand avoidance involves not being able to do certain things at certain times, either for yourself or others, and also refers to the things we do to avoid demands.” (PDA Society)
(https://www.pdasociety.org.uk/what-is-pda-menu/what-is-demand-avoidance/) We drop the word ‘pathological’ from the more biomedical term ‘pathological demand avoidance’ or replace it with the word ‘pervasive’ to keep the short-form, PDA. PDA is a kind of anxiety disorder.

Double Empathy Is the term developed to describe the misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and miscommunication that typically happen between autistic and non-autistic people. However, autistic people empathize well with other autistic people, while non-autistic people empathize well with other non-autistic people. (https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/double-empathy-explained/)

Executive functioning is one’s cognitive ability to plan, organize, memorize, prioritize, and manage tasks. Executive dysfunction is when one struggles to develop and implement these skills in a way that is considered neurotypical.
(https://www.additudemag.com/autism-adhd-executive-function-deficits-study/)
Challenges with executive functioning are common with ADHD, ASD, learning disorders, and neurodivergence acquired through childhood trauma.

Hyperfocus refers to the ability to focus on a narrow topic for a prolonged period of time. It inhibits a person’s ability to divert their attention from a task or interest that they are fixating on at the moment. Hyperfocus is a common trait of both ASD and ADHD.
(https://www.talkwithfrida.com/learn/glossary-adult-adhd-definitions/)

Masking or camouflaging is when a neurodivergent person performs social behaviors and communicates in ways that are more socially accepted. This behavior conceals their natural tendencies in response to meeting the demands of a neurotypical-oriented world.
The act of ‘unmasking’ neurodivergent behaviors is to allow oneself to behave and communicate as one would naturally, despite dominant social norms. Masking is associated with Autistic and ADHD burnout.
(https://lunariasolutions.com/blog-post/the-reality-of-masking-understanding-the-neurodivergent-perspective/#:~:text=For%20many%20neurodivergent%20individuals%2C%20masking,acceptable%20in%20a%20neurotypical%20society)
(https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/524122)

Neurodivergence (ND) refers to the divergence of a brain and nervous system from the neurotypical norm. To be neurodivergent or neuroatypical is to perceive and experience the world differently, cognitively, sensorily, and emotionally, which leads to differences in observable differences in behavior and social communication from the neurotypical social norm. An individual is neurodivergent. A group of neurodivergent people forms a neurodivergent population.

Neurodiversity is the neurocognitive variation among all human brains and how they perceive and function. The entire population which includes all brain types is neurodiverse. An individual is not neurodiverse. An individual is either neurodivergent (has a brain type that diverges from the statistical norm) or neurotypical (has a brain type that conforms to the statistical norm).

Neurotypical (NT) brains constitute the statistical majority of brain types that shape dominant societal norms of behavior, communication, regulation of emotions, and sensory processing. Allistic is a term to specifically describe non-autistic people.

Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD) “is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. It may also be triggered by a sense of falling short—failing to meet their high standards or others’ expectations.” (Dodson, 2022) RSD is a common condition associated with ADHD.
(https://www.additudemag.com/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-and-adhd/)

Self-regulation is an individual’s response to cognitive, emotional, and sensory stimuli to maintain a state of calm. This response could be stimming, seeking, or avoiding stimuli, organizing information in a way that allows one to process it with ease, etc.
(https://chadd.org/about-adhd/glossary-of-terms/) Meltdowns and shutdowns resulting from sensory overstimulation are common types of dysregulation for neurodivergent individuals to experience.

Sensory processing differences are sensory experiences (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) that diverge from statistically “typical” sensory experiences. A person may process stimuli in a way that is hypersensitive or hypo-sensitive to their senses. This also may include:
Understanding how one’s body is positioned in relation to their surroundings and other body parts (also known as “proprioception”)
Understanding one’s body movement and balance (also known as “vestibular sense”)
Recognizing what is internally happening in one’s body (also known as “interoception”). Examples of this include recognizing hunger, thirst, increased/ decreased heart rate, breathing, anxiety, etc
(http://www.autismtoolbox.co.uk/sensory-differences)

Sensory overstimulation, also known as sensory overload, is an individual’s senses being overloaded with internal and/or external stimuli or information that may be too overwhelming for the person to cope with. In reaction to this, a meltdown may occur, which is an intense and sometimes uncontrollable reaction to that overstimulation. They may exhibit increased levels of anxiety, distress, and discomfort, or their body may completely shut down. What it looks like and how long it lasts varies from person to person. This is not to be confused with temper tantrums.
(https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/behaviour/meltdowns/all-audiences)
Alternatively, an individual may experience a shutdown where they have little to no energy and may become physically withdrawn as a result of overstimulation. It may occur suddenly as a way to protect oneself from stressors at the moment. The signs of a shutdown vary from person to person but may include an individual speaking or moving around less or not at all, unresponsiveness to external stimuli, acting distant, feeling a heaviness in their limbs, and wanting to be alone.
https://mysoulbalm.blog/2022/01/11/autistic-shutdowns-guide-for-neurodivergent-adults/

Stim, stims, or stimming is short for ‘self-stimulation’, repetitive behavior to self-regulate, calm overstimulation, increase focus, release a build-up of energy, communicate an individual’s mood, or generate pleasant feelings. Some examples of stimming behaviors specific to neurodivergent individuals include–but are not limited to–rocking back and forth, hand-flapping, pacing, finger flicking, humming, repeating phrases or words, jumping, spinning, touching or pulling hair, etc.
(https://www.spectrumnews.org/opinion/viewpoint/stimming-therapeutic-autistic-people-deserves-acceptance/)

Connecting
The Dots

An Abbreviated Glossary of the Neuroverse

Language is important. It helps us to understand and shape reality. Myths and misinformation about neurodivergence abound. We hope this abbreviated glossary will provide clarity on some common terms that you may come across in your journey with neurodiversity.

To recognize neurodiversity-affirming providers, ask questions:

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Dispell myths and misinformation about neurodivergence.

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A glossary to provide clarity on some common terms that you may come across in your journey with neurodiversity.

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What is Neurodiversity and Neurodivergence?
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Author: WebM2

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