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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Rosica

A Beginner's Guide to Neurodiversity Terminology

On this blog, I'll use a variety of terms that might be new to you. I want this website to be accessible to people at any level in the neurodiversity movement, so I've provided definitions of some of the most common terms below.


Autistic - I choose to use 'Autistic' instead of saying 'a person with Autism' due to the research I've done in this space. I am not autistic, so I try to align myself with the self-advocates and echo their language. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a great resource to see for more on this. Using identity-first language emphasizes that a person cannot separate autism from themselves. In this way, ‘Autistic’ is a neutral descriptor, just as ‘tall’ or ‘short’ would be.

Neurodivergent - Term used to describe those with neurological differences – Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Dyslexia, and other similar conditions. I use this term mostly to refer to Autistic people, but it does encompass a wide variety of differences!


Neurotypical - Term used to describe those with typical neurological functioning. For example, because I do not have a neurological difference like Autism, ADHD, or Dyslexia, I consider myself neurotypical.

Neurodiversity - Diversity of human brains and minds – the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species. Note: this word does not describe an individual. Think of it this way: you wouldn't call a person of color 'racially diverse,' but rather would call a group of people with representation from different racial groups 'racially diverse.'

ASD - Short-hand for Autism Spectrum Disorder, the 'official' name in the DSM5

Intellectual Disability - Significant limitations in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior with onset before 18; Not synonymous with ASD – a separate diagnosis for some (not all) people with ASD

For more on neurodiversity-related terms and definitions, see Autistic self-advocate Nick Walker's page on Neurocosmopolitanism.


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