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Some Words You Need To Know About Autism

Applied Behavior Analysis:

Therapy originally designed by Dr. Lovaas at UCLA.  Uses a method of teaching language and behaviors by reinforcement.  Currently, the only “approved” treatment for autism.  Supported by extensive clinical evidence.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD):

This is a disorder where a person isn’t able to focus on the task at hand and often has impulsive or challenging behaviors. Often diagnosed with autism. There are three subtypes:

o ADHD- Hyperactive

o ADHD- Inattentive

o ADHD=combined type

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD):

This is a collection of disorders where a person has symptoms such as communication and social difficulties. It now includes PDD, Aspergers, HFA and classical autism.

Previous Autism Spectrum Disorder Types: 

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS):

This is a disorder on the autism spectrum where a person has relatively normal speech and social difficulties. A child may not be diagnosed until they are older. This diagnosis is now part of the Autism Spectrum Disorders.

“Classical” Autism:

This diagnosis used to be given to individuals who are severely challenged with communication and behaviors and who require significant support.

High Functioning Autism:

Like Aspergers, it has been folded into the larger diagnosis of ASD. It denotes a person with autism who has at least average intelligence.

Regressive Autism: 

Autism which appears between 18 and 36 months.  A child appears to be developing typically, with average communication and social skills, and who “loses” these skills over a short period of time (often less than three months).


Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified

Denotes a diagnosis given when a typically young child did not meet the DSM criteria for a diagnosis of autism, but who displayed many of the symptoms of autism.

Physical Therapy (PT):

Therapy designed to improve physical skills and decrease sensitivities to overstimulation.

Fine Motor Skills:

Movements that involve smaller movements like writing, drawing, and buttoning a coat.

Gross Motor Skills:

Movements that involve larger muscle groups such as walking, jumping, and running.


A person with autism who has an unusual and specific area of intelligence, often in the area of math, artistic ability, memorization, or musical skills. This is present in approximately 10 percent of people with autism.

Self Stimulating/Self Soothing “Stims” or “Stimming”:

Repetitive behaviors like hand flapping, spinning wheels, or seeking pressure as a method of showing excitement or self-calming.

Speech and Language Therapy:

Therapy designed to improve pronunciation (speech) and functional communication (language).


The verbal repetition of words or phrases without using those words for functional communication or meaning. Some younger children with ASD will be echolalic before they begin to speak in sentences. Sometimes, echolalia includes the repetition of commercials or TV shows that the child is interested in.