Autism Acronyms

Life with autism is full of acronyms. From the first IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) meeting and the use of PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) to the last IEP (Individual Education Plan), we SPED (Special Education) parents are bombarded with a list of acronyms to learn and use. It seems like such an odd element of an already challenging existence.

I remember being at Nigel’s first IFSP meeting, when he was three. I felt overwhelmed and underinformed. Back in 1997, autism was not the buzzword it is now. Most parents of now-teens experienced untold frustration trying to research autism information, therapy, symptoms, etc. when their children were first diagnosed. The internet was not the resource it is today, and all the books I could find on autism were archaic, bleak, and (I felt at the time) of no help to me. My local Barnes & Noble had two books on autism: Let Me Hear Your Voice, by Catherine Maurice, and The Siege, by Clara Claiborne Clark. I flipped through both of them there in the store, got a lump in my throat, felt the desire to slip into denial (the ‘how could he be autistic? he smiles and lets me hug him!’ self-talk), and left. I did wind up reading those books at a later date, and I came to consider them an invaluable source of encouragement. Back then I wasn’t ready.

I went to that first meeting blind. The therapists started talking about PECS, SI (Sensory Integration), and OT (Occupational Therapy) and I was completely lost. It wasn’t until months later that I learned that the intensive program that Nigel was enrolled in was actually ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) -based. I learned about various other therapies, including AIT (Auditory Integration Training), FC (Facilitated Communication), and later, the GF/CF (gluten-free/casein-free) diet. When I had internet service I looked up the DAN (Defeat Autism Now) program and joined ASA (Autism Society of America) and read about the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). I needed a glossary to keep them all straight.

Now when I go to my local Barnes & Noble, there is an entire section devoted to autism-related topics, not just two books mixed in the Special Needs shelf (yes, there was only a single shelf for all books on special needs children). And now on their website, under the category of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, there are 26 subtopics listed and 462 individual books available having to do with autism. That is amazing to me, and wonderful. And many of them have glossaries defining all the autism acronyms I’ve come to know and love.

6 thoughts on “Autism Acronyms

  1. Pingback: Teen Autism » Blog Archive » My First Blogoversary!

  2. Lauri Crowe

    Great post. Some of these terms I hadn’t even heard of and I’ve been parenting two boys on the spectrum for more than a decade now. Very informative. Thanks.

  3. Pingback: Teen Parenting - Tanya Savko - Autism Spectrum Disorders Resources on

  4. ashley

    Hello, I’m 18 years old, and my big brother, he’s 22, was diagnosed with mild autism and Asperger’s Syndrome…when he was 17. He was born in 1990 about 5 months premature. I’ve been writing a paper for my college science class, and i’m having conflcted emotions about why he was diagnosed so late. I can’t understand why or how all of his many doctors missed it when he was younger. if you have any suggestions or answers feel free to email me,

  5. Tanya Savko Post author

    Hi Ashley,

    Thank you for your comment. Many people with Asperger’s over the age of 12 went undiagnosed for many years because a) the symptoms are not as easily recognizable as non-verbal autism and b) the diagnostic criteria was not as well known until recent years. These days, young kids are being diagnosed with Asperger’s as early as age 4 because the doctors now know what to look for. I hope this is helpful for you, and good luck with your paper.

    Best wishes,

    Tanya Savko

  6. Elaine

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