There are a variety of terms and symbols used to discuss and represent Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here are some common terms and their meanings.
What is Autism?
Autism refers to a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by challenges with social interactions, communication, and restricted movements, behaviors, and/or interests.
- 1 in 44 children have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)1
- Approximately 2% of adults in the U.S. are estimated to have a diagnosis of ASD 2
- Boys are 4x more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls 1
- Autism is lifelong, which means many individuals need access to ongoing services and supports into adulthood.
- Approximately 1 in 5 adolescents on the autism spectrum will interact with police before the age of 213
- Myth: Autism is a mental health disorder.
- Truth: Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder.
- Myth: Autism only affects children.
- Truth: Autism is a lifelong condition meaning ongoing support and services may be needed into adulthood.
- The puzzle piece – originally used by the National Autism Society in the UK in 1963 to represent autism spectrum disorder. The interlocking pieces represent the unknowns of autism. The different colors of the puzzle pieces represent the vast diversity of the autism spectrum. Caregivers used the puzzle piece to symbolize that the diagnosis of Autism was the “missing piece” when searching for an explanation for the differences in their child.
- Rainbow infinity symbol – used to represent neurodiversity, which “describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.”7.
- Gold infinity symbol – used to specifically represent autism spectrum disorder.5
- Butterfly – symbolizes beauty in diversity, change in its own time, and continuing development.
Identity-First and Person-First
- Identity-first language – wording about a person that leads with a description of them in the context of a disability, medical conditions (including mental health conditions), or other physical or cognitive differences. (ex: Autistic)
- Person first language – wording that introduces a person first and then follows with a descriptor in relation to a disability, medical condition (including mental health conditions), or other physical or cognitive difference. (ex: Person with Autism)
Autism Acceptance Month
- April is Autism Acceptance Month, which begins with World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd. World Autism Awareness Day was declared by the United Nations in 2008. In 2021, “Autism Awareness Month” was renamed “Autism Acceptance Month” to signify a shift away from solely “knowing” about autism to focusing on connection and inclusion.