Glossary of neurodiversity terms

Last updated: 23 Feb 2024

Asperger syndrome

An autistic spectrum condition that affects the way a person communicates and relates to others. People with Asperger syndrome usually have fewer problems with language than those with other forms of autism, and may not have the accompanying learning disabilities often associated with autism.

Attention deficit disorder (ADD)/Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Differences involving difficulties with attention, activity levels and impulsivity.

Autism/Autistic spectrum conditions (ASC)/Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD)

Neurological differences that occur when atypical (unusual) brain connections lead to atypical development. These differences in the way the brain functions lead to particular challenges and abilities and unusual development.


Associated with significant difficulty with numbers and calculation.


Contrary to popular misconception, dyslexia is not only about literacy, although weaknesses in literacy are often the most visible sign. Dyslexia affects the way information is processed, stored and retrieved, with difficulties in memory, speed of processing, time perception, organisation and sequencing. High-ability dyslexic people often have good literacy skills. Some authorities use the definition, suitable for the workplace, of ‘an inefficiency in working memory’.


Impairment of the organisation of movement with associated problems of language, perception and thought.


Repeating back something said to you; many autistic people use echolalia.

Executive function

The set of abilities used to plan complex cognitive tasks, to translate motivation into action.


An unusually high or intense response to a particular stimulus – for example, smell, texture or colour.


An unusually low response to a particular stimulus – for example, light, pain or sound.

Neurological diversity/neurodiversity

Difference in the neurological make-up, or ‘brain wiring’ of humans.

Neurologically typical/neurotypical/NT

A person not having a neurological difference, such as autism.

Non-verbal communication

Communication through means other than words – for example, facial expression, posture, gesture and body movement.


Individuals who possess special talents, usually in the areas of music, mathematics, drawing or calendrical calculations.


Behaviours often used by people with autism to provide stimulation, assisting with calming, adding concentration or shutting out an overwhelming sound. Examples include rocking back and forth, skipping, vocalising or making repetitive noises, flapping hands or spinning round.


Variation in the way a condition affects or shows itself in individuals with that particular difference. Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that individuals have different traits, to different degrees.

Triad of impairments

A theory of autism identifying impairments affecting social interaction, social communication and imagination.