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The New Language of Autism

How actually autistic adults are coming together online to create a new culture.

Key points

  • Autistic adults can find validation and safety in online communities.
  • Online influencers and communities of actually autistic adults are building a new community and language that people with autism can relate to.
  • Women with autism, in particular, struggle to find validation, and online communities provide that.
Source: nuvolanevicata/Shutterstock
Source: nuvolanevicata/Shutterstock

There is a new culture to autism. It is slowly growing in online communities. Most people don’t know it exists, but you will find it if you dig around online. It is everywhere. It is a culture of adults with autism seeking to find their voices.

Sandra Jones (2022) stated, “A quick look at some TikTok Stats shows that more than 38,000 posts under the hashtag #Autsim or #ActuallyAutistic have more than 200 million views."

I think this culture is even more poignant for women with autism. Women with autism are underdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and forgotten. We are invalidated and told by professionals, our family, and our friends that our diagnoses must be a mistake. The inner world of hardship, isolation, anxiety, and desperation is ignored and belittled. Yet, in these online communities, we have a voice, and we find connections with other women with autism who see us as we are. This is an incredibly empowering thing.

The culture of autism is a place of safety, learning, and validation. It is a place where a new language is emerging to explain the experience of autism. It is a place where the academics, big organizations, professionals, and parents’ voices are quieted and where #actuallyautistic people can create their own language. This language is where many of us have finally begun to feel safe and free being ourselves. Online influencers with names from TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram are redefining what it means to be a woman with autism.

Some of my favorite pages, people, and groups are The Autistic Witch, Our Neurodivergent Life, The Neurodivergent Cleaning Crew, The ND OT, The Art of Autism, Neuroclastic, Sensory Stories by Nicole, I’ve Been Autistic All Along? And My Autistic Soul. They're creating a new world for women with autism. We are free to have a voice of our own, and even people who are nonverbal can find a voice in the written word. The new vocabulary emerging in the autism community allows us to express our emotions about many things in a language we can understand and relate to. Here are a few of my favorite parts of the new autistic vocabulary; they are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are examples of the language of autism.


Neurodiverse or neurodivergent describes someone whose brain differences impact how their brain works and their behavior.

Masking or Camouflaging

Masking or camouflaging refers to covering up or hiding your autistic traits so you can blend in better with neurotypical society. Masking and camouflaging are associated with many of the detrimental mental health symptoms associated with autism. It contributes to depression, anxiety, and suicide. People with autism mask/camouflage because we are trained from early childhood to act normal. Social skills training, ABA, and normative parenting encourage the autistic child to stop being weird and difficult and learn normal life skills.


A neurotypical person doesn’t have any neurodivergence. An alltistic person is someone not on the autism spectrum.


Some people with autism struggle with food aversions and fixations. The term "samefood" refers to people with autism’s tendency to eat the same food for days, weeks, or months. I have always samefooded, but until my diagnosis with autism, it was an oddity I was often mocked for. The more stressed I am, the more I samefood. One time I ate only Kix cereal for three months. We are often criticized and yelled at for this behavior by neurotypicals, but it brings us peace and solace.

Infodumping and SpIns/Hyperfixations

Most people with autism have at least one hyper fixation or special interest that is so powerful it is constantly in their minds. This year, I am watching every episode of Star Trek over again. The hyperfixations vary by duration and type, but they always eat up a lot of our time and our brain power. We love them. They are our passions. Hyperfixated interests are required as part of the autism diagnosis and are clinically called “hyperfixated and stereotyped interests.” In the autistic community, they are often called special interests or spIns. Infodumping is the autistic tendency to start talking about one of these hyperfixations and just keep talking. We hate small talk, but if you let us infodump, you will find a world of information you never knew existed.


A glimmer is "a satisfying sensory delight that fills someone with fervent ecstasy." (Bec Secombe, 2022) It is the opposite of a trigger (a stimulus perceived as threatening and unsafe). A glimmer is a source of endless wonder and fascination. I love bones and things that sparkle. I can stare at sparkly things for hours. I love soft sweaters and yarn. These are my glimmers.

Autistic Shielding

This term refers to radical acceptance of our autistic traits. This is when you, as an autistic person, embrace the weird, odd, and atypical and reject neurotypical acceptance. Reclaiming words that used to be used to hurt and bully autistic people is a massive part of this. We embrace words like freak, weirdo, difficult, and loner. We love ourselves exactly as we are and reject any attempt to make us conform to alltistic culture.

Autistic Shutdown

We are easily overwhelmed, and sometimes when stimuli and life become too much, we must retreat to a place of stillness and sensory calm. We become sleepy and nonresponsive and may seek quiet places like closets.

Autistic Meltdown

When we become overwhelmed, our emotions can take over, and we will melt down.

Stimming, Flapping, Happy Hands

Movement can bring us peace. Stimming is moving our hands or body repeatedly when we have a lot of emotion. I stim when I am anxious but also when I am really happy. When I am happy, I bounce and sometimes flap my hands. When I am anxious, I wring and twist my hands and rock.

Sensory Overload

When you have autism, you experience everything differently, and how we experience sensation is often different and overwhelming. When things are too bright, too loud, or too much, we often become so overwhelmed it is difficult for us to function. This is sensory hell or sensory overload.


Jones, Sandra (2022). TikTok is teaching the world about autism – but is it empowering autistic people or pigeonholing them? (

Secombe Bec (2022). Autistic Glimmers. The ND OT (Facebook page).…3)

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