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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Saturday, 1 Oct 2022, 06:54
Site: Open Learning
Course: Understanding autism (AUT_1)
Glossary: Glossary

Outside perspective

A term used to indicate that descriptions of autistic behaviour and experience come from the perspective of someone who is not themselves autistic. Usually this is a researcher, clinician or other professional.


A hormone which is generated in the brain and released into the bloodstream. It has several functions, including in childbirth, breast-feeding and sexual activity. It is also involved in social bonding, and some research suggests that oxytocin treatment may facilitate social interaction in autistic people.


Packing therapy

A highly controversial and potentially harmful intervention, involving wrapping a child in wet towels. Described by medical journal The Lancet (2011) as an abuse of human rights.


Acronym for Pre-school Autism Communication Therapy, an intervention which trains parents to enhance the communication skills and language development of their own children, commencing as early as possible after diagnosis. Parents learn to tailor their own language and interactions to facilitate their child’s communication and participant. PACT also stands for Pre-school Autism Communication Trial, the RCT which has evidenced the effectiveness of this approach.

Parent to Parent service

A free UK-wide confidential telephone service provided by the NAS where the parents of offspring with autism can seek emotional support through talking to another trained parent with personal experience of autism.


Relating to, or caused by, a medical disorder such as a disease.


Acronym for Picture Exchange Communication System, an intervention widely used in clinical, educational and home settings, in which children are taught to communicate using pictures and other symbols. PECS is naturalistic and especially helpful for children with little or no language.

Person-centred planning (PCP)

An approach intended to allow a person as much input as possible into decisions about their own care and support needs, in order to increase their self-determination and improve their independence. It focuses on what is important to them, with family and friends as partners in planning.

Pilot study

A preliminary study conducted in advance of a full-scale research study. In clinical work, a pilot may be an informal evaluation of a proposed intervention involving a single participant or a very small group of participants.


Refers to whether a sound is high or low. The pitch of speech plays a role in communication and may be atypical in people on the autism spectrum. (See also non-verbal communication.)