Background: Individuals on the autism spectrum have been long described to process sensory information differently than neurotypical individuals. While much effort has been leveraged towards characterizing and investigating the neurobiology underlying the sensory differences of autism, there has been a notable lack of consistency in the terms being used to describe the nature of those differences.
Main body: We argue that inconsistent and interchangeable terminology-use when describing the sensory differences of autism has become problematic beyond mere pedantry and inconvenience. We begin by highlighting popular terms that are currently being used to describe the sensory differences of autism (e.g. "sensitivity", "reactivity" and "responsivity") and discuss why poor nomenclature may hamper efforts towards understanding the aetiology of sensory differences in autism. We then provide a solution to poor terminology-use by proposing a hierarchical taxonomy for describing and referring to various sensory features.
Conclusion: Inconsistent terminology-use when describing the sensory features of autism has stifled discussion and scientific understanding of the sensory differences of autism. The hierarchical taxonomy proposed was developed to help resolve lack of clarity when discussing the sensory differences of autism and to place future research targets at appropriate levels of analysis.
He, Jason L; Williams, Zachary J; Harris, Ashley; Powell, Helen; Schaaf, Roseann C.; Tavassoli, Teresa; and Puts, Nicolaas A J, "A Working Taxonomy for Describing the Sensory Differences of Autism" (2023). Department of Occupational Therapy Faculty Papers. Paper 98.
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