Sometimes, we get questions asking us what certain words or phrases we use in our blog posts and on our social media mean. Below is a dictionary of some of these terms, in alphabetical order, which we will add to as the need for new additions arise. Feel free to Tweet us @SafeCinemas to let us know what else to add or leave suggestions here in comments!


Allistic –

Someone who is not on the Autistic Spectrum. Someone who is neuroatypical can also be allistic, but someone who is neurotypical is allistic. That sounds confusing but think of it like this: someone can have a mental illness but not have autism (i.e. they are an allistic neuroatypical person). Simply, to be allistic is to be non-autistic. Allistic and neurotypical are NOT synonyms.


Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. Having ASD means you experience this, though everyone experiences it differently and at a different severity (hence, the fact it is a spectrum disorder). This is often the word we use for people with Asperger’s, though Asperger’s is still used to a lesser degree.

Aspie –

Informal term for someone who has or displays behaviours associated with Asperger’s Syndrome (which is often referred to now as A.S.D – see above). There has been a lot of debate within the community as to whether this term is something individuals want as a title. However, it is an individual choice, and whether one wants to identify as an Aspie is their choice.

Autism –

As defined by the National Autistic Society, Autism is “a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.” This might be linked to hypersensitivity disorders, OCD, and other conditions. This is a neurological condition, not a mental illness.

Autism-Friendly Screening –

For some people with Autism (see above) the cinema-going experience is somewhat daunting, and thus to have “inclusive” screenings allows them to enjoy a slightly altered cinema experience that is more friendly to their condition. These are sometimes called sensory screenings, or sensory-friendly screenings, and might involve the lights not being so low, the sound not being so loud, and the invitation to bring in outside food. Lots of the major cinemas have these, and you can find out more at

CEA cards –

This stands for Cinema Exhibitors’ Association card, and allows a holder a complimentary ticket for someone to go into the cinema with them, like a carer, parent, or friend. This can be applied for if you have a disability. You can check if you’re eligible, apply for the card, and find more information at

Disassociation –

Dissociation is a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity. Like many disorders, this ranges on a spectrum of severity. For example, someone with disassociation might get on a bus and “zone out” for a while, and not remember the past mile of their journey. For some people, this is especially bad in stressful or very sensory-intensive situations.

Drug Therapy –

Aka pharmacotherapy, this is a phrase used throughout the medical field, not just in psychology. Simply, it means using medication to treat or alleviate conditions, whether that be asthma, anxiety, or diabetes.


I include this to contrast sympathy, as these two words have often blurred distinctions. Empathy is the ability to understand someone’s feelings because you have experienced it yourself or can imagine what it would be like to be them in that scenario. (See sympathy for further details on that)

Executive Function

Executive functions let people plan, organize and complete tasks. In some people with things like ADHD, brain damage, and a variety of other illnesses and disorders, these functions can be impaired, making organisation more difficult.

Fidget Toys-

Also known as fidget tools, hand tools, hand toys, or fidgets. These are self-regulation tools to help with focus, attention, calming, and active listening. These are often used in stimming (see further down) and can be spinners, tangles, chewable objects, and many other things.

Identity-first Language –

This is when someone with a disability places their disability before their pronoun in a phrase. For example, identity-first language is seen in the following sentence: I am an autistic person. This is in comparison to person-first language (the definition of which is further down this page). People who use identity-first language often do so because they believe their disability is a part of them and so it is part of their identity.


Sometimes referred to as LGBTQIA+, this refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* individuals – more accurately their group as a whole. The + refers to other sexualities and gender identities. The QIA in LGBTQIA+ stands for Queer (or Questioning), Intersex, and Asexual.

Mutism –

Often referred to medically as ‘selective’ mutism, this refers to someone who, due to a variety of different conditions or emotions, doesn’t speak – either at all, or in specific scenarios. This is part of the ‘freeze’ response to fear, in contrast to fight/flight responses.

Neurology/Neurological –

This is the branch of medicine or biology that deals with the anatomy, functions, and organic disorders of nerves and the nervous system, including the brain. Neurological disorders include amnesia, narcolepsy, and Tourette’s.


This is a description often attributed to individuals not displaying or characterized by autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behaviour. Neuroatypicality is the opposite of this.

Non-verbal –

This is a term used to describe people who either don’t speak at all or speak minimally. This might be because of severe anxiety leading to mutism and is often a feature of severe autism. This means that non-verbal individuals may communicate via sounds that do not resemble words, body language, or gestures.

Person-first Language –

This is when someone with a disability places their disability after themselves in a phrase. For example, person-first language is seen in the following sentence: I am a person with dyslexia. This is in comparison to identity-first language (the definition of which is further up this page). People who use person-first language often do so because they believe their disability shouldn’t define them.

Schizophrenia – defines Schizophrenia as “a mental illness which affects the way you think. The symptoms may effect how you cope with day to day life.” Schizophrenia can have positive symptoms (like hallucinations and delusions – so called because they add something to the typical experience, not because they’re positive in a nice way. They’re not nice) and negative symptoms (like a lack of motivation, apathy, or tiredness).

Stimming –

Self-stimulatory behaviour. This is “repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders”. This might include clenching their hands into fists, counting on their fingers, or using a fidget toy.


I include this to contrast empathy, as these two words have often blurred distinctions. This is acknowledging another person’s feelings and emotions and trying to offer them comfort or support, regardless of whether you have experienced or can imagine that situation yourself. (See empathy for further details on that)

Tics –

Tics (not to be confused with Ticks of course!) are sudden, repetitive, motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups that seem to have no rhythm or predictability, though some situations can aggravate them. Tics can include blinking, coughing, hand clapping, repeating someone’s words back to them, and much more. See our blog post Ticing the Boxes for more information on all the different types of tics. This is a feature of many things, like ASD and OCD.

Tourette’s Syndrome –

Myth-busting time. Whilst some sufferers of Tourette’s do have the tic of swearing, this is not by any means an accurate description of all Tourette’s. It is characterized by multiple motor tics and at least one vocal tic. For a further definition on tics, see above.


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