The Autistic English Dictionary (AED) is the principal dictionary of the English language for autistic people. It is published by the Autistic Collaboration (AutCollab) community. It traces the historical development of Autistic language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as describing usage in its many variations throughout the world. The first edition (1.0.0) will be published in 2052.
Work began on the dictionary in 2020. The first entries of the dictionary were made available online in April 2020. The first edition of the dictionary will most likely only appear in electronic form; the Chief Assistant of the Assistant Chief of AutCollab Press has stated that it is unlikely that it will ever be printed.
Entries and relative size
According to the publishers, it would take a single person 120 years to “key in” the 59 million words of the AED first edition, 60 years to proofread them, and 540 megabytes to store them electronically. As of 18 April 2020, the Autistic English Dictionary contained approximately 25 main entries.
The dictionary began as an autistic community project of a small group of autists on the Internet – Jorn Bettin, Terra Vance, and Russell Elliott, who concluded that in order to be comprehensible to autistic people, the English language needs to be updated with explicit definitions of the continuously shifting unspoken semantics that neurotypical speakers attach to specific words and phrases.
The community expressed interest in compiling a new dictionary as early as 1998, but it was not until April 2020 that they began by forming a “Comprehensive Semantics Committee” to search for words with unlisted semantics or poorly defined semantics in other dictionaries.
The editors of the dictionary have a clear agenda – to advance the autistic civil rights movement, by counteracting what Steve Silberman has fittingly described as the “truth dysfunction” in non-autistic people.
The AED is a tool that enables autistic people to perform their natural role as the agents of a well functioning cultural immune system within human society, and thereby to contribute to a social environment that offers a high level of psychological safety to all members of society.
The current edition (0.0.1) focuses on an initial list of words that address one or more of seven distinct shortcomings in contemporary dictionaries:
- Incomplete coverage of words used by the autistic community
- Inconsistent coverage of families of related words
- Incorrect origins of words
- Non-literal neurotypical senses of words often omitted
- Inadequate distinction among synonyms
- Insufficient use of good illustrative quotations
- Space wasted on inappropriate or redundant content.
The community ultimately realises that the number of words with unlisted semantics or poorly defined semantics would be far more than the number of listed word semantics in the English dictionaries of the 21st century, and intends to shift from covering only semantics that were not already in English dictionaries to a larger project before publication of the first edition in 2052. The community knows that a new, truly comprehensive dictionary is needed.
AED edition 0.0.1
The AED is an autistic community project. The editors encourage autistic people from all over the world to submit suggested entries based on their experiences.
We are in particular looking for entries that shed light on the unspoken semantics that neurotypical speakers attach to specific words and phrases.
For the selection of usage examples of terminology developed by autistic people the editors encourage contributors to point to examples from autistic people.
To contribute new entries or improved definitions and usage examples, simply use the online form at https://autcollab.org/projects/autistic-english-dictionary/.
Several of the initial 25 entries and definitions in the dictionary are based on the works of Judy Singer and Nick Walker and the terms neurodivergent and neurodivergence were coined by Kassiane Asasumasu, a multiply neurodivergent neurodiversity activist.
The definition of autism in the AED is based on the communal definition of autism, which is a living document that is shaped by input and feedback from the autistic community.