As a mother, I will never give up on my child. As a mother of a child who has autism, I will never give up hope.
I look into his eyes and I see all the potential that he has to offer to this beautiful world and I just know that one day the world can see what I see.

Follow my blog as I share my life and my experiences as a person who loves someone with autism.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dictionary changes definition of autism

May I have your attention please... Because of YOU, WE have made a difference. (At least I hope it ends up making a difference.) Bare with me, this is going to be a long post, but I think it’s worth the read.

A little back story.

In another post I mentioned how I typed “autism” in my iPhone’s Notes App and hit the ‘define’ button (it’s one of the options that pops up when you highlight a word) and the definition was a little, distasteful, to say the least?

Oxford Dictionary definition of autism

“A mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. A mental condition in which fantasy dominates over reality, as a symptom of schizophrenia and other disorders.”

So I called Apple who told me that their Notes App dictionary definition comes from Oxford Dictionary - ‘The worlds most trusted dictionary’. The Apple representative gave me the number for Oxford Dictionary and then I called them and explained my concerns. They gave me their email address to put my concern in writing. So I did.

Then the Oxford Dictionary representative replied:

“The way that the word autism is used has undergone changes through the years as medical understanding of the disease has increased. The definition you raised concerns about is not a comment on the main, modern sense of autism, but a less important, secondary meaning of the word. It represents an earlier understanding of the term, which regarded autism as a symptom of various psychological disorders, rather than as a distinct condition in itself.”

Isn’t saying it’s a ‘less important, secondary meaning of the word’, just another way of saying that it’s an outdated definition of the word?

Then I replied:

“It should be removed as it is NOT a definition of autism, even if it was at some point. Continuing to propagate ignorance and confusion on the condition doesn’t seem like what a dictionary should do when it should try to provide knowledge and understanding.”

This is a dictionary, not an encyclopedia or Wikipedia. Just give us the definition, not the history behind the word, or ‘less important, secondary meanings’. A definition in a dictionary should be the most up to date and spot on way to define a word.

Ok, end of back story.

So a couple days passed and I hadn’t heard back from anyone at Oxford Dictionary. I just assumed they brushed me under the table in hopes that I’d let it go. But I wouldn’t. This bothered me a lot. I kept sharing it on Facebook and Twitter and getting as many people as I could involved. I think it worked...

Oxford Dictionary replied:

Dear Tanaya Dutchyn,

Thank you for your continued feedback on the entry for autism in Oxford Dictionaries. We’ve investigated the entry and we agree that a change is needed to the entry to make it clearer.

We are working to revise it so that the historical use of the word is given the proper context, and is clearly distinguished from the usual contemporary definition. We are also taking specialist medical advice on how use of the word has evolved over time. The revised version of the entry will appear as soon as our editorial processes allow.

We are extremely grateful to you for bringing this matter to our attention. We welcome and appreciate feedback on our dictionaries, and our entry will be improved as a result of your comments.

Kind regards,
The Oxford Dictionaries Team

Oxford University Press (UK) Disclaimer

This message is confidential. You should not copy it or disclose its contents to anyone. You may use and apply the information for the intended purpose only. OUP does not accept legal responsibility for the contents of this message. Any views or opinions presented are those of the author only and not of OUP. If this email has come to you in error, please delete it, along with any attachments. Please note that OUP may intercept incoming and outgoing email communications.

Are you smiling? I’m smiling. Thank you Oxford Dictionaries Team!

In my opinion, they just need to remove the second part of the definition so I don’t know what this ‘change is needed to the entry to make it clearer’ is all about. But it’s a start and it’s thanks to you!

I’d like to thank everyone who helped me get Oxford Dictionary to change their definition of autism. You have no idea how thrilled I am right now! I just hope Oxford Dictionaries gets it right this time so we don’t have to send them anymore emails on this subject! But seriously, Oxford Dictionaries, thank you for listening.

Thank you again everyone! Really, sincerely, thank you!

I’ll keep you posted with any updates!

Thanks for reading,


  1. Way to go Tanaya!!! That's fantastic news!

  2. Definitely smiling! Good job!


Please feel free to leave a comment about this post.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.