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.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Worst Definition of Autism

In my previous blog 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). This is what the app defines as autism. It turns out it comes from ‘Oxford Dictionary: The world’s most trusted dictionaries.’

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.”

I sent an email to Oxford Dictionary voicing my concerns with the second part of their definition and asking that it be removed. A representative from Oxford Dictionary wrote back:

Dear Tanaya Dutchyn,

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the definition of autism in Oxford Dictionaries. 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.

We regret if this was unclear in the entry as presented. We always welcome feedback about material in Oxford Dictionaries, and will take your concerns into account as part of our ongoing revision process.

best wishes,
Simon Thomas
Oxford Dictionaries

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.

I responded:

Dear Simon,

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.

Best wishes,
Tanaya Dutchyn

I am not giving up on this. This is the worst definition of autism I have ever seen.

If their definition of autism bothers you too, please send an email to voicing your concern and it’ll be sent to the editorial department for review. Please help me get the definition of autism changed!

Thanks for reading,

Update: Oxford Dictionary changes definition of autism!


  1. My son is challenged with aspergers/autism...He does not have a mental disorder...Anyone who would call autism a mental disorder is grossly uneducated on the subject...My son is the happiest, most sociable boy I have ever known...Special only tips the iceberg in describing him; or anyone who is challenged with autism....My son loves balloons...and has since he was a very small child....He is now 16 1/2...

    1. Hi Laura,
      I agree with you completely! This definition is wrong on so many levels and people really do need to be more educated about autism! Better understanding is important! Thank you for taking a moment to leave a comment! :)

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