Why I Don’t Use Functioning Labels

Instead of getting all emotional about functioning labels, (which will not help me make my point), let me just express why I would strongly prefer that people don’t casually toss around the terms “high functioning” or “low functioning” with me.

1) As a young child I did not pass well. I know what it feels like to have people speak about you like you are not there. I know what it feels like to be underestimated.

2) Assigning the term “LOW” (synonyms: Less, Below, Under) to a person is giving society permission to underestimate, limit, hold down and devalue that person.

3) Many people, (like my son), do not speak fluently due to neurological issues. They may also not test well on standardized testing developed by Neurotypicals. That does not mean that you have any idea whatsoever what is going on in their complex minds. Even if a person DOES have an intellectual disability – SO WHAT? That doesn’t make them “low” either.

4) I know that many Autistic people do not mind, and even use the term themselves, but when you say “high functioning” to me what I hear is, “Good job, Nadine! High five!” In other words, after 48 years of practice, stress, social anxiety, bullying, low self-worth, OCD etc. etc. … I can manage to look really “normal” and “smart!” What an inspiration!

5) When someone is labeled “high functioning” they are expected to act Neurotypical at all times regardless of the toll it takes on them. If they make a social faux pas, they have a meltdown, whatever … the NT’s who are otherwise big fans, turn on them in an instant and seem to forget that they are really Autistic. And if they lose the ability to speak periodically, or forget themselves and flap their hands, or cover their ears in pain … that just makes a lot of NT really uncomfortable because it’s so …. Autistic looking.

We are TOO COMPLEX for these labels. Don’t simplify us like that please. Thank you.

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