We’re Done with Functioning Labels

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You may have heard the term “high-functioning,” or “low-functioning,” or “conjunction-junction-functioning” or whatever label associated with ‘autistic.’

And as of last week, I, too, had myself listed as “high-functioning autistic” here in my bio and About pages.

Not any longer.

This isn’t The High Functioning Life Autistic, it’s The Life Autistic.

Here’s why we’re due for a move away from these labels:

Their meaning is too ambiguous. Who decided at what point someone becomes high or low functioning? Moving out and living independently? Getting a job? Verbal ability? Social skills? There’s too broad of a spectrum within a spectrum to make this meaningful.

They diminish skills. I do feel for those of us on the spectrum, who unjustly and inevitably are binned away in the “low-functioning side,” as if that’s the totality of their being. It ignores the many savants or countless others who display plenty of function, even if it’s not “normal, societal” function.

They mask struggles. Just because people would consider some of us “high-functioning” doesn’t mean we don’t face considerable challenges and struggles that have helped us with this function. We don’t have Autism Lite™ — we are autistic, and not less so, just different.

They don’t account for functional changes. I’ve found the “high-function” label to be burdensome, because people except normality and adaptation 100% of the time. Folks, that just ain’t gonna happen. I’m still prone to shutting down, melting down, and stumbling in whatever functionality I can muster — and others more so. Functionality can have seasonality that goes far beyond the label.

They misrepresent the autism experience. “Oh, they’re one of those ‘high-functional’ types, so their experience doesn’t represent the general—” Whoa, hold up, no, negatron. We may have a greater or lesser experience within the spectrum than others might, but function isn’t negation.

Autistic is autistic.

I don’t need the extra labels.

If you want to learn more about “yeah, well, what kind of autism? Is it the kind where you remember the weather of every date but can’t button your shirt?” then you should just learn more about me.

About each of us.



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