“How high functioning is she?”
“How severe is her autism?”
“Wow, she can’t be that autistic!”
Oh my god. ENOUGH already!
I have lost count the amount of times I hear people (who obviously know nothing about the autistic spectrum) try and categorise my autistic daughters, attempting to shove them into boxes to better their understanding. I am all for labels, in fact – I encourage the diagnostic process for autism, because I stand by the benefits of support that the diagnosis can bring.
But one thing I cannot get behind is the whole high/low functioning divide. I just can’t do it, and I won’t.
Because this type of label doesn’t help, it hinders. It minimises the struggles an autistic individual can have, and it silences and invalidates them.
Just because someone who is autistic can talk and interact with others, doesn’t mean they don’t have other challenges and doesn’t mean the challenges they do have make less impact on their lives. You just can’t see it, and just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. This is the same with a non-verbal autistic individual; just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly intelligent, perceptive and intuitive.
The thing is though, if you box individuals on the spectrum into these high/low categories – you’re the one missing out. You’re missing out on being able to support them through their silent struggles, and you’re also missing out on being able to notice how they can enrich your lives.
Does the fact that someone can talk make them more important or worthy than others? No. Does the fact that someone cannot talk or shuts down socially around others mean they don’t have valuable things to contribute to society? No.
Autistic people are not puzzles that need to be solved. They are not a problem that needs to be fixed. They are not an irregularity that needs to be corrected. They are individuals, unique in themselves just like every other person on the planet.
So this whole high/low functioning categorisation really doesn’t come into it.
At the end of the day: it is all autism. And the best thing we can do as a society for our neurodiverse community is embrace them for who they are; as amazing individuals.