Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The pain of "high functioning" terminology

Every time I read something about "high functioning" I cringe. Autism really is a spectrum and I don't think it makes sense to come up with some arbitrary dividing line. What exactly does high functioning mean? If we're talking about verbal and non-verbal and limited words let’s say that. If we’re talking about kids that are in inclusive education (with or without an aide) or separate classrooms or in a separate school, let’s say that. If we're talking academic achievement or whatever, let's just say it directly.

My son has very limited verbal abilities. He reads and does math very well. He goes to a mainstream school in a regular classroom with a one-on-one aide. He gets some academics in a special education classroom. He receives a lot of support through Maryland's Autism Waiver because he (easily) meets the definition of institutional level of disability (more definition here). I refuse to label him as "low functioning" but I will say he is significantly affected by autism.

I don't want to sound cranky, I just feel like every mention of "high functioning" is exclusionary and pushes the autism community apart.

This post is pretty much a copy of a comment I made on this post on "Life Is A Spectrum". The image above show's msk's hands. If you ask me what autism looks like, one answer is the way you hold your hands. I love the way msk holds his hands, by the way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spread the Word

So today's the day. The day to take the pledge to stop using the R-word. I try not to act like I know how msk feels if he doesn't tell me (verbally or non-verbally) how he feels. Because of that I'm not going to tell you he feels belittled or demeaned when a classmate refers to him as a "retard" or the special ed class as the "retard class". I can tell you that this happens too often and it makes me question the success of inclusion.

Then I remember the way kids in msk's class last year stood up for him when other kids were picking on him. I remember how deeply they came to know him and respect him. It may be hard, but minds and hearts are being changed and the r-word turns to respect... little by little.

I took the pledge. I hope you will too.