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.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  3. What great story i love this post and i will say to thank you for the
    attractive posting.

  4. I agree with you so much on this. That term really rubs me the wrong way. It is unfortunate because that is the phrasing that people outside the autism community understand, but you're right, it does create a division. I don't use the phrase either.


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