Why Autism Functioning Labels Need To Go

There has been a lot of talk lately about getting rid of functioning labels, and I could not agree more. I have always been deemed “high-functioning.” I’m verbal, have my license and have gotten married. Seems pretty high-functioning. What people don’t see is me trying to tie my shoes and crying out of frustration because I can’t make my hands work. They don’t see me have a meltdown when my restaurant takeout order didn’t butter my pita correctly. They don’t see me sobbing about social loneliness and isolation all because I felt like I messed up in a conversation.

My executive functioning is so bad, I often ask my commune multiple times in an hour when they need to be at work or what our schedule is for the day. I may have some areas I function well in, but I have many, many areas in which I need supports. The same goes for people who are deemed “low-functioning.” Somebody might not be able to talk, but they can graduate college, a feat I don’t believe I will ever accomplish.

Because I’m deemed high functioning, I feel like I have to live up to that. There are days when I want to sit under my work desk and rock, knowing even a few seconds would help. I also have days when I am just done. All I want is to go home and read, but I can’t. I have proven so many times that I can do things “normally,” I feel it would be looked down upon if I decide to display the behaviors I want and frankly need to at those times. This causes me to mask, which just makes everything 10 times worse when I am able to take the mask off and finally be autistic. I have also been denied services because I only meet some of the criteria. Just because I can present well at an interview doesn’t mean I don’t need help at other times.

We as a community need to find a different way to describe us. Although we are a spectrum, we are not a straight line. High-functioning and low-functioning labels put us on that straight line. We need to find a way to expand and treat every individual as someone with very different and complex weaknesses and strengths.

1 thought on “Why Autism Functioning Labels Need To Go”

  1. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that your post has been mentioned here: https://quantumlivingpsychology.wpcomstaging.com/2021/02/09/talk-respectfully-autism/

    Thank you for sharing such a sincere post. More people need to understand that functioning labels don’t accurately describe a person.

    While I hate the pandemic, there is one thing I appreciate: the work from home movement. It sounds like it could help so many people. You don’t have to mask if you’re at home, and you can rock back and forth all you want. Of course, working from home has its own challenges, but the “being yourself” thing sounds like a huge upside for autistic people and other people who stim.


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