3 mins read

High Functioning vs. Low Functioning in Autism

In my last blog, I discussed an interaction I had had with a young man on the spectrum. I briefly touched on the topic called, “high functioning.”

What is high functioning?

I read a recent article that discussed this very topic: the terms high functioning and low functioning.

Overall, the article discussed the following:

*The terms are not diagnostic terms, yet are more like “laymens” terms, used as a shorthand way to describe approximately where a person with autism lands on the autism spectrum.

*They quite common.

*They are often misinterpreted or not used correctly.

*The “functioning” labels have general uses, and they are needed, for the most part, however they can also be misunderstood, disliked, and/or used incorrectly.

(For example, in my last blog, I discussed how I thought – a total guess – that the young man I had interacted with was not as high functioning as my own child. And, that perhaps, he or his aide was using the term incorrectly.)

*The major problem with using any term to describe a person with autism is that individuals with often (most times) do not easily fall into one term or one label, etc. It is a spectrum for a reason. Autism is that complex to live with and to understand.

*The article even hits on issues that people with autism may suffer when described by a label. They may not want a label.

I really enjoyed the article. Not only did it touch on a subject I had just discussed, but it very thoroughly and with great understanding discusses this delicate issue.

High functioning vs. low functioning autism, does it really matter? Do we need the labels? Do the people on the spectrum need them, or just the general population? And, how does the general population respond to these labels?

Great discussion topic.

Footnote: For now, I will probably continue to describe my child as “high functioning.” He’s almost fifteen, so one thing I will probably do in the near future is ask him if he minds I used the term.

If he does mind, I will adjust accordingly. I don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable.

However, if he doesn’t mind, I will probably continue to use it, as a short hand, as a way of communication, as a way of connecting with people.

Another footnote: I do not believe that labels are always evil. Sometimes, I feel as if they’re rather harmless. Yes, sometimes they can be controversial, in certain circumstances. And, then some labels are simply negative and hurtful. However, overall, labels will always exist to some extent, and perhaps simply understanding them better can be more helpful.


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