This is a line I hear very often. There’s a few different variations, but the most common one is “you are too high-functioning to understand”. And I’ll tell you straight away, this is one of the most irritating, belittling and quite frankly insulting lines you could ever say to an Autistic individual. And here’s why;
when people say this line to me, what they are saying is that I am not “Autistic enough” to understand something. Believe it or not, I get this line directed at me most of all from parents of Autistic children, who perhaps disagree with me on something. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, in fact I enjoy a good debate on Autism as much as anyone. What I cannot stand, however, is people then trying to undermine me by claiming I’m “too high-functioning” and therefore don’t know what I’m talking about.
Some of you may be slightly puzzled at this point and asking “what the hell is high-functioning?”, allow me to explain. Whilst the Autistic Spectrum is very diverse and unique for every person who is Autistic, in the past there has been attempts to”sort out” the spectrum, if you will (these are not my views, I don’t like functioning labels at all for reasons that will become clear), and they tried to do this by dividing Autism into two “groups”; Low-functioning, and high-functioning.
So called “high functioning” Autistics are deemed to be people who have the ability to communicate verbally, and are able to articulate themselves verbally and interact socially with others.
“Low-functioning” Autism is deemed to be individuals who are unable to communicate verbally, and are perceived as being unable to communicate, or are very limited in their communication.
This is where it all goes wrong. People assume “high-functioning” Autistics are in some way less Autistic than “low functioning” Autistics. And that’s an absolutely absurd notion. You can’t be a wee bit Autistic, or slightly Autistic. In the same way you can’t be a wee bit pregnant, or slightly pregnant. You are either pregnant, or you are not. Equally, you are either Autistic, or you are not.
I’m sure you are starting to see why functioning labels are a source of considerable frustration within the Autistic community. People are obsessed with putting us into one of these two camps, and I know why people do it. People do say to me “you don’t seem Autistic”, and honestly it takes a lot of restraint not to swear at them. Would you walk up to someone with a prosthetic limb and say “but you don’t seem disabled?”. No, because its offensive, and ignorant in the extreme.
My main issue with people attempting to label me as a “type” of Autistic, is that there is almost always an ulterior motive. For example, certain groups of people would argue that because they deem me to be “high-functioning”, that I cannot speak for “low-functioning” Autistics.
Yes, people will actually argue that with me. They will argue that, because I’m not “autistic enough” in their eyes, that my view is irrelevant.
I make no apologies for who I am. I don’t fit the stereotype for an Autistic person. Nor do 99% of Autistic people. Because that stereotype is 50 years out of date, it is flawed, offensive and just downright wrong. It’s 2017, we are told stereotyping people is wrong, and not to do it. So why when it comes to Autistic people, is it okay?