Decoding the High Functioning Label

Musings of an Aspie

Aspies are often labeled high functioning by default. Some people even seem to think it’s a compliment.

“You must be very high functioning. You don’t seem autistic.”

“Why, thank you. And you’re not especially ugly.”

Because, yeah . . . being told you’re “not that autistic” like it’s a good thing is hard to swallow.

Functioning Labels in Practice

Applying functioning labels to autistic people is problematic. Maybe an example will help illustrate why.

I’ll describe two autistic women, Mary and Joan. See if you can tell which one is high functioning and which one is low functioning:

Mary is a wife and mother. She’s been steadily employed since age 16, has a BA degree and runs her own small business. She exercises regularly and is health conscious. When her daughter was younger, she volunteered for parent committees, hosted sleepovers, coached softball and drove carpool. As the more detail-oriented spouse…

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