Why I hate functioning labels

I want you to read the two paragraphs below and as you’re reading them think which you would label ‘high functioning’ and which ‘low functioning’ based on your instincts.

P has regular sensory overloads and meltdowns, these cause P to feel physically ill and exhausted and mentally drained for days afterwards. They wear sunglasses and noise cancelling headphones whenever they leave their home. They have severe social anxiety and struggle to keep up with a conversation when with more than 3/4 people. They regularly go non verbal and often prefer to write things down. They struggle to express them self. They have a variety of stims, which can include self injury stims. They have severe executive function issues. 


G loves telling people about their special interest and could talk for hours about it, they have a very good long term memory. G lives alone, is studying and is verbal. They have a talent in the arts and have performed live many times in front of large audiences. They are in a relationship. 


So who did you give each functioning label to? (Was it P is ‘low functioning’ and G is ‘high functioning’?)

Maybe think why you thought what you did.
Here is one of a few reasons why functioning labels are something I hate. You see P and G are the same person, they’re both me!

Yes I purposely chose the bits of me people would associate with ‘low and high functioning’ and separated them, but it still stands all those factors are the same person. One day you may see me and I may seem to be ok, I may look like I’m coping socially, this is likely deceiving I’m likely panicking internally. Another day and I may be non verbal after a meltdown, so why base how you see me on a few hours or a day.

Functioning labels are also ableist. (I’m not an expert by the way and I may get terminology wrong along the way, I’ve just learnt stuff from reading things and coming to my own conclusions)

You see if someone is labelled ‘low functioning’ they’re deemed incapable, they often aren’t given a voice, often thought of as a burden. If someone is labelled as ‘high functioning’ they’re then often deemed ‘not autistic enough’ to have a voice in things related to autism, they aren’t provided with the care and support they need because people think they’re OK and can function.

Functioning labels serve no purpose, they’re ableist and illogical. You don’t know from someone’s exterior, behaviour, speech etc etc what they can or cannot do.

So yeah every time I see functioning levels mentioned or talked about I cringe and feel crap.

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2 thoughts on “Why I hate functioning labels

  1. great post! My spouse’s mother is a professor, and she does a similar thing where she presents two “people,” one “has 4 kids, is married to a lawyer, lives in the suburbs, has a well paying job, does pottery, travels the world for work and pleasure,” and the other “was born out of wedlock and was adopted, has family members who are drug addicts, had a baby by age 19, also out of wedlock, is estranged from her brother and sister, etc.” and then she blows the students away by saying they are all her.

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