📆 January 31, 2023 | ⏱️ 1 minute read | 🏷️ autism

On the Term "Low Functioning Autism"

My last entry was about the term “high-functioning autism”. This entry is about the term “low-functioning autism”.

My main complaint about terms like “low-functioning autism” and “high-functioning autism” aren’t that they’re inaccurate, just that they lend itself to misinterpretation. Neurotypicals get the impression that autism can be understood using some binary or linear scale, rather than seeing it for the multidimensional spectrum that it is.

When neurotypicals hear “high-functioning”, they think of someone who doesn’t require any extra help. When they hear “low-functioning”, they imagine someone who’s incapable of doing anything for themselves. Many “low-functioning” folks are quite capable in many domains and it’s patronizing when you assume that they’re not just because of their label. I think the language “low-functioning” contributes to this confusion.

Thus I’ve recently taken to calling “low-functioning autism” “high support needs autism” instead and I suggest you do the same.