People misinterpret functioning labels

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starkid
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01 Aug 2020, 12:00 pm

Honestly I've grown tired of everyone saying that they don't agree with functioning labels "because different traits can be at different levels and functioning can change from day to day." It's starting to seem like some are just parroting what other people say.

"High-functioning" and "low-functioning" were never intended to describe every single autistic trait nor every fluctuation in ability. They are broad categories for distinguishing between people who have fundamental abilities like dressing themselves, going out alone, being potty trained, etc. and people who lack those abilities and need continual support with basic tasks of everyday living.

If people want to go into detail about how they function and/or how much support they need, obviously those two labels are not the right terms, but that doesn't mean that something is wrong with them as descriptive terms.


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Jiheisho
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01 Aug 2020, 1:39 pm

I agree, labels are complex, partly because they need context. I am "high-functioning" in terms of the autism population, not in terms of the general population. And the function we are referring to is in regards to specific areas. When thrown out as a general label, it is inadequate.

The other problem, especially in context to NTs, is people simply don't have experience with autism and cannot relate to the challenges. I mean, what is so hard about social communication? Why can't you simply think of other? But as we know, that is really not that easy. But NTs function in those area so intuitively they simply can't understand how that is a challenge.



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01 Aug 2020, 2:57 pm

Just to clarify, which one is which? I assume high functioning are those who do look after themselves and those who struggle are low functioning?


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Joe90
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01 Aug 2020, 5:46 pm

There are no specific symptoms or behaviours that define whether a person is high-functioning or low-functioning. It just depends on the person.

But I do believe that there ARE autistic people that are higher functioning or lower functioning than other autistic people. Autism is a spectrum, and the dictionary definition of "spectrum" is: "used to classify something in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme points."

Quite often high-functioning autistics or Aspies are verbal and often articulate. Intelligence doesn't always come into it, as a person with moderate to severe autism can be very intelligent.

I'm a textbook example of a person on the high-functioning end of the spectrum (or a person with Asperger's). I can hold down a job and a relationship, I don't need any outside support, I am capable of being independent, I can express my feelings, I can communicate effectively, and I can still function during or after a meltdown. Also I don't "look autistic", meaning I don't visibly stim, and I can come across as 'normal' in my social behaviours.
Not every high-functioning Aspie is going to be exactly the same as me regarding how their symptoms, abilities and behaviours are displayed, as like I said in the first paragraph, every person on the spectrum is different to one another. But I still qualify as a high-functioning Aspie.


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killerBunny
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01 Aug 2020, 5:53 pm

I just say I'm on the sexy side of the autism spectrum. Adonis like looks with absolutely no social skills to put them to use. God has a sense of humour



Jiheisho
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01 Aug 2020, 5:57 pm

killerBunny wrote:
I just say I'm on the sexy side of the autism spectrum. Adonis like looks with absolutely no social skills to put them to use. God has a sense of humour


Yes, but apparently autistic people don't...

:wink:

:D



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02 Aug 2020, 1:13 am

starkid wrote:
Honestly I've grown tired of everyone saying that they don't agree with functioning labels "because different traits can be at different levels and functioning can change from day to day." It's starting to seem like some are just parroting what other people say.

"High-functioning" and "low-functioning" were never intended to describe every single autistic trait nor every fluctuation in ability. They are broad categories for distinguishing between people who have fundamental abilities like dressing themselves, going out alone, being potty trained, etc. and people who lack those abilities and need continual support with basic tasks of everyday living.

If people want to go into detail about how they function and/or how much support they need, obviously those two labels are not the right terms, but that doesn't mean that something is wrong with them as descriptive terms.

I'm "high functioning" and I can't be trusted to go out of the house alone, esp. if there's people involved. People have so much problem with the functioning labels not because of the labels themselves but the expectatonis people have frm those who are of those labels. People expect little of peple who are low functioning and that can often be harmful and as for teh higher functioning people. People expect them to be fully functioning members of society. I remember my dad putting those expectations on me aswell.


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carlos55
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02 Aug 2020, 10:42 am

starkid wrote:
Honestly I've grown tired of everyone saying that they don't agree with functioning labels "because different traits can be at different levels and functioning can change from day to day." It's starting to seem like some are just parroting what other people say.

"High-functioning" and "low-functioning" were never intended to describe every single autistic trait nor every fluctuation in ability. They are broad categories for distinguishing between people who have fundamental abilities like dressing themselves, going out alone, being potty trained, etc. and people who lack those abilities and need continual support with basic tasks of everyday living.

If people want to go into detail about how they function and/or how much support they need, obviously those two labels are not the right terms, but that doesn't mean that something is wrong with them as descriptive terms.


I agree with the sentiment, functioning levels were only a casual means of describing level of need from one autistic to the next. Although LF is often just referred as severe autism. I understand fl can fluctuate a bit sometimes.

The problem is some advocates take it personally, wanting everything rephrased to white wash the disability element, they get offended when confronted with this & everyone has to pretend for their sake.



firemonkey
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02 Aug 2020, 11:08 am

At the end of the day it's just the OPs opinion that functioning labels are being misinterpreted by all and sundry.


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Jiheisho
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02 Aug 2020, 12:11 pm

firemonkey wrote:
At the end of the day it's just the OPs opinion that functioning labels are being misinterpreted by all and sundry.


Probably based on the OPs experience or perception. Do we know that these labels are not being misinterpreted? Do you have any insight?



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02 Aug 2020, 12:14 pm

starkid wrote:
Honestly I've grown tired of everyone saying that they don't agree with functioning labels "because different traits can be at different levels and functioning can change from day to day." It's starting to seem like some are just parroting what other people say.

"High-functioning" and "low-functioning" were never intended to describe every single autistic trait nor every fluctuation in ability. They are broad categories for distinguishing between people who have fundamental abilities like dressing themselves, going out alone, being potty trained, etc. and people who lack those abilities and need continual support with basic tasks of everyday living.

If people want to go into detail about how they function and/or how much support they need, obviously those two labels are not the right terms, but that doesn't mean that something is wrong with them as descriptive terms.


I agree. It always looks weird when people try to argue that they are low functioning. If you can have this conversation, you are high functioning.



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02 Aug 2020, 12:24 pm

I agree with what others have said. This is a pros and cons situation (like the vast majority of situations). Pros of functioning labels are description and diagnosis for the sake of helping, making accommodations, understanding, etc. Cons are stigma and expectations (low expectations and stigma with low function, and relatively higher expectations with high function, but it's important to understand even high function is on the autism spectrum, and even low function can be a mislabel or can develop skills to move up to a higher level). In an ideal situation, high functioning autism can look "normal" or even "NT" (for those who prefer)...but there can be unseen issues going on beneath the surface, seeing a high functioning autistic person as basically NT is probably a superficial analysis. Usually digging beneath the surface, into the person's past, etc., you do still find underlying autism issues. Low functioning is the same way. Someone appears one way on the surface (and does have a level 1 functioning diagnosis), and then you find out they have unusual talents, or they just need to be given a chance and show they are capable of more, etc. So the lesson is to not judge a book by its cover (low or high is relative), give the functioning label based on extensive analysis and specific criteria, and then keep an open mind about its possibility to change, and also realize there's a spectrum within each level (high functioning level 1, low functioning level 1, etc).



firemonkey
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02 Aug 2020, 1:06 pm

QFT wrote:

I agree. It always looks weird when people try to argue that they are low functioning. If you can have this conversation, you are high functioning.


Very few people when things are split into subcategories are wholly high or low functioning. I don't claim to be a level 3 type, but neither am I as high functioning as participation on a forum like this would suggest.


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QFT
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02 Aug 2020, 2:30 pm

firemonkey wrote:
QFT wrote:

I agree. It always looks weird when people try to argue that they are low functioning. If you can have this conversation, you are high functioning.


Very few people when things are split into subcategories are wholly high or low functioning. I don't claim to be a level 3 type, but neither am I as high functioning as participation on a forum like this would suggest.


When you say "they aren't fully high functioning" you mean to say "they have some difficulties". Well, of course they do: thats why they are on the spectrum on the first place. So yes, "high functioning autistics" are expected to have some difficulties (since they are still autistics).

The difference between high functioning and low functioning is basically this: high functioning individual is still living in this world, just has lots of difficulties along the way. The low functioning individual isn't there to begin with.

I actually have an example of low functionion individual back from high school. I went to high school for normal kids, but it had a special ed class and one guy -- named Jonathan -- who was in that class was sitting in the school yard during lunch so all the normal kids could see him. In any case, he was rocking back and forth and making weird sounds. There was staff that was looking after him to make him go to class after the lunch is over or go to that place he was sitting when the lunch was about to start (he couldn't walk by himself without staff). Also he was non-verbal and understood just a couple of words. For example, the staff would give him pop-corn and say "Johanthan, pop corn". He understood this. But that was about it.

Another example of someone low functioning is Rainman. He is certainly doing better than Jonathan, but he still doesn't have any concept of what is going on. I mean, he had no idea about the whole context of that trip and so forth, he only cared about irrelevant stuff such as "syrup has to be there before the pancakes". Now, how many people here on Wrong Planet would make posts about syrup being before the pancakes? I haven't seen any.

In any case, these two examples is what I picture when one says "low functioning". So clearly any of the problems we are talking about here in Wrong Planet have nothing to do with it.



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02 Aug 2020, 2:38 pm

Functioning labels were based on having an IQ above (high-functioning) or below 70 (low functioning). They were never officially in the DSM or the ICD as diagnostic labels. They don't give any indication of the severity of someone's autism. There are people with "severe" autism with IQ above 70 and people with "mild" autism with IQ below 70.



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02 Aug 2020, 2:43 pm

Joe90 wrote:
I can hold down a job and a relationship, I don't need any outside support, I am capable of being independent, I can express my feelings, I can communicate effectively, and I can still function during or after a meltdown.


I am curious about three items that you listed:

a) Holding a relationship
b) Expressing feelings
c) Communicating effectively

I always thought of these three things as the key problems "all" autistics have -- both high functioning and not. And yes I remember you also mentioning having problems in these areas -- at least as a child. Or maybe I am misunderstanding the "extend" of the problems you have?

If someone has serious problems in these areas (which are strictly social intersetions) while having no issues with independence or self care, I would define that person as high functioning. Are you saying you disagree with this?