Judgements and Assumptions


Fiona O'Leary


I am an Autism advocate, have two Autistic children and also have a diagnosis of Aspergers.

I speak to Autistic people every day and I believe we as a Society need to listen to Autistic people much more, to learn about their individual experiences living on the Autistic spectrum.

What saddens me is seeing the many barriers that divide us in the Autistic community.

Often we are described as Low or High functioning, based on how we present to the person making the said assumption at that time.

In fact it has happened to me many times.

First I do not like the labels Low or High functioning because it is really nonsensical when you think about it.

Each of us have varying abilities alongside areas we do not function at so well in our lives.

This applies to all human beings.

So it is safe to say we are all Low and High functioning beings.

However making an assumption that an Autistic person is high functioning just on how they may present to you at that time, is very wrong and actually quite irresponsible.

Just because someone may be verbal and able to engage does not automatically mean that they are 'High Functioning' just as it also does not mean when someone cannot engage due to anxiety issues or communication difficulties that they are 'Low Functioning'.

By judging and labelling in this way we are instantly forming an opinion which leads to a perception that is inaccurate, as nobody knows the individual story of any person from such minimal engagement.

I have had this 'High Functioning' assumption aimed at me many times, most recently on a thread that I was part of on Facebook where more worryingly it was said by somebody who is training to work with Autistic children.

They said that "I had high functioning Autism" without ever meeting me or knowing one detail about my life.
Based on my comments they decided to diagnose me just on the fact that I could communicate my point of view indicating that somebody with 'Low functioning' Autism may not be able to do so.

These Judgements and Assumptions outrage me.

They are a sign that we do not understand Autism and also do not want to listen to Autistic voices.

We should instead look at Autistic people as unique and individual and not Low or High functioning.

These High and Low labels degrade Autistic people.

Saying Autistic people are "Low functioning" immediately delivers a strong negative message, just as saying Autistic people are "High functioning" makes light of many of the challenges Autistic people face in their lives.

"Oh but you are fine, you can talk, you have a husband and a family"

Immediately my own unique experience is being judged.

Just because I am married and have a family equates to me not having any challenges in my life?

"My goodness you are Autistic and you are married and have children"

I have had both of these statements said to me and witnessed the shock filled faces.

Parents of Autistic children and Professionals can learn a lot from Adults on the Spectrum.

Rather than continuously focusing on the Highs and Lows of Autism, why not see us for who we really are and accept and respect us as valued Human beings with an interesting story to tell.

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