Today and yesterday I was “high functioning.”
I made phone calls. Scary phone calls – to the bank, to my student loan company. I went to Walmart. I’m high functioning, you see. I went to the Sprint store because my cell phone wouldn’t activate and you know, it’s kind of hard to make phone calls without a functional phone. You would have no idea how hard I was working at being high functioning and passing in a world that’s equipped to speak out against me.
I see so many things on the internet about being high functioning. Functioning labels are bullshit and I think they need to be eradicated. They don’t help me define myself, but rather help others define me. They don’t help me get services or agency, rather they deny me service and agency.
You know how I mentioned I was “high functioning”?
Later that same day, my PCA had to make me food for the weekend to freeze so I can actually eat. Because I cannot use a stove by myself. That’s right, the same “high functioning” person cannot use a stove without serious risk of injury to myself or my apartment. I’ve melted a blender and set fires. I wore children’s shoes with velcro because I couldn’t tie my shoes that day. I played with the rubber coil bracelet I always wear on my right risk.
And today, after more phone calls, I am now non verbal. Talking isn’t possible. I can type and communicate, but my “signs” are more severe. The truth is autism is exhausting.
The world calls me high functioning. Parents say “you are not like my child” even though I was once your child and your child will someday be me. I have very real struggles and very real issues. I don’t hate being autistic. I don’t think autism is evil. But it doesn’t change the fact they are very real, and very annoying struggles. It doesn’t change the fact that I need supervision – I will literally walk into things or people unless I have someone telling me “hey, watch out!”. I can’t use a stove. I can’t do many executive function tasks.
I would love to be able to eat whatever food I want. But I can’t. I would love to be able to talk whenever I wanted about what I wanted but the words literally become stuck inside me and there’s no way to pick them out. We are like your child. We have experienced things your child has. But when we try to speak out, when we try to say anything, you shut us down. And you are helping your children internalize the message that their autism is something to be ashamed of. That they are lower functioning and that their lives aren’t worth living. That they are burdens.
What I need isn’t your labels. Your labels help you define me, not help me define myself. What I need isn’t for you to tell me what my functioning is. What I need for you is to listen when I talk to you. What I need for you is to accept me. I don’t need your awareness and I don’t need your labels. All your labels do is dehumanize me. All your labels do is tell me how you expect me to live up and the standards you keep me to. Despite the fact that countless other autistic advocates, dozens upon dozens of activists, and myself are telling you how harmful these labels are, you insist on using them.
Today and yesterday I was high functioning.
Right now, I am low functioning.
But the truth is, I am neither and that’s acceptable. I am living.