Do You Think High and Low-functioning Should Be Used?

I prefer to use autism or ASD because I believe high and low-functioning autism creates a false perception of The Autism Spectrum. To me and I imagine many others, low-functioning and high-functioning create the image of a horizontal line with one side saying "most autistic" and the other side saying "least autistic", especially since I hear people say "end of the spectrum." 

I see The Autism Spectrum as more of a circle divided with each section representing a difficulty, with the individual in the centre having a variation of difficulties with differing levels of severity to one another. Like someone described as low-functioning may be able to walk through shops with no oversensitivity while someone described as high-functioning can have a higher level of severity in sensory processing that it's too hard and not be able to.

Do you think we should avoid the use of high and low-functioning as they're not clinical terms anyway?

  • its mainly because its a spectrum, and i guess for inclusions sake maybe? to make it so the ones that appear more functioning dont get excluded entirely and abandoned. and probably because they keep merging new stuff into it all the time like aspergers and so on, hell at one point autism was supposedly on the schizophrenic spectrum instead just like aspergers now being on the autistic spectrum. so things change and definitions switch, it will likely again change in the future or be a part of another condition or add more conditions to its sphere or whatever.

  • In my experience, the range is used to make decisions on the level of support offered.      High functioning = tough luck.

    Naturally, the rating is done by an NT based on other NT's observations on that particular day while performing certain tasks.

    As you say, just because I'm classed as high functioning, it just means I'm better at hiding the anxiety and stress I'm feeling.

    It might also mean I'm dumb for hiding that stress.

  • There's a comedian called Hannah Gadsby who was diagnosed as an adult and in one of her TV specials she says, "I have what is termed as 'High functioning autism'. That's a TERRIBLE name for what I have because it implies that I function *highly*. I do not!". And I agree with her. I function. But I can't say I function highly. You're right though,  it's to do with the support needed. Low functioning: needs support, possibly lots of it. High functioning: needs less support, probably offered none! Why they don't just change it to high support or low support, I don't know. 

  • I thought they'd re-named it Levels One, Two and Thee, which I find much more acceptable.

    'Low Functioning' is a brutal term.


  • i think using the general discription 'autism' is right, my son has a learning disability also, so i say hes autistic and has dyslexia, for me autism is him and the dyslexia is his struggle. same would be for someone who is non verbal, adhd etc

  • Ben,

    High and low-functioning were not terms made by the professionals, people looking and judging came up with the terms and they've become very popular, I see parents of autistic children using them, people in online autism communities using them, I get tired of having to correct them.

  • It depends where you're based, some areas (and countries) officially used the term until the diagnostics manual changed. Even now it's still used occasionally. A woman in my local group has it in black and white in her recently received assessment report "ASD, Level 1, high functioning". It's wrong but it happens. And you don't 'have' to correct them, you 'want' to correct them. Lol! I'm the same! 

  • That taps into the old discussion, "Do you prefer 'person with autism' or 'autistic person'?". Apparently, the first concentrates on the person and the second concentrates on the autism. Personally I have no preference but some people get very heated about it. 

  • Probably not. That's my answer. I don't think anyone has come up with a justification for making the distinction. From reading about this, I've come to see these labels are misleading because they do not take into account the variety of different autistics experiences.

  • I don’t think the terms high functioning and low functioning should be used because they can cause offence and are only accurate descriptors of how autistic people present to neurotypicals (mask). 

    Also because autism is a form of neurodivergence, it affects everything and is contextual. This means that supports needs are very variable and change all the time, so the term autistic should just be used. Functioning labels are offensive, too simplistic and are only easy for neurotypical people to use.. Autism is not a linear spectrum.