For the uninformed, functioning labels are terms like high functioning autism, low functioning autism, mild autism, severe autism. Other words like moderate or level 1, level 2, etc may be used too.
Functioning labels are extremely offensive because they’re placed on autistic people based on observation from the outside. This is problematic for three reasons.
- Functioning labels determine how autistic people are treated. People associate “low functioning/severe” with incompetence or infancy and they end up treating the autistic person like a pet or a baby. High functioning/mild gets stereotyped as people who are just a little quirky and their difficulties get ignored as laziness or intentional stubbornness.
- Functioning labels imply brokenness and treat people as if their intrinsic value is determined by what they contribute to society rather than the fact that they are a living being with oxygen in their lungs and blood in their veins like everybody else.
- Functioning labels create a dichotomy as if there are differing “levels” of autism or that people exist on different areas of the spectrum. NO, NO, NO, that’s not how it is.
Think of spectroscopy and how the elements create their own signature color lines. Now put peoples’ names in place of the elements: Hydrogen/Harold, Helium/Henry, Lithium/Luke, Oxygen/Olga, Carbon/Carol, Nitrogen/Nadine.
Autism is like that. We’re all on the same spectrum and all that is unique is how we display our symptoms, our sensory issues, our splinter abilities and so forth.
In light of that, I want to change the language. Let’s start pushing for support levels instead of functioning labels.
High support: Anyone who isn’t able to live independently and needs help with some or all of their basic daily living skills such as eating, bathing, basic grooming, putting on makeup, getting dressed and completing tasks. Can be abbreviated online or in writing as HSP for High Support Person or HSAP for High Support Autistic Person.
Usage in speech: Clarissa is a high support autistic person and needs assistance with getting dressed and taking a shower.
Abbreviated usage online: I’m a HSAP and I’m really into physics, so the poor sucker who signs me on is gonna hear a lot about it when they hand me my iPad!
Medium support: Anyone may or may not live independently and doesn’t need help with basic living skills, but needs help with other things like cooking, completing some tasks, transportation if unable to drive and assistance for things like grocery shopping. Can be abbreviated online or in writing as MSP for Medium Support Person or MSAP for Medium Support Autistic Person.
Usage in speech: Kevin is a medium support autistic person and needs some assistance to prepare meals and shop for the wood he uses for his carpentry projects. His boyfriend, Max, usually helps him with those.
Usage online: I’m a MSAP and I’m looking for info about saws. Any fellow auties know what’s best for cutting oak?
Low support: Anyone who more often than not lives independently and may only need assistance with minor things like balancing a checkbook, getting started on some tasks like organizing a garage sale or arranging to move from one house to another. Can be abbreviated online or in writing as LSP for Low Support Person or LSAP for Low Support Autistic Person.
Usage in speech: Jesse is a low support autistic person and she only needs help keeping her checkbook balanced.
Usage online: I’m a LSAP and I’m thinking about moving to Seattle. What’s the weather and traffic like there?
Reasons support levels are better:
- They don’t make assumptions about intelligence
- They don’t encourage infantilization or pity
- They sound more respectful and dignified
Ditch functioning labels and start using support levels. These terms can apply to practically every kind of disability, not just autism.
For the record, I’m a MSAP.
Please reblog this whether you’re disabled or not. Make this viral.
im gonna be that autistic asshole and say that these do not look at ALL better than the high/low functioning labels except in name.
in fact, the “levels” described are exactly what people think of when they divide autistic ppl into “function” terms, and the fact is that all of these are useless bc your average autistic person is “high” in some areas and “low” in others.
Example, myself: I am quite good at managing my money and doing things like organizing moves/garage sales/other projects. I can also go to school/work and come home regularly with little to no problem. But I have STUPID amounts of trouble doing things like feeding myself and most of the basic living skills under high support. I cannot live alone and eat/do laundry/other necessary tasks regularly, but I am extremely capable of keeping financial resources, taking care of my cat, and everything you’ve defined as a “minor task”. I live independently right now and while I am not dead, I’m not doing too great bc my eating is at stupidfuckdiculous levels of fail and lose. But I can do well enough in school to keep a fellowship, do multiple classes and work 4 jobs. …where do I fall on this? Nowhere.
These are just functioning labels, rebranded.
And this is even before getting into how abilities and skillsets can change (sometimes a LOT) over the course of one autistic person’s life, much less variance among different individuals.
Nypicals would still use it like ableist language. Like: “Oh you seem so normal, I’d never have guessed you were MSAP.” ::immediately starts babying the ASD person::
It’s tricky to find some way of communicating how we are to nypicals. Even other ASD folks have trouble. I have way more anxiety issues than Beloved, and I would be a rich person if I had a dollar for every time I got told, “just get over it.”
It’s taken literal years, but I’m finally getting some of the emotional support I need. My method? Keep explaining until they either get it or give up.
Yeah. “Emotionally draining” is just the start of it.