Who Decides If I Am ‘High-Functioning’ or ‘Low-Functioning’ as an Autistic Person?


I once had a boyfriend who broke my heart. I thought he was my boyfriend, at least, but he thought otherwise. Am I “high-functioning” because I had a boyfriend? Am I “low-functioning” because my heart was broken or because I didn’t realize we weren’t actually an item? Am I more “high-functioning” because I’m autistic and had this relationship, no matter if we were actually together or not?

How confusing are the labels of high- and low-functioning? I just want to trash them, to be honest. The main definition of function is “to work or operate in a proper or particular way.” Who decides what is proper? Is it not completely subjective? Am I less “functioning” because I happen to be autistic and have bipolar disorder? Am I only less “functioning” during an episode?

The verbal world can be exhausting to me. I burn out easily and need to sleep it off before I can handle any more. This is because, compared to the average person, I process other people’s words slowly. Does this make me “low-functioning”? I have an above average IQ, though — does that make me “high-functioning”? If there are times I prefer not to speak, does that make me “lower-functioning” because I’m not living up to someone else’s standard of what’s comfortable and acceptable?

What I’ve written may have confused you a little bit. That might be because it’s mostly subjective, and questions like this cannot be answered in such a black-and-white manner. “High- and low-functioning” is black and white, while this world is colorful and full of very different people. Only seeing someone’s difference as being a negative is ignoring the brilliance of that person, and only focusing on someone’s “sameness” is ignoring the struggles that person might face. It dismisses the fact that what’s assumed is the need to adjust to someone else’s standard of what’s “proper.”

In short, I would just like to say that I think I am simply functioning. Maybe not to your standards, but my own. I may not be able to sing at all, but I can paint and draw, and that’s enough for me.

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