The Mighty Logo

Please Don't Use the 'F' Word When Talking About Autistic People

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

This article may be controversial, but please hear me out!

This word is commonly used to “describe” those on the autism spectrum and is often inaccurate and wrong. The word is “functioning.”

I personally have some grievances with the word “functioning” in terms of describing those on the spectrum, as the word can do more harm than good. For example, someone on the autism spectrum who is described as “low-functioning” may be seen as “less than” everyone else, may be treated poorly or seen as “nonverbal” and that’s it. People may fail to notice they can communicate perfectly in other ways, or that they are incredibly intelligent and love to socialize, just in an alternative way.

The same goes for describing an autistic person as “high-functioning.” An autistic person who is described as “high-functioning” may have their struggles dismissed and be expected to “act normal.” They may also feel pressured to mask, to present themselves in a way that’s uncomfortable for them to keep up the “high-functioning” label and to adhere to the expectations and pressure placed on them.

Please re-think using the word “functioning” when it comes to autism. If you still wish to use it, please keep in mind it may cause harm to the autistic person you are describing. Functioning labels do not and cannot accurately describe the diversity of the autism spectrum.

Getty image by Doble-D.

Originally published: March 2, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home