The myths of “Not Autistic Enough” and high vs. low functioning

One of the most enraging attitudes I have confronted is the belief that autistic self-advocates can’t really advocate, because they are too high functioning, or not autistic enough. I’ve had it directed at me personally, and more recently felt compelled to call out Doctor Matthew Belmonte for dismissing Ari Ne’eman as not autistic enough to advocate for autistics. It is extremely offensive, and mindblowingly ignorant to boot.
Several neurotypical colleagues have commented on how well I write. One emailed me after reading my blog and wrote “You write brilliantly.” Others have mentioned how articulate I am. You likely know how good a writer I am because you’re reading my blog right now. But that’s my public face.
What you do not see is the effort I put into my written communication.
What you do not see is me carefully plotting out what I want to write, sometimes using pen and paper.
What you do not see is me going through every email, blogpost, report etc. I’ve written, then editing it relentlessly to be as clear and unambiguous as possible before transmitting it.
What you do not see is me writing out several paragraphs, only to delete everything because what I’ve written isn’t saying what I want it to say.
In addition:
You see someone who lives on his own, goes shopping for groceries, works out at gym regularly, enjoys going to the cinema and can function in public.
You see someone who can hold down a steady job testing software and was employed at the same company for over 12 years.
What you do not see is me staggering after a hectic day, because the stress has caused my fine motor control to fail.
What you do not see is me having to shout or play loud music to blast intrusive thoughts out of my head. (When autistics get intrusive thoughts, they are REALLY damned intrusive.)
What you do not see is me frantically rubbing my hair because a story on the news infuriated me.
What you do not see is my executive dysfunction, which means I often can’t get started on something, even when I know I really should, and fixate on things I really shouldn’t.
What you do not see is me being unable to watch most sitcoms, because the characters’ stupidity gives me such acute secondhand embarrassment that it’s actually painful. The later seasons of Frasier were particularly excruciating.
I can guarantee you that, were you to speak to any autistic self advocate, they would tell you similar things about the problems they face, problems that do not occur to neurotypicals.
Somebody (not me) once wrote about the dangers of using the labels “high functioning” and “low functioning”. To paraphrase: “High Functioning dismisses our problems, Low Functioning dismisses our abilities.”
Another problem with “high functioning” vs. “low functioning” is that one person can be both.
An autistic wrote this.
Read it and grok it.

About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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