On Functioning

I often wonder how most allistic (not autistic, but possibly still not neurotypical)/NT people define high and low functioning when it comes to autism.

Is it our communication? Does that account for simply being able to utter words or are social communication deficits acknowledged, too? How about if a person can be articulate on paper, but has little or not verbal communication?

Is it the ability to live alone/”independently”? Why is this only a factor for disabled individuals, not realizing for one second that we all depend on others, and why, though teased, my NT peers who didn’t move out of their parents’ home at age 18 weren’t ready to be independent, either, and that was okay for them, but concerning for me?

Is it the level of support we need? If we have parents/siblings/spouses who are willing to help, is that acceptable, but if we have to hire someone, do we automatically shift from high to low functioning according to allistic/NT standards?

I think, in the end, that we need to realize that we all have different strengths. My speech is odd but passable, and most people don’t realize that I was functionally nonverbal (but boy, could I sing!) until I was eight years old. I can’t make most phone calls without an extensive transcript of how the conversation will go and a list of phrases for an “out” if the auditory processing issues become too much to manage. I cannot go to certain stores because they are overwhelming and I cannot work with kids (who aren’t my own) for more than 5 hours without melting down or shutting down. I still find showering overwhelming and take quite awhile to dress myself as a coping mechanism for calming down from the showers that I must take. Schedule changes throw me for a loop, and though I do have a drivers license and do drive, I avoid it as much as possible and find I’m unable to do it at all in certain circumstances (if I’m tired and it’s both rainy and dark as night, I can’t do it). I have a BA in English and teacher’s certification in three additional subjects beside English, but I had trouble actually being a teacher – I found it difficult to come up with answers to wholly unexpected questions on the spot, and I taught in a very non-NT way that my ESE students loved, but my general Ed and honors students (save for the two kids diagnosed with AS and ADHD in the honors class) hated.

I prefer minimum wage or “easy” jobs because of the routine. I am lucky to be married to someone in the military who has a good wage, insurance,and job security. At nearly 32 years old, I am overqualified for most jobs and am fearfully considering studying for a second degree (this time in computer science) so I may have a career that will bring me more than the wages I currently receive and will, at the same time, provide me the routine I need.

There’s a statistic that 85% of autistic adults are unemployed or underemployed. That doesn’t surprise me in the least. Many jobs are inaccessible to me. I sure can write a blog, but few people want to hire the rocking, flapping, semi verbal woman who can’t make eye contact with any consistency, who still wears clothing more appropriate to the tween crowd.

Sure, I’m “high functioning”. To some people.