Recently on Twitter we have been having some very good conversations in the #HighFunctioningMeans, #LowFunctioningMeans, and #FunctioningLabelsMean hashtags. It was a wonderful opportunity for the public to get an inside look at many ideas, perspectives and experiences they never really fully understood before.
In the #LowFunctioningMeans hashtag, a mother was tweeting what low functioning means from her perspective. This upset a number of people. For one, we already know what the “mommy” perspective is. That market is fully saturated by Autism Speaks and the various mommy blogs. Secondly, the point of the hashtag was to tell the world what low functioning means, when you are tagged as low functioning.
The tags were first-person accounts of what it is like to be labeled, and how useless those labels actually are in the real world. We gave first-hand examples of how the label was not an accurate description of our abilities and disabilities. I think this is a powerful way of teaching the world that functioning labels are quite pointless.
When a number of people pointed out to the lady that we preferred only autistics respond with stories, she kindly bowed out with this apology.
I don’t think she intended this to be offensive. In fact, based off of her tweets she sounds like a perfectly nice lady. But this is a perfect example of why functioning labels need to go. Her child is ‘low functioning’, therefore, has no voice of his own.
This just isn’t true. This is what we are fighting against with the functioning labels. That child does have a voice. He has his own way of communicating. It might not be the way you want it to be, or it may come in a convenient form, but we all have our own voice,
No one can ever speak for another person. Ever. If you have any allistic children think of when they were just starting to talk and mumbled a lot of gibberish. How often did you not have a clue what they were trying to say? How often did you try to translate for them only to have the child yell ‘No!’ because you got it wrong?
Parents mean well when they try to be the voice of their child, but please understand you do more harm than good. Yes, it is true you know your child better than anyone else. But you can never truly get inside another person’s head.