THE AUTISTIC DILEMMA – FUNCTIONING LABELS
TOO AUTISTIC OR NOT AUTISTIC ENOUGH
FALSELY LABELING FUNCTIONING
I am going to introduce you to a concept I have been thinking about a lot recently related to functioning labels.
I call it “The Autistic Dilemma” and it describes the following:
OTHER PEOPLE DECLARE AUTISTIC PEOPLE EITHER TOO AUTISTIC OR NOT AUTISTIC ENOUGH
AND EITHER WAY AUTISTIC PEOPLE SUFFER NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES.
The Autistic Dilemma is based on these false assumptions related to functioning:
1. That there is such a thing as being ‘more’ or ‘less’ autistic.
2. That being ‘more’ or ‘less’ autistic justifies treating these perceived groups differently.
3. That other people have more of a right to designate how impaired the autistic person is than autistic people themselves.
AUTISTIC PEOPLE CONSIDERED NOT AUTISTIC ENOUGH ARE…
…silenced in autism discourse because “They can’t understand real autism!”.
…not diagnosed because “They don’t seem autistic!”.
…denied support because “They can do so much, they can do this too!” or “They could do this yesterday, they can do it today!”
…denied adequate healthcare because “They don’t act like a person who is/has X!”
…spoken over despite voicing their own views.
AUTISTIC PEOPLE CONSIDERED TOO AUTISTIC ARE…
…silenced in autism discourse because “They don’t have the capacity to understand this!” or “They can’t communicate what they want!”
…presumed incompetent because “They can’t even speak/tie their shoes/go to the bathroom alone etc.”
…denied opportunities because “They can’t do this anyway!”
…denied adequate healthcare because “That’s just their autism!”
…spoken for without considering they even have their own views.
It doesn’t matter which category you are assigned to, you suffer negative consequences because of it.
Even if you have the ability to change the category you fall into (through either masking or being openly autistic), you suffer negative consequences because of it.
And you cannot exist outside of these categories because the third category of all of us just being autistic with individual varying support needs is denied by other people.
That is the dilemma all autistic people face.
THE AUTISTIC DILEMMA AS A SILENCING TACTIC
Both options of the Autistic Dilemma are often actively used by others to silence autistic voices. They are applied by harmful people every time an autistic person speaks up against someone or something harmful.
Even though people who use the Autistic Dilemma against autistic people suggest that there is a “right amount” of autistic where they would consider our voices – there really is no such thing for them. To them the only “right” kind of autistic person is the kind that agrees with them. And then it suddenly doesn’t matter anymore how their autism presents.
The Autistic Dilemma is a convenient tool for harmful people because it means they don’t have to engage in any kind of discussion or defend their actions or views. All they have to do is declare the autistic person incapable of participating in the discussion in the first place. Declaring them either “too autistic” or “not autistic enough” does that.
This leaves the other people in total control of everything concerning autism. This is why they came up with this tactic in the first place: to control the autism narrative. And to control autistic people.
HOW THE AUTISTIC DILEMMA IS PERPETUATED
We have all come across one or several of the following statements before. They all perpetuate the Autistic Dilemma. This is not a complete list by any means.
NOT AUTISTIC ENOUGH
“You are nothing like my autistic child!”
“You don’t look autistic.”
“Severely autistic people DO want a cure! You wouldn’t understand.”
“You can’t be autistic because…”
“Severely autistic people DO suffer from autism! You wouldn’t understand.”
“You can communicate just fine in writing so you can’t be that autistic.”
“Maybe ABA isn’t right for YOU – but it’s right for severely autistic people.”
“You can’t speak for ALL autistics!”
“You are high functioning so you obviously don’t need help.”
“Low functioning autistic people are a burden.”
“Low functioning autistic people belong in institutions.”
“Their autism is too severe, they can’t be included!”
“This person doesn’t understand autonomy or consent so I get to decide for them.”
“Only a cure can save severely autistic people.”
“Only ABA works to help severely autistic people.”
“If you can’t handle it, just stay home.”
“I know what’s best for them.”
“Low functioning autistic people wouldn’t understand sex ed and shouldn’t have sex anyway.”
“They are non-verbal so there’s no way to know what they think!”
IN REALITY ALL AUTISTIC PEOPLE ARE EQUAL
Despite people, especially people in a position of power, perpetuating the Autistic Dilemma we have to fight it and its false premises. All autistic people are equal. Only if we are treated equally will there ever be real autism acceptance. And only if all autistic people are treated as equals will of us end up receiving the support we need.
What is seen from the outside as autistic people being more or less autistic in reality are individually varying support needs. Not varying degrees of autism. Functioning labels are always inaccurate and harmful.
- CO-OCCURRING CONDITIONS
- PUBLIC STATEMENTS