High-functioning. Low-functioning. Moderate to severe. Mild autism. Aspergers. These are some of the labels associated with autism. Labels that many parents, including myself, don’t care for.
When the subject of my son’s autism is broached, people typically say things like “at least he’s high-functioning” or “your son is so high-functioning…” Oh really? He is? That’s news to me! These are usually some of the thoughts running through my head as I try not to roll my eyes.
I want to say to those who define and label my son, please don’t.
In the early days, I hadn’t come to terms with Max’s autism diagnosis. I was consumed with whether or not he was high-functioning, it was all I could think about. I asked everyone and anyone who had a clue about autism whether or not they thought Max was on the milder end of the spectrum. “Is he high-functioning?” “How do I know if he’s high-functioning?” Those were the only questions that would come out of my mouth. The response would go something like this: “hard to say, he’s too young.” That answer would drive me nuts. It’s not what I wanted to hear.
As time went by, I was slowly able to let go and focus on the bigger picture. However, I couldn’t escape it. People all around me would say things like “he’s high-functioning, right?” or “he’s high-functioning, he’ll be fine.”
People’s intentions are good and they mean well, but I don’t need or want anyone’s assessment. I’d rather focus on all of the good in my son. I’d much rather talk about the gains he’s making and the hard work he endures every single day to achieve a skill or a goal that usually comes so easily to others. Instead of labeling him as high-functioning, I want to say “come to my house and spend an afternoon with us and then tell me whether or not you think he’s high-functioning.”
My son has come so far and he still has a long way to go. Will he be able to go to school with little to no assistance? Will I ever have a meaningful conversation with my son? Will he ever be able to go to the washroom by himself without my help? Will he ever be able to pick out his own clothes and dress himself? The answer to all of these questions is: I don’t know.
So you see, labeling my son, or any child with autism, doesn’t benefit anyone. Our children already face so many challenges as it is. It’s time to cast the labels aside and see our children for who they really are, wonderful and amazing people.