High Functioning

3 October 2018

Dear friend,

Our big lad recently started secondary school and has also made the shift from mainstream to special school. It gave me a great sense of peace over the summer holidays to know that he would be moving into an environment that is set up to understand and support children with autism. But then...

Do you think they will find him 'too normal' at this school?
He is not what I expected at all. He's really good isn't he? He is really friendly and communicative.
Yes but he is different than the 'others' you can't tell by looking at him.
I thought he was really high functioning.

To hear this from people we know and some we love shocked me.

Our son has always been lost in this no-man's land between being 'too good' for specialist support and 'not good enough' for mainstream.

High functioning children with autism are often left out of the support scenario because there is not enough funding. We are used to fighting for the help that he needs. By moving into the special school system I hoped that the fight would become easier.

People like the linearity of a scale, we like to put things in boxes or to see where they fit and make comparisons.

Verbal, articulate people with autism are often placed at the top of the scale and labelled as high functioning whereas Non verbal people with autism are often placed at the bottom and labelled low functioning.


Autistic people can not be put neatly into a box or applied to a scale because autism is a spectrum disorder.

To use labels like 'normal' or 'high functioning' is not helpful to us because it belittles the difficulties that my son faces every single day. People assume that he won't need many or any accommodations because he is high functioning or looks or acts normal.

Functioning labels are not an accurate representation of the help that an autistic person needs.

High Functions does not mean, doesn't need any help!

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