Functioning Labels are Ableist Nonsense

Functioning Labels are Ableist Nonsense

"Yes, autism is a spectrum, but not in the way that neurotypicals think."
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Content note: This article contains discussion of ableist language and behavior. At some of the links, there is further discussion of ableist abuse.

There are a lot of harmful binaries in the world; although not excusable, it is understandable that people cling to them. We like black-and-white concepts, concrete truths, and ideas of good and bad that it is simple to parse out. Unfortunately, human beings are never truly that simple, and disabled people– specifically autistic people, as I am discussing this week (and throughout this month)– are just as complicated.

Neurotypicals have a tendency to categorize autistic people as either high-functioning or low-functioning. An easy way to understand exactly what these terms connote is this: “high-functioning” means “better able to pass as ‘normal’” and “low-functioning” means “less/un-able to pass as ‘normal’”.

Another way to conceive of functioning labels (one that may make some uncomfortable, but one I think is most apt) is “high value” and “low value”. High-functioning autistics are more likely to be able to speak, navigate social situations, hold down a job, drive, and perform other tasks that neurotypicals assign value to; ones they view as essential to being a normal human being. Low-functioning autistics may be unable to talk, or unable to talk in a way that neurotypicals find appealing. They may never be able to pass as neurotypical and are more likely to be confined to special-education and never hold a job.

Our capitalist system assigns the most value to someone able to be productive and convenient, and our society which pathologizes anything that pushes the boundaries of our arbitrary norms. So, many are comfortable assigning a condescending label, low-functioning, to “unproductive and abnormal” people. There are a number of problems with these means of categorization, and the consequences of them can be disastrous.

For one thing, functioning labels, by normalizing a normal/abnormal binary, also normalize abusive therapy techniques, such as ABA. By seeking to “correct” so-called abnormal (and entirely non-harmful) behaviors, they are erasing the unique ways in which autistic people exist. Oftentimes, these practices traumatize them in the process.

These labels also overlook the uniqueness of each autistic person– the fact that everyone, regardless of an arbitrary label, has different struggles and strengths that can’t be neatly categorized. What if someone can drive, but can’t talk? Can attend a mainstream school but struggles to socialize? Can make eye contact, but covers their ears at certain sounds? Functioning labels are unacceptably reductive of the fullness of autistic lives.

Functioning labels justify forms of ableism against both high-and-low-functioning people. People labeled high-functioning are not given autism-specific help when they need it, because neurotypicals, seeing them as “nearly normal”, believe they do not need it. Low-functioning people are condescended to or isolated because they deviate too much from the norm. High-functioning people may not receive an autism diagnosis until adulthood, and then not viewed as valid in their autism when they are. Low-functioning people may be reduced to a diagnosis, and seen as subhuman, “stupid”, and unworthy of attention.

Yes, autism is a spectrum, but not in the way that neurotypicals think. It is not a spectrum with “less autism” on one side and “more autism” on the other. Rather, each autistic person has different qualities, some “more normal” and some “less normal”, and sometimes, this changes with the day and situation.

If you truly want to be “aware” of autism this month, please be aware that autistic people are not divisible into monolithic categories. Functioning labels inhibit any hope of acceptance for autistic people by ranking them according to adherence to normalcy, and this is not okay.

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr / @phineasfrogg

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65 Truths College Students Need to Hear Right Now

Truth every college student needs to hear.
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1. The best memories are ones you actually can remember.

2. God isn’t going to ask you if you were in a top-tier sorority or fraternity at the gates.

3. You failed a test, not your life.

4. Numbers don’t define you.

5. That includes the number you see that is your grade.

6. Also, how much you weigh.

7. As well as if you are a “7/10” on a so-called “hot scale.”

8. Or if you can bench press 200 lbs. (@ all the guys at the gym, please chill.)

SEE ALSO: 7 Reminders Every College Student Needs To Hear Before The Semester Ends

9. Innocence is nothing to be ashamed of.

10. Neither are mistakes.

11. But learn from your mistakes. Mistakes can be lessons, which can be the biggest blessing.

12. Your metabolism isn’t what it used to be and that is okay.

13. You may not always understand what God is doing, but I promise He has a plan.

14. Every person you meet is battling their own struggles.

15. Life isn’t always great moments.

16. But you have to walk through the forest to get to the mountain top.

17. Your heart isn’t damaged. It is temporarily broken but it will be fixed.

18. However, the only one who can fix a broken heart is the one who created it.

19. So a cute boy or hot girl can’t put the pieces back together.

20. Neither can ice cream.

21. But ice cream can totally help.

22. Stop texting your ex. He/She is your ex for a reason.

23. Loving Jesus means loving people.

24. Loving Jesus also means loving the image of Him in the mirror you see.

25. Stop hiding your emotions. Stop crying in the bathroom or behind a locked door. You have people in your life who care about you.

26. Suicide is never the answer.

27. Breathe in, breathe out.

28. Do you feel your heart pump? Do you feel the air exiting your body? That is a sign you are here for a purpose. Your life is no mistake.

29. Just because you doubt, doesn’t mean you don’t believe in Jesus.

30. However, when walking on the water scares you, look to Jesus and keep your eyes on Him.

31. If you have the opportunity to go to school go. There are young girls around the world who would do anything to sit at the desk you are complaining about.

32. Don’t pick a career based on money.

33. However, I promise you can use any passion or gift to serve a purpose bigger than yourself if you allow yourself to give it to the One who gave it to you.

34. You don’t need pretty prayers to please God.

35. Talk to Him like you are talking to a friend.

36. Look for the good in everyone.

37. That includes the mean girl who no one likes. Chances are she is mean for a reason. Someone was once mean to her. Kill her with kindness.

38. Pray to have the Lord’s eyes. See people with love.

39. Try to have the Lord’s hands, always be reaching out to others.

40. Each morning, pray to have the Lord’s feet and go where He calls you.

41. It is a bad day, not a bad life.

SEE ALSO: What It's Like To Be A College Student In April

42. You don’t need a six-pack to find a man who loves you.

43. You need a spouse who will be able to look at you when you are 80, and wrinkly and maybe a little chunky, and you need him to love you then. If he loves you for your body and your hair, I promise he doesn’t actually love you. Looks fade, but love is eternal. Find someone who loves you like Jesus.

44. Do some squats.

45. But squat so you feel good about yourself, not to attract the opposite sex.

46. You are never too old to find a new hobby.

47. You were beautiful before someone told you.

48. If you don’t know if you are in relationship or not, leave. You deserve clarity, not insecurity.

49. You deserve friendships that are mutual.

50. The best Friday nights are spent with a puppy and food. It is okay to not always be social.

51. Stop worrying about whether your crush will text you back.

52. Stop over analyzing everything in general.

53. Pray for your future spouse.

54. However, also pray for your future bridesmaids/groomsmen. Some of the most influential people you may have in your life you may not have even met yet.

55. Storms bring strength.

56. And storms bring rainbows if you are patient and observant.

57. Stop Pinteresting your dream life and start living it.

58. The Bible is actually extremely relatable. Open it up. Read it.

59. Romans 8:28 “and we know God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” God is on your team. He wants you to have moments of celebration. He has a purpose for you greater than your bad day.

60. Never forget what Jesus did for you on that cross. When he died for you, it was painful and brutal. It was ugly. It was love. Don’t let that truth ever become numb to you no matter how many times you have heard the story.

61. There is nothing wrong with carbs.

62. Study. And don’t wait for the night before.

63. Find someone who you can look up to.

64. Also, never forget that there is always someone looking up to you. Act like someone you would want your future children to be. Act in a way that reflects wisdom.

65. Smile more, you are loved by the one who hung the stars and painted the sea. He created puppies and carbs–yet still loves you more. That is something to celebrate.

College is tough and life is hard. You are going to have moments where all you want to do is celebrate life with your best friends, but you will also have moments where you just want to lock the door, ignore everyone, and have a good cry. Never forget that your worth comes from something greater than your Biology grade, and from Someone greater that the one who broke your heart.

You aren’t too cool for Christ in college. Christ is a necessity for you in your life. He can hold your hand during your heartbreaks and failures and celebrate with you when you get the text back or a passing grade in foreign language. He loves for you and cares for you more than your sorority or fraternity ever will.

So buy your books, do your homework, but never forget when you are walking to you 8:00 a.m. you regretfully signed up for, to look up. Look at the clouds and the sky and thank your creator that in a big big world with many beautiful things, He still loves our messy hearts even more. So this one is for the boys for the King. This life is for the One who laid down His life.

I promise college is more fun when you dance with your Savior. Follow His lead and let him take you on a journey where you can find your purpose. You may not know where you are going, but you do know who you are following.

So never forget that although classes may be hard, and your metabolism may be slowing down–God is still good. He turns our ashes into beauty and our trials into our testimony. Do life with your creator and I promise you that you will have more than you need.

Romans 8:28 “And we know God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Check out my website for more articles on self-worth <3

Twitter: gracev96

Instagram: lemmebeyourvalentine

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Lessons Learned From A Stressful Quarter

Giving into stress will make it seem like it never ends.

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We all have rough periods, this was mine. One of mine.

Ya know how when you're hungry, your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Well, apparently that can also go with your schedule. I was so into getting involved that I didn't realize that there is such thing as being too involved.

I don't regret the decision I made. I'm so incredibly happy to be in the organizations I'm in and I hold the positions I do. I just didn't realize how little free time it leaves you when you hold a position in two campus organizations, have a job on top of a full class load. I would go almost weeks without a full day off, I don't think I've ever felt so worn out ever. I did the math and figured out I was basically working 60 hours a week with everything on my plate.

It was hard, it sucked. But I learned something from it, and it's going to do me good.

I learned how to manage my time better, and planned a schedule around it. Having specific days for classes so I don't have them every day, giving set hours for work that can work perfectly around other obligations and that will leave time for me.

Having such little time filled me with anxiety, so in the minutes I had I had to figure out ways to calm me down.

Call me cliche, please don't call me woke though.

I found a lot of solace in getting a little more in touch with my spiritual side. I don't mean religion, I mean more hippie stuff. Recently I've gotten very into tarot, meditation, and yoga.

I've always liked to learn new things so studying tarot was a nice break from school work that wasn't just watching Netflix. I got into meditation because I did some research that it was the easiest way to relieve some anxiety. Doing that 5 minutes to start my day has really worked wonders for me.

So while I really struggled with school, mental health and life, in general, this quarter, I learned a lot of new things I enjoy and how I can help myself a little more.

Hearing from your dad "one day at a time" may be cliche but it really is good advice. Taking things one day at a time helps to relax you. I think it's really important to try and think as positively as you can in times of stress.

Giving into stress will make it seem like there will never be an end to it.

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