Let's Talk About Autistic Levels
Aug 12, 2020
Can we talk about autistic 'levels'?
They don't indicate level of autistic. There is no "more or less" autistic. They are support levels, indicating the amount of support a person requires. They are also extremely problematic as they are assigned during a snapshot of an autistic person's life and unless a person revisits, and requests a reassessment, the support level remains. Today, I might be a level one in terms of support. Tomorrow, a level three.
The most common understanding around support levels, unfortunately, is a reinvention of functioning labels according to number. Support levels assist the gate keeping around funding and support allocation to disabled people.
"Level 3" does not indicate "severe" autism, which is classically misunderstood as a person who is non speaking. There are people who are hyperlexic and live independently and are also assigned a Level 3.
Autism is autism. Functioning labels are harmful and damaging, and prevent us from being supported in the ways we require.
Those who have previously been deemed "High functioning" have had their challenges grossly overlooked based on the superficial understanding and impressions based on their behaviour or speech and language. These are the members of our community who sit under the statistic around higher than average mental health issues, and suicide.
Those who have previously been deemed "Low functioning" or "severe" have had their intelligence severely undermined and dismissed. Their capacity and ability has been dismissed due to their co-occurring conditions and the way they move their bodies.
We are autistic. Not high or low "functioning".
We function differently. We mask and hide for survival.
It's important to listen to autistic voices, in order to learn about our differences.
We NEVER argue amongst ourselves who is more autistic than another. What you SEE, is NOT what you get. Our autistic expression is NOT to be compared with non autistic expression. They are different and do not mean the same things. Whatever you think you know about autism, if it fits inside of any of the above, it needs to be reframed.
Not more or less autistic.
Diverse, different, but a community of humans whose autistic expression varies.
We are autistic.
Image credit: Sharon McCutcheon