#004: Is it High Functioning or Low Functioning Autism?

In the first few months of learning my son had autism, I had several different professionals giving me different diagnoses. I kept trying to figure out which diagnosis was the real diagnosis, and so I found myself gravitating towards the one that I wanted him to have—the easiest one.

Initially, I labeled my son as having mild autism because he didn’t display the stereotypical behaviors that I associated with severe autism.

Most people immediately try to group autism into low functioning and high functioning categories—which isn’t an entirely accurate or fair label, as I soon discovered.

A couple of troubling experiences made me realize that those labels were subjective and not a great indicator of where a child falls on the spectrum.

I now understand why we can’t compare low versus high functioning autism… because that label can change depending on which skill they are being tested on at that moment… among other factors. It’s just not a fair and accurate method.

However, when it comes to comparing autism diagnoses and labeling our children, there really shouldn’t be a need. As parents, as teachers, as analysts, our number one priority should be to encourage children with autism, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum, and help them to lead their happiest, safest lives.

Mentioned in this episode:

The Verbal Behavior Approach, by Dr. Mary Barbera
Dr. Mary Barbera Workshops

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Shareable Quotes:

  • “Get the most intensive ABA program you can find and then you won’t look back and say, I didn’t do as much as I could.”
  • “It’s really not fair to line kids up. What’s fair is that we look at each child’s strengths and needs and we program for their weaknesses using their strengths and we try to get them as high functioning as possible…”
  • “With intensive ABA treatment, a child’s IQ level can rise 20 and 30 points.”

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