I was paying my bill at a restaurant, wearing an autism understanding t-shirt as I frequently do, when the cashier said, "I love your shirt! My brother's autistic." Well, I thought it was the coolest thing to find another sibling so randomly and I told her so. And then our conversation hit a rough patch:
Her: "So is your sister high or low functioning, then?"
Me: "Well, actually, she doesn't like to use functioning labels. She and a lot of autistic people say they oversimplify."
Her: "So she's high functioning then."
The rest of the conversation was great, but that little sticking point has stayed with me. We as a general population LOVE to put people into either-or categories. You're either male or you're female. You're black or you're white. You're an introvert or you're an extrovert. You're high functioning or you're low functioning.
The problem is, the world doesn't actually work like that. And by forcing people to try to fit into our contrived categories when they're clearly telling us they don't fit, we are doing them a serious disservice. So when I tell you that Caley doesn't like functioning labels, that's not a fact point to use to justify putting her into one. It's a right to self-determination, and a stance against a practice that she and so many other autistic people have spoken out against.
It's time for us to listen.