(Here’s a brief explanation for what you will see on my blog for the month of October: I’m taking part in the 31 Days of Writing Challenge over on the Nesting Place blog. The topic I chose to write about is: 31 Days Toward Understanding Autism)
Well, basically it’s a scale. It measures their ability to function (and cope with autism) in life. High-functioning meaning they can function better independently. Low-functioning, obviously, requires more assistance and professional help. Personally, we have found this ‘scale’ to be somewhat relative, though. Like your financial status. (Sort of.)
Based on (or in) the town, state, and country in which our family lives, we would probably be considered middle-class. (Although for the girl we sponsor through Compassion International, wealthy might be a better word. Just the fact that we have a car is probably unimaginable for her.) In our society, middle-class means that, while we’re not poor…we’re not super rich. We’re in between. The place our finances puts us is only in relation to where we live.
It’s the same with autism. No two people with autism are exactly alike or measure the same.
On the spectrum, you have those who function at higher levels (they look more ‘normal’) and those who function at lower levels, which are more visible and more of what people are used to identifying and understanding. The higher the level an autistic person functions at, the less visible or noticeable their differences are, and the only times their uniqueness is seen is when they don’t do something that is expected of them.
For instance, for us…
If someone asks, ‘How are you?’ and our kids don’t respond…obviously it gets noticed.
They’re not being rude…they just have autism. And the reason for them not responding could be any number of things.
There are no ‘words’ in their head at that moment.
They don’t feel the need to answer.
They don’t see the purpose in it.
Basically, they don’t understand the ‘expectation’ you have for the exchange of dialogue. (One person asks a question…the other person answers.)
In their mind…
Why does it even matter to you how they’re doing?
What’s the point?
My kids talk when they have something to say. And when they don’t…they don’t.
Simple, right? (Hmmmm….)
When we lived in the South, their non-need to answer made them stand out a bit more because Southern people are a communicative bunch. (I mean that in a totally kind sort of way. ) They like to be ‘friendly’ and chat, and to someone with autism…that’s so confusing.
‘I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Why in the world are you wanting to talk with me?’ (What they’re thinking.) They don’t understand the process (or point) of seemingly meaningless dialogue.
But when we moved up North, where people tend to be a bit more conservative in their communication, suddenly they didn’t stand out so much. Nobody was asking them how they were doing. (Which was great…because they weren’t going to tell them anyways! lol)
Did it change the fact that they are on the autism ‘spectrum’? No.
Did affect how they felt? Yes.
Did it change where they were on the autism spectrum? No.
It just affected how they were perceived.
They stood out around chatty people.
They blended in around quieter people.
So upon meeting us, you might not notice anything different, initially. Unless you decided to start chatting with them. With one of them, you might have to think about what they’re saying at first (will blog about that later this month). With another, you might wonder if they can talk about anything else other than what they’re currently speaking about. (Or if you’ll even get to escape the conversation, period. Lol!)
The thing is, one autistic label…doesn’t define every autistic person.
If you come across someone who doesn’t respond exactly the way you think they should (or how you expected them to)…relax. There may be a reason. They just might be on the spectrum (or scale of measurement) for autism.
Labels work…sometimes, and they help us to understand things better…sometimes, but just because someone is not ‘typical’…doesn’t mean they’re not normal. (And that is what I’ll talk about tomorrow… )
After all, we’re ALL created in His image, right?