top of page
  • Writer's pictureKaren L

On the Spectrum

Nothing provokes my ire more than saying, "he/she/they are on the spectrum," in a casual offhand manner. People use the label to describe awkward social behavior or difficulties in establishing and maintaining relationships. Usually what follows is "but they are really smart." Another statement to make my blood boil. No one wants to be "on the spectrum," the Autism Spectrum. It is not easy, fun, an excuse, or a tit-for-tat diagnosis--odd but smart (so all will be well).

Did you know that more people diagnosed with Autism have cognitive disabilities than not? And just so you know, average is considered IQ 85 and above. An IQ score of 85-100 is technically average, but it is not super smart. I mention these statistics because "smart" seems to be some kind of a designation that separates disabled people. If one has a learning disability or attention deficit disorder, BUT THAT PERSON IS SMART, people seem to feel vindicated or absolved from a disability label, in other words superior.

Did you know that Binet who developed the original IQ test wanted the score to be used as a means for helping people not categorizing or classifying human beings? I value academic intelligence, specifically verbal, because that is how my brain operates. But, I have lived long enough to know that intellectual ability encompasses far more: such as artistic, social-emotional, athletic, fine motor, and other non-verbal abilities.

I accept that individuals with normal intelligence can be diagnosed autistic. But, please stop saying they are "high functioning Autistic." What does that actually mean? Their IQ scores were high on an intelligence test? There must be some reason for the diagnosis. As for adults, I find it difficult to believe that the person did not have challenges in school, higher education, social relationships, and in searching for a job. (Of course, if that person was in an educational setting that catered to them, their experience would have been different.)

Adults claim they are diagnosed after childhood and adolescence. That may be, but there would have to be a history of difficulties as a child and a diagnosis by a qualified professional. Autism does not pop up later in life. It is a disorder of early childhood which lasts a lifetime. I daresay anyone alive today--perhaps excluding people who are in their 90's--would know if childhood and school had been problematic. Educational systems may not have been great for people with special needs; however, the 1940's and 1950's were not the dark ages.

Quirky is not autism, nor is awkward or socially inadept. Mental illness, anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder, or antisocial behavior are not autism. One must meet specific criteria and, to be blunt, it's not pretty. I do not say this to be cruel only realistic! However, all people in our society should be accepted for what they are capable of doing. We need to bend our definitions of normal, be more tolerant, myself included. What we have learned along the way--for example, the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover," has proven me wrong about people time and again.

So much progress has been made in the last 50 years, incredible when you think that as late as the 1950's individuals with Down Syndrome were institutionalized at birth. But more change is necessary, especially in job opportunities for people with neuro untypical brains. And I don't mean computer geniuses who are able to get a position at Microsoft and sit in a dark room all day. I mean opportunities in daylight--in stores, offices, libraries, on the streets, farms, in homes wherever work needs to be done. Interviewing and qualifying exams must be tweeked or adjusted. Our schools have accomplished this task, so the wideworld can do the same. Other areas of change should occur in coaching on the job and education of middle managers and supervisors.

So, in conclusion, you answer for me--who is high functioning? A "brilliant" person who works for a company that researches new vistas in virtual reality or artificial intelligence but cannot buy groceries and live in an apartment. Or someone who is not that smart (in the IQ sense of the word) but has friends, lives alone, and takes care of oneself and stocks merchandise at a store.

©Karen Levi 2023

9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page