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Encyclopedia > Controversies about functioning labels in the autism spectrum

There are many controversies about functioning labels in the autism spectrum. The autism rights movement is concerned with some of these controversies. Many autistics have developed language skills and have started to speak and/or write for themselves about their experience. ...


There are some people who believe autistic people in the different categories are very different from each other and that categories are needed. Others believe classifying people in these ways is insulting and does not accurately describe the autistic person's true abilities.

Contents


The labels

The labels we are concerned with here generally seek to divide the autistic spectrum into two parts, based on how close to non-autistic norms the subject behaves. The more autistic group is referred to as "low functioning", "Kanner's Syndrome", or (confusingly) simply "autistic". The group closer to non-autistic behaviour is referred to as "high functioning" or "Asperger's Syndrome". The autistic spectrum, or autism spectrum, is the idea that autism is a developmental and behavioral syndrome that results from certain combinations of traits. ... Autism is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself in marked problems with social relatedness, communication, interest, and behavior. ... A boy with autism and his mother Autism refers to a spectrum of disorders, and lies somewhere under the umbrella of a greater encompassing spectrum, that of pervasive developmental disorders that involve the functioning of the brain. ... Asperger described his patients as little professors. Aspergers syndrome (AS, or the more common shorthand Aspergers), is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, and is commonly referred to as a form of High-Functioning Autism. ...


Currently, DSM-IV contains two distinct autistic spectrum diagnoses, Asperger's Syndrome and Autistic Disorder. The main difference between the definitions is that Autistic Disorder involves a significant speech delay and Asperger's Syndrome does not. Many people believe that language delay is not a sensible basis for making different diagnoses, even if they divide up the autistic spectrum in some way. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the handbook used most often in diagnosing mental disorders in the United States and other countries. ... The autistic spectrum, or autism spectrum, is the idea that autism is a developmental and behavioral syndrome that results from certain combinations of traits. ... Asperger described his patients as little professors. Aspergers syndrome (AS, or the more common shorthand Aspergers), is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, and is commonly referred to as a form of High-Functioning Autism. ... Autism is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself in marked problems with social relatedness, communication, interest, and behavior. ...


The terms "high functioning" and "low functioning" may be applied to the spectrum as a whole or specifically to people with a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder. (Anyone classified as Asperger's Syndrome is generally considered to be high functioning.) The actual disctinction is somewhat ambiguous. One common criterion is for high functioning to be used to describe those who have language skills and low functioning to be used to describe those who do not have language skills. Another common criterion is to describe those who score an IQ above 70-80 as being high functioning, and those who score an IQ below 70-80 as being low functioning. Asperger described his patients as little professors. Aspergers syndrome (AS, or the more common shorthand Aspergers), is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, and is commonly referred to as a form of High-Functioning Autism. ... IQ tests are designed to be approximately normally distributed, which results in a bell curve graph of IQ score frequency. ...


The use of these terms is controversial. Most people who use the terms believe that those who are described as high functioning -- those who can read, write, and speak -- are fundamentally and obviously higher functioning than those who are described as low functioning -- those who can't read or speak and may need constant care. A controversy is a contentious dispute, a disagreement over which parties are actively arguing. ...


Others believe that autistics vary greatly in their strengths and skills, so that a one-dimensional, "high" or "low" functioning level is too misleading. They point out that there are some autistic people who have some characteristics considered "high functioning" and other characteristics considered "low functioning". For example, many autistics have excellent written language skills but no oral language skills at all. Others may have high intelligence and no language skills but still need constant care or who injure themselves. They also point out that not all nonverbal autistics are incapable of self-care, and not all autistics with an IQ below 70 or 80 are incapable of reading, writing, or speech. There are also autistics who have language skills some of the time but no language skills at other times.


Some autistic people find high and low functioning labels problematic when they have combinations of skills which are classified as high and low functioning, because having a characteristic considered high functioning makes it harder for them to get support for their more profound difficulties which are considered "low functioning", and having a characteristic considered low functioning makes it harder for them to get their skills recognized in the first place.


In addition to the controversy about using intelligence tests to distinguish between high and low functioning, there is controversy about the accuracy of intelligence tests used on autistic people. This is discussed in more detail in the article on intelligence tests and autism. IQ tests are regularly used during the process of an autism diagnosis. ...


Political and Social Implications of the terms

While it's generally difficult for autistics of any kind to find services and accommodations which actually help them, persons with an Asperger's label often have more difficulty finding services and accommodation for difficulties associated with autism, than those with a "low functioning" label. Because people with Asperger syndrome can speak and often write well, many laymen and professionals still consider them to be not really autistic.


In addition, some people (including many parents of autistic children described as low functioning) see autistic adults doing things they don't believe children described as low functioning will ever be able to do and are offended and/or confused that they share a label with people they do not perceive as being disabled. They believe autism is strictly a severe disability and should be treated as such.


Autistic adults described as high functioning have responded to this by saying a "high functioning" label or the ability to speak and write doesn't mean their difficulties are mild. Autism is often called the "invisible disability" because the difficulties are not obvious and are difficult for neurotypicals without personal experience to understand. It is especially difficult for people to understand how someone with high intelligence and verbal skills can have difficulty with social functioning and daily living skills, as many autistics described as high functioning or Asperger's do. A neurotypical (or NT) person is one whose neurological development and state are typical, conforming to what most people would perceive as normal. ...


Another perceived problem with the terms "high functioning" and "low functioning" is that they imply that less autistic behaviour is inherently superior to more autistic behaviour. The terms "Kanner" and "Asperger" (or "Aspie") are more neutral ways of labelling the parts of the spectrum. Such terms are used descriptively even by those who refuse to draw a sharp distinction.


Controversy over the terms in the autism rights movement

In the autism rights movement these terms were part of a controversy over ethical challenges to autism treatment such as Applied Behavior Analysis that came up in April 2004. In response to this controversy, ABA supporters claim that autism rights activists have Asperger's syndrome and are not "really" autistic, so shouldn't be allowed to speak for autistic children. Some of them (such as Lenny Schafer) claim that Asperger's and autism are so fundamentally different that Asperger's should be removed from the autistic spectrum completely. Many autistics have developed language skills and have started to speak and/or write for themselves about their experience. ... Many autistics have developed language skills and have started to speak and/or write for themselves about their experience. ... There are many programs intended as treatment for autism available. ... Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the application of behavioral science to the analysis of behavior. ... 2004 : January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December Deaths in April • 18 Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara • 19 Norris McWhirter • 22 Pat Tillman • 24 Estée Lauder Other recent deaths Ongoing events EU Enlargement Exploration of Mars: Rovers Haiti Rebellion Reconstruction of Iraq – Occupation & Resistance Israeli... Asperger described his patients as little professors. Aspergers syndrome (AS, or the more common shorthand Aspergers), is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, and is commonly referred to as a form of High-Functioning Autism. ... Lenny Schafer is the adoptive parent of an autistic child. ...


Autism rights activists responded to this by pointing out that many of them have a diagnosis of autism and not Asperger's. They also believe that their opponents use the word "high functioning" or "Asperger's" as an excuse to ignore the opinions of people who disagree with them, while using the word "low functioning" as an excuse to say autistics with that label cannot speak for themselves and give pro-cure advocates an excuse to speak for them.


Some people believe the autism rights movement (especially the anti-cure perspective) might make some sense if it only included autistic people described as high functioning or Asperger's Syndrome. Autism rights activists have responded to this by claiming it isn't easy to distinguish between high and low functioning and pointing out that some of them have been called low functioning. Asperger described his patients as little professors. Aspergers syndrome (AS, or the more common shorthand Aspergers), is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, and is commonly referred to as a form of High-Functioning Autism. ...


A similar controversy came up again in December 2004 when Amy Harmon published an article in the New York Times titled, "How About not Curing Us? Some Autistics are Pleading". ← - 2004 : January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December- → Deaths in December • 30 Artie Shaw • 29 Julius Axelrod • 28 Jacques Dupuis • 28 Jerry Orbach • 28 Susan Sontag • 26 Reggie White • 26 Sir Angus Ogilvy • 23 P. V. Narasimha Rao • 23 Doug Ault • 19 Renata Tebaldi • 16... The New York Times is an internationally known daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed in the United States and many other nations worldwide. ...


See also

Asperger described his patients as little professors. Aspergers syndrome (AS, or the more common shorthand Aspergers), is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, and is commonly referred to as a form of High-Functioning Autism. ... Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself in markedly abnormal social interaction, communication ability, patterns of interests, and patterns of behavior. ... Many autistics have developed language skills and have started to speak and/or write for themselves about their experience. ... There is considerable disagreement over the exact nature of autism, a spectrum or cluster of conditions, of varying severity, which are not well understood. ... There are many programs intended as treatment for autism available. ... IQ tests are regularly used during the process of an autism diagnosis. ...

References


  Results from FactBites:
 
Autism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (6208 words)
Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder which manifests itself in markedly abnormal social interaction, communication ability, patterns of interests, and patterns of behavior.
Autism presents in a wide degree, from those who are nearly dysfunctional and apparently mentally handicapped to those whose symptoms are mild or remedied enough to appear unexceptional ("normal") to the general public.
In recent history, with scientists learning more about autism and possibly coming closer to a cure, some members of the "anti-cure" movement sent a letter to the United Nations demanding to be treated as a minority group rather than a group with a mental disability or disease.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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