I have written about my year in autism self-advocacy. I have a lot to celebrate and a lot to be thankful for. I think 2012 was a year of great accomplishments for our community, despite moments of deep sadness, moments of fear and moments of injustice toward us.
Some days were so sad, many of us could barely keep breathing.
Autistics continue to be murdered by family members, only because they are autistics.
Others are still abused, neglected, denied life saving measures and dying, sometimes because they cannot, or will not, speak.
The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) continues to defend the shock “treatment” on disabled people as if this is not torture.
Autistics are still the go-to diagnosis when uninformed and biased people try to justify mass murder.
“Science” continues to come up with absurd theories for causes of autism, while being lazy about research for improvements in our quality of life.
Schools are still denying inclusion to disabled students who are eager to learn.
In the Autism communities, the terms “high functioning” and “low functioning” are used quite a lot. However, when asked, the communities are unable to agree upon defining criteria for each. This has led me to look for a clinical description for each, specifically for Autism. However, I was only able to find the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF), which is not Autism specific but can be applied to all diagnosis in the DSM-IV-TR.
The GAF does not use the terms “high” or “low” functioning, but uses a numeric scale from 0 to 100, based on a person's overall and cumulative rating in social, occupational, academic and psychological functioning. While it does include communication, it is not completely based on one's ability to speak.
I recall that some of the community definitions used speaking and some used IQ as the defining criteria for functioning. However, there seems to be problems with that. For one, there are critics of IQ test results who say that IQ tests are only for measuring learning, not for assessing ability. Researchers have been critical of IQ tests towards Autistics since a lot of tests are language and cultural reference specific, and results are inaccurate. As for using speaking as a defining criteria, it has been noted that the ability to speak does not indicate ability to communicate and articulate, nor does it accurately represent abilities in other functioning areas.
I joined Georgetown University's disability awareness club, DiversAbility, now in its second year, upon arriving at campus. During one of our previous meetings, one of the club's officers mentioned that we will be hosting an "Ability Lunch," which had been done last year, in which people sit at different tables and simulate different disabilities -- for example, wearing a blindfold to simulate blindness or having one’s arm tied behind one’s back to simulate inability to use a limb or lack of a limb -- while eating lunch. I immediately raised objection to the idea, and was told that the discussion following the lunch included criticism of the event.
If that is so, if the flaws in holding such an event are recognized, then why is this event held?