Reframing ‘Masking’ vs. ‘Functioning’

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole masking concept and the labels “high functioning” and “low functioning.” I am inspired to do a reframing based on a facebook post I saw. The woman in one of my groups said, “I’m ditching the term ‘high functioning.’ It’s just too limiting and doesn’t really fit where I am in life right now. Instead, I’m going with ‘high masking,’ which is significantly more accurate.”

I really like this new perspective. Society often tags my clients as “low functioning,” but I find that to be such a lousy and unfair description. They’re not low functioning; they’re low masking. I believe they could be an inspiration for all of us. They shouldn’t have to conceal who they are.

Ever heard of autism masking? It’s this thing where people try to blend in with the crowd, especially when it comes to low-functioning versus high-functioning autism. Low-functioning folks might be non-verbal or repeat words without context. Communication delays and behavioral challenges are common, along with more severe sensory difficulties, lack of eye contact, and limited social interaction.

On the flip side, high-functioning individuals might look almost “neurotypical.” They don’t show signs of intellectual disability but still struggle with communication, understanding social cues, and other traits. High-functioning folks are pros at masking their autism traits and fitting into social settings.

Of course, these descriptions are pretty generic, and most people fall somewhere in between. It’s not always easy to slap a label of high or low masking on someone. Everyone’s unique, and it’s a mix of different traits.

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