One of the most effective ways to dehumanize a minority group, throughout history, has been to define that group's members exclusively in terms of their social or biological functioning. For example, it was once generally accepted that the proper function of non-whites was to work at menial tasks and obey their social superiors. Women were believed to exist solely to produce babies and attend to their husbands' needs.
When a minority group has been defined entirely in terms of functioning, the majority ceases to perceive them as human beings with hopes, dreams, values, and feelings. They simply "function," like tools, machinery, or beasts of burden.
The widespread use of functioning labels to describe autistics is a particularly insidious form of social oppression because of the separation into "high functioning" and "low functioning" groups. These labels are controversial because (like most of the reeking garbage that passes for autism knowledge) it is a subjective assessment, with no hard scientific backing. Young children are often placed quite arbitrarily into one group or the other, based in part on IQ tests, which are pure crap, especially when used on nonverbal autistic kids, and speech, which often improves as a child grows. It's very common for parents to report that their child was initially classified as "low functioning" and that the label was later changed to "high functioning."
If you are naïve enough to think that this is just a harmless word game, take a look at Ballastexistenz, a blog written by a young woman who was described as "low functioning" because of her limited speech and her self-care difficulties. As a child, she was placed in an institution where she endured horrific abuse that would have killed most people.
Some autistic kids end up relegated to society's garbage dump in subtler ways, through placement in special-needs classes that do nothing to prepare them for a meaningful adult life. I read a long article in a father's blog last year, and unfortunately I haven't got the link or I would have posted it here, but it vividly described the miseducation his son was getting. The school's idea of career planning for the special-needs kids was to make them wash the tables in the cafeteria each day, washing each table twice, to make sure they knew how, because it was assumed that they would be good for nothing else as adults.
And on the other side of the artificial divide, those of us who are called "high functioning" are likely to be told that we have no business speaking out against the abuse of other autistics because we allegedly don't have the same problems they do. We are told, sometimes quite vehemently, that it's none of our concern if "low functioning" autistic kids are being treated as subhuman objects by the behaviorists, or drugged with dangerous medications to keep them docile, or killed with quack therapies such as chelation, or just about anything else, for that matter. According to the autism industry, we should all just go away and not interfere with their profits.
Well, that may be what they think, but I have news for the autism industry's scumbuckets and their slimy apologists: I'm not going anywhere, and I have no intention of shutting up, and they can all kiss my autistic ass, and there are thousands of us who feel the same way. Those who profit from the abuse of autistics had better start looking for another career.
Edit: If you are reading the archives for February 2006 and can't see any older posts, it's because Blogger suddenly stopped displaying them for reasons unknown. Blogger sucks. There are several posts older than this one, which can be found by following the links below:
An Ass of You and Me
Don't Use the D
The Power of Language
A Lost Generation
Autistic Pride vs. the Autism Industry
Pardon, Your Support Group Is Showing
With Friends Like These...
The Enemy's Divide-and-Conquer Tactics
Autistic Uncle Toms
School Segregation, Then and Now
This Is My Damn Planet, Too