The misuse of functioning labels

When someone is diagnosed with a cognitive disability, it is often the case that they will be given a “high-functioning” or a “low-functioning” label.  These labels are given, in a large part, based upon how well a person can speak.  The assumption is that, if a person cannot speak, they cannot do other things which are more challenging than speaking.  This isn’t always the case.

The premise of this post almost completely mirrors my previous post on the term “non-verbal.” A person gets a negative label.  Low expectations are placed on the person.  The person meets those expectations and does not go any farther when they might be able to.  The process is the same for someone labelled “low functioning” and someone labelled “non-verbal”.

I propose we get rid of functioning labels.  Without functioning labels, a person with a cognitive disability will be viewed as an individual with his/her/zir own set of abilities and disabilities.  When a case worker gets their case file, they do not start with assumptions of what the person can or cannot do.  Often times, a person’s set of abilities is not completely linear.  For example, a person could be an accomplished playwright, yet not be able to tie their shoes or speak.  Or, another person may not be able to do simple addition or subtraction, but can do calculus.  Once again, the discovery of these abilities can only be discovered through presuming competence from the start.

I know this post was somewhat redundant to the last one, but it needed to be said.  Until next time, folks, “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

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