Musings from an Orthodox Jewish work at home mom of twins with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

HFA versus LFA

People ask me ALLLLL the time whether my twins are high functioning (HFA) or low functioning (LFA).  Truth is, I don’t know.  I have their test scores and I know where they score in relation to neurotypical kids and in relation to other kids with autism, but I don’t officially know whether they are HFA or LFA and truthfully, I don’t really care.  They’re high functioning because they walk, talk, eat, and are academically either on target (Wilma) or ahead (Fred).  They’re low functioning because they are about to be five years old and are not potty trained, cannot dress themselves, and in Fred’s case, cannot be in a group situation without a massive meltdown.  Both were in “regular” special education this year, with half the class special ed and half the class neurotypical.  Wilma does well in that setting.  Fred had a rough year and this year will be in a class of all kids with autism.  He’ll have more adult attention, and the addition of ABA (applied behavioral therapy).

A friend of mine on one of the autism facebook groups says the following about HFA versus LFA and I asked her permission to share it here on my blog.  I found it fascinating.  Her name is Heather E. Sedlock and she herself has autism.  Read on!

Heather E. Sedlock: Okay, I’ve been thinking about this and I”m about to (was going to drop it) detail *why* I find the terms LFA/HFA less than desirable. When i do so, it is NOT a judgment of those who have used the terms here in this group or elsewhere. It is just *my* interpretation of why the terms need to stop being used and some news ones defined if really necessary.

When you call me “HFA”, you totally dismissed all my struggles. It’s like saying, you can talk, walk, feed yourself, so you’re perfectly fine and can’t possibly understand what it’s like to not have skills so needed for life. The struggles I face daily are summarily dismissed as if they do not occur because the focus in on what I can do and not what I cannot do. Therefore, it is as if I don’t need any respect, assistance, guidance, and understanding as an autistic person.

When you call me “LFA”, you totally dismissed all my strengths and battles overcome. All the progress I have made in a certain area is summarily dismissed as if they did not occur because the focus is on what I cannot do and not what I can do.

Autism comes with a mixed skill set. Period. It doesn’t matter what type of autism it is either. That is part of the diagnostic criteria because *every* person (child or adult) that has autism has a mixed skilled set. By focusing on one set or the other, you are saying, to me, that the other side does not exist. Therefore, you are limiting a DESCRIPTION of MYSELF to one area. You would not like to be defined or described by one skill area, would you?

Thank you Heather!  Whenever I think of HFA versus LFA, I’ll be thinking of this post!


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