life on the "j" train

Taking a "busy working mom with 2 special needs kids" life one moment at a time

High and Low – Ugh! April 12, 2017

The thing I didn’t say in my last post that I wanted to address but didn’t because it didn’t really fit in with the post even though it was inspired by the book plus the post was getting long anyway is this …


People love to put autistic people into categories.  Specifically, high or low functioning.  It’s a totally irresponsible thing to do.  It serves no purpose.  And most importantly, I think, is that it denies people their full human-ness.

In the book I reviewed yesterday, Christopher took advanced (*A level maths) at the age of 15 and Aced the test.  He was most surely headed for college to study math and science.  He had a remarkable memory and was able to understand the concept of money and chores and taking care of a pet.  He was verbal.  His parents were comfortable leaving him home alone and he wrote a novel.  He was able to develop relationships with people.  Sounds pretty high functioning to me.

Christopher also could not see past one lie his father had told him and recognize that that did not make his father a bad or dangerous person.  There was no reasoning with Christopher.  He wet himself sometimes for various reasons.  He had a crippling dislike for certain colours and he did not react appropriately to strangers who tried to speak to him or who touched him.  He went to a special needs school.  He did not have any friends and his sensory challenges restricted his life in a major way.  He was prone to wandering off.  Sounds kinda low functioning to me.


Jay is not a star student.  But he’s a really great artist.  He doesn’t have any sensory issues which is an astounding thing to say about an autistic person.  He’s flexible with his schedule and he enjoys going on vacation to new places.  He doesn’t understand money AT ALL – so far.  He does not respect other people’s time so there’s no use in trying to rush him.  He is not self-conscious but wants to be a part of whatever activity other kids are involved in.   He’s a sore loser.  He is in a general education class in a general education school with no aide and there are no concerns about him wandering off or engaging in self injurious behaviours.  He has friends.  He cannot ride a bike, swing himself or tie his shoe laces.  He is verbal and reads for fun and appears to understand stories but scores poorly on reading comprehension tests.  He can make his own grilled cheese sandwiches.

Is Jay high or low functioning?  The answer is … Yes.


The truth is that it’s not a fair question.  It’s too arbitrary and does a dis-service to everyone.

We would never use that kind of binary qualification to identity non-autistic people.  We wouldn’t say that a brain surgeon is high functioning but a plumber is low functioning.  Is an illiterate farmer high functioning but someone who writes computer codes low functioning, because, we all need to eat?  Stevie Wonder can’t drive, but he’s functioning at a higher musical level than anyone I know in real life.  Everyone has a different skill set or ability.  All are valid and necessary.

Someone who is non-verbal could very well have a brilliant academic mind.  Yet, they might spend their entire life with people calling them low functioning or assuming they are stupid.  How frustrating would that be?  How belittling and condescending.

Someone else who has no outward signs of a disability and who is able to function well in a controlled environment – who could “pass” as high functioning – may have no sense of danger and might frequently put themselves in situations they shouldn’t and therefore cannot be left unattended – ever.


I think we need to get rid of the terms high or low functioning.  I have friends who function at a much higher level than I do in a kitchen or in a garden or on a dance floor while I outshine them in a swimming pool or with an excel spreadsheet or with a sewing machine.


I know it’s an uphill battle trying to change peoples thinking.  I don’t know how to do it other than spreading the word.  Instead of taking one part of who someone is or what they can demonstrate and barricading them into a box, we need to look for peoples strengths (everyone has them) and nurture those and then we should also look for their challenges (everyone has them) and assist them with those.




I realize this is not a new concept; I just felt compelled to talk about it today.   Plus, I get to use some memes which said in less than 30 words combined, what I spent 1000 words saying.






*A Levels are exams taken after graduating high school but before attending college in the United Kingdom and former British colonies.  It requires studying a subject over a 2 year period and sitting an exam at the end of each year.  Most students only study 3 or 4 subjects due to the intense nature of the work.  Most students are between the ages of 16 and 18 when they sit A levels.


Things On The Brain April 4, 2017

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Special Needs Kids — the jay train @ 4:22 pm
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It is VERY HARD work to bend over, hold onto a seat and run behind a bicycle that is being “ridden” by a 60 lb boy.  My back is still stiff and I’m in pain from this past weekends 2 wheeler lessons.  I know he will get it when he’s ready, just as with everything else and I don’t usually force things – Potty training and shoe-lace tying come to mind – But right about now, I AM READY for him to catch bike riding.


Gynecological visits are different after 40.  The doctor asked questions and brought up topics that we’d never discussed before.  That’s all I’ll say about that.  Moving right along.


Fresh squeezed tangerine juice from Wegmans is awesome!  Even if a small bottle costs $5.  The green vegetable juice they have is just as bad as all green juices are that people try to convince you taste good even though everyone knows they don’t really.

Oh, and the cream filled coffee cake muffin from Wawa?  Also awesome!  And can I get a hip hip hooray for all the fruit that’s tasting sweet again now that we are out of winter.


I no longer suffer from Spring allergies apparently.  Woo hoo!!!


Despite my assumptions that my emotions around it would be temporary  – I get a pit in my stomach every single time I drive past the middle school sign that announces the date for incoming middle schoolers orientation.


I’m not really into the whole lighting it up blue thing but I know that friends and family who do it/promote it, are only doing so to show support so I appreciate that very much.  At Jays school the kids wore blue t-shirts and let off blue balloons but when I asked him why they did that he had no idea.  I kinda feel like if they are going to have an acknowledgment of the day and are going to include the kids, there should be some education around the ‘why’ of it.


It has taken me a lot of time and money to find products that I like for my hair.  I have thrown away LOTS of mostly full bottles of stuff that promised and then failed to moisturize and tame my curls.  I finally found a conditioner I loved and it was super affordable … NOW, it has been discontinued so I am back on the hunt.  Ugh!


My phone is dying and I am in no mood to replace it.  The latest thing it does?  Shuts off once it gets to 40% power.  No Bueno.


Knitting a blanket takes a LONG time.  I have one that my Grand Aunt made for me years ago and while I always loved and cherished it, I now have a whole new appreciation for the effort it took her to make it.  Oh, yeah … I have started learning how to knit.  Send yarn 🙂


Often I write about what is happening in our lives just to have a forever record of it.  Other times (like today), I write about random things to distract myself from other things that are pressing on my brain.  Money Stuff, Travel Stuff, Health Stuff, Not Enough Time Stuff, Job Stuff.  All the stuff we wish would just go smoothly and that we wish we never had to worry about so we could focus on more fun things – But all the stuff that actually keeps us up at night and that we wish we could share with people so that the load would be lighter.  Alas!  Instead of hearing about why I tossed and turned last night due to an overactive, worried, brain, you now know what kind of juice I like and that knitting is an awesome way to be productive while your son is reading you a story about Transformers and even though you don’t hear one word he says, he thinks you are listening which makes him happy so win-win.