I’ve been trying to figure out why it bothers me to hear people described as “high functioning” and “low functioning.”
The other day, a friend of mine mentioned that a teenager at Penny’s school was “so much more low-functioning than Penny.” It wasn’t meant as an insult. If anything, she was saying that Penny has abilities this other child does not.
Penny does have lots of abilities. She can read. She can cook a quesadilla. She can take a shower. She can have a conversation.
And yet to describe anyone in terms of how they “function” is to compare them to a machine. But none of us are machines. All of us are humans, and every time we use language like functioning to summarize who we are, we play into the dehumanizing rhetoric of modernity.
When my friend made her comment the other day, I didn’t correct her or tell her I thought her language was dehumanizing. I just said, “Penny does have different limitations.”
I want to keep insisting that I see our children, and their friends, and myself, and everyone else, in terms of limitations and gifts, as persons who are capable—not of producing results and performing feats, but of giving and receiving love.
Giving and receiving love, not functioning, is the essence of our shared humanity.
More with Amy Julia:
- And You Will Be Blessed
- How God Thinks About Disability
- Book—A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny
- Free Resource: Missing Out on Beautiful: Growing Up With a Child With Down Syndrome
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