Fortunately, the term high functioning autistic (HFA) is no longer a recognised official diagnosis in the two key diagnostic manuals: ICD11 and DSM-5-TR.

Unfortunately, this is a phrase that continues to linger, not just in the language of wider society, but in the diagnoses of many medical professionals. Not just unhelpful, but damaging.

Luke Beardon, long-standing autistic ally, says it perfectly on page 6 of his book¬†Autism in Adults, “many people who have been given a diagnosis of HFA [high functioning autism] are, in reality, far from being ‘high functioning’ [they may] require very high levels of support, ironically enough to enable them to ‘function’ on a day-to-day basis”.

This, as he explains, is because ‘high-functioning’ autism defines someone who is intellectually very capable. It takes no account for our capacity to function in any of the many other ways that make life so difficult for us. My diagnosing psychologist knew that I struggled to do the very basics – remember to eat, take my medication, get dressed, leave the house, and yet her diagnosis was, originally, still ‘very high functioning autism’.

This fault cannot be laid at the feet of diagnosticians entirely – until the most recent updates in those diagnostic manuals, that is simply what defined us: are we intellectually able? Yes. Do we have learning disabilities? No. Then we are ‘high functioning’. But those definitions have been debunked now. And everyone needs to get on the same page.

If this lights your fire, I’d recommend reading the glossary entry for low-functioning and high-functioning autism.