What is high functioning anyway?

Here's the scene...

Calling to get the girls enrolled in swimming lessons; when I explain to her that Leighton has Down syndrome, she asks me if she is "high functioning?" To her I ask, what exactly is the definition of high functioning? To this question, she was clearly befuddled and barely able to speak clearly after that. She then proceeded to ask me if I would be OK with Leighton enrolled in a "regular class." Yes. I want her to learn to swim as the other students will be. And on to the next call.

Today we visited the dentist for the first time. Upon filling out the paper work, I notice the MR words under "please list any illnesses the patient has had or currently has" to which I write - This is no longer a diagnosis.

Getting my jewelry cleaned yesterday, the jeweler asks me "what level is she?" as she and I were discussing children and iPads. I shared Leighton's love for the device and how well she uses it. When she asked me the question, I was taken aback a bit as I usually am but certainly getting better with my responses. I explained to her that there aren't levels with Ds and that she has great cognition and some physical delays. But mostly, she is wonderful and makes everyone she meets feel they are too.

I just read a blog that I follow about labels and how these only get worse as children enter the school system. I am not looking forward to those days. I hate labels. I hate that I have to explain things to people every time they ask me questions. But I will continue if it educates them of course but I'm having one of those, it's not fair moments. As the complaint with the blog I read complained that it's not fair that there are labels for our kids with disabilities yet very few to none for "typical" kids. That stinks for sure.

But are there really or are parents just more sensitive to words that are used when referencing their children? I'm not sure. Whichever it is... labels stink.

Until next time...


  1. I have to wonder how people would feel if we walked up to them and asked them how smart their typically-developing kids are, or what their IQ is. Freaking rude, if you ask me. Drives me nuts. Why should it be okay for them to ask us such a question?

  2. It is very uncomfortable. I recently had an older lady come up to me at church. She said she had notices Kamdyn for a while and how well she does. Then, went on to say a ton of negative things a out her grandson who has DS. We know her grandson from our local group. He has DS and autism, and he has a lot of behavioral issues, as well as a severe physical delay. His parents refer to him as "low functioning". They base that on the fact that he's not potty trained, can't feed himself, needs a wheelchair for walking any longer distance. So I get what they are saying, and I wouldn't tell them they shouldn't use that terminology. They face way more struggles on a daily basis than we do But they are very positive and happy people. They don't complain at all or anything. They just remodeled their entire home to make it more handicapped accessible with a mini apartment on their lower level, because their son is too heavy to carry up the steps. But I still found it incrediy awkward when the grandmother seemed to to on and on about how hard their life was and how low functioning he was. I kept trying to change the subject and throw in positive comments. But I do agree with you. Labels stink. And I agree with Becca that its rude for people to come up to us and ask.


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