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Image by Julio Rua. No changes were made. CC BY-ND 2.0

You get treated differently when you’re “lower functioning.”

It doesn’t take a “higher functioning” person to figure that out.

In a peer mentoring setting, I wonder how well I fit in. I’ve been taught from a young age that people who are “lower functioning” are to be pitied. You don’t want to be labeled “lower functioning” because it means you’re lesser-than. You’re… “stupid”.

I’ve talked before about how, in my first time in a Clubhouse or peer mentoring setting, I felt off. I wondered if it meant I was “lower functioning” because I needed to be there. I wondered if it meant I was “stupid”.

It reminded me of patience. Because sometimes, a “higher functioning” person will lose their patience with a “lower functioning” person, and it happens. They get treated like a child. Placated. Talked down to.

The thing is, we’re not guaranteed the label of “higher functioning”. We could have some sort of stroke or car accident or other illness befall us that could change us. You go from being treated as a capable adult to being treated like you’re five.

Except some people give neurotypical five-year-olds more respect than they do a “lower functioning” adult.

“Lower functioning” people don’t need your fake niceness and your platitudes. They need your patience and your respect. Remember that the next time you take your “higher functioning” status for granted.

But please, don’t treat a “lower functioning” adult with fake patience and fake respect because you’re worried God will make you some kind of “idiot” as punishment. Treat them that way – with patience, respect; treat them like the adult they are – because they deserve it.


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