Spectrum of Functioning – What does it all mean? – A Personal Viewpoint

I posted this meme created by Un-Boxed Brain to my Facebook page the other day with me commenting, “Exactly!”.  If you haven’t done so already, I suggest checking out the blog by Un-Boxed Brain.

No Ends

[Image description: A darkly textured rainbow coloured square on which embossed text says: There are no “ends” on the spectrum. Below that, white text says: When you say “ends”, you devalue some of us and dismiss all of us.]

A  friend of mine posed the following question regarding it:

I think this is interesting since functioning is a social construct (much like gender). I am curious though, since functioning should not be viewed linearly, how should one understand the spectrum of functioning in your eyes?

This really got my brain going. How should one understand the spectrum of functioning in my eyes? How do I even explain my perception of what it means to be on a “spectrum of functioning”?

I am a science person and an art person, so when I encounter the word “spectrum”, I think in terms of colors. To me, when it comes to functioning, I think of a round color palette where there are different hues all over the place. I feel everyone is a product of their genetics, their environment, their personality, and their personal experiences and perception of those experiences. The hues on the color palette represent the uniqueness of each individual. People might share a diagnostic label or a personal label, but what their hue is determines how the traits of the diagnostic label or personal label will present itself.


Where a person falls on that color palette is determined by their genetics, their personality, the environment where they live, family support, and any additional services they may be receiving. Paints tend to flow on a color palette. The paints get mixed, thickened, or watered down. A person’s functionality is kind of like that.

To most people, I appear “highly-functional”, but that is not true. I can function, but I am highly impacted. This means I can live pretty much independently, but I still need assistance for time to time. My functionality shifts depending on the amount of stress and the duration of that stress that I am enduring. My hue can move and change on the color pallet from day to day or hour to hour depending on my available “spoons”, but that change doesn’t stray too far from the core hue that represents me. There are days I can’t get out of bed (watered down paint). Then there are days that I can clean the whole house, go for a run, and write a blog all in the same day (thickened paint). On most days, however, I fall somewhere in between with slight variations (mixed right-out-of-the-tube paint).

I can say the same thing about gender. To me, there is no straight line when it comes to gender. There is no only one way or the other. There is actually a lot of variation. Again, where someone falls on this variation color palette depends on genetics, personality, environment, and experiences. I was born with female reproductive organs, and I identify as a woman, but I am most definitely not a girly girl. There are times, however, that I don’t really feel like any gender, like I am more of an agender. These periods occur during high stress times for me. I seem to flow out of feeling like a woman and flow into feeling like I have no gender when I am particularly overloaded. During particularly bad days, I have this urge to tear off my skin, because it doesn’t feel right and I don’t look right in the mirror.

I know that there is an increase of gender dysphoria issues amongst the autistic population compared to the non-autistic population. I suspect that my autistic brain has something to do with how I perceive myself in terms of gender, but I have no way to definitively prove this, and does it really matter in the large scheme of things? No, not really. I am just me. What you see is what you get. So, as April Griffin advises, I am just going to be my wonderful, nerdy, geeky, unique, autistic self.

Here are some interesting articles on the subject:

Link Between Autism and Gender Dysphoria?

Asperger’s May Be More Common in Kids With Gender Dysphoria

Gender identity issues and females on the spectrum – By April Griffin

I relate very much to this article, but I don’t hold to the “male brain” theory. Brains are just brains. Nothing makes them more male or female than any other brain.  More on this here – The brains of men and women aren’t really that different, study finds.

One response to “Spectrum of Functioning – What does it all mean? – A Personal Viewpoint

  1. Pingback: Labels – Some People Want Them, Others Do Not, And That Is Okay | The Aspie Teacher

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