In Yergeau’s text, the autistic or neuroqueer subject is also perpetually out of sync – developing at a supposedly delayed rate; moving through the world in inscrutable ways; exhibiting a sociality that does not satisfy non-autistics; potentially being already out of time for redemption.

Crucially, being out of step with the idealized tempo situates autistic individuals under the surveillance of parents, physicians, employers, policymakers, and educators, who conceive of autistic bodies as perpetually requiring intervention by allistic others.

Yergeau writes that “regardless of degree, low-functioning and high-functioning bodies are effectually nonfunctioning bodies,” such that “no autistic person is ever high functioning enough, much like no autistic person is ever low-functioning enough.”

Heather Thomas


Functioning means “how well you do”. It is not an answer, it is a line of questions. How well you do what? How well you do when? How well you do in which circumstances, in which environments, with which people? Who decides what well means? Who decides which doing matters and which doesn’t? How do you measure well? Who do you measure against? Why are you measuring at all?

Why do you need to know?

Functioning is not a word. It’s not a sentence. It’s not even a paragraph. Functioning requires a lifetime of context, it requires testing and experimenting, it requires caveats and exceptions and constant amending. Functioning is not something you can capture in a single phrase.