A question I recently heard was ‘can only high functioning Asperger’s have PDA?’
It’s not the first time I’ve come across a similar question or a comment that all PDAers are ‘high functioning’ or have ‘great verbal skills’. While it does seem that many PDAers have better verbal and social skills than most Autistics, this isn’t indicative of all PDAers.
Autism is a spectrum. There is no ‘high’ or ‘low’ functioning, these are constructs some random guy created at a convention for Autism because he struggled to tell the difference between different Autistics. These labels are harmful and inaccurate. You could go to two different people and get totally different functioning labels, none of which would reflect the actual functioning of the person on the inside. For a better understanding why functioning labels are useless, here’s a link, one of many posts by Autistic people explaining the issue with functioning labels.
One of the best ways to understand the Autism spectrum is this comic strip in this link. All Autistics have strengths and weaknesses in certain areas, it’s what makes the spectrum so diverse. Since PDA is a sub-type of Autism then it stands to reason that PDAers, who have the same traits as those on the spectrum though some traits may be slightly skewed by the PDA traits, will be as diverse as Autistics. Basically, every different version of Autism that you may come across can also be seen in PDAers. Some of us are very verbal, some of us are non-verbal. Some of us love socialising, some of us don’t. Some of us stim loads, some hardly at all. Some understand sarcasm and literal meanings, some may never get them. PDAers are as diverse as non-PDA Autistics.
So why does it seem like most PDAers are highly verbal, social people? Well, for those Autistics who struggle to communicate verbally, their PDA traits may manifest differently. There’s not as much ‘I can’t, my legs are broken’ and more, physically lashing out or ignoring/walking away. For some, other issues such as physical disabilities or other conditions, mask or are blamed for PDA behaviours. A lack of knowledge and understanding about what PDA is and how it can present makes it even harder for traits to be spotted. Many people are labelled as ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) or with a personality disorder. It seems like it’s usually those who seem like they should be able to cope but who aren’t, whose PDA is noticed.
PDA can make us appear far more able verbally and socially than we actually are. This is especially true of those who mask and/or script conversations as a coping mechanism. Underneath, we are no more able to converse than any other Autistic.