Functioning Labels

Like many other allied health-professionals, I was taught to use functioning labels to describe a client. You may be familiar with these labels, such as “high-functioning” or “low-functioning”. Over the past few months, I have listened to those with lived experience, as they are the experts! The overall consensus is that functioning labels are outdated, and are doing more harm than good. They are invalidating and stigmatizing. So where do we go from here?

As an occupational therapist, by job is to work with my clients to help them to do what they need or want to do in their daily lives. When we sit and think about it, functioning labels don’t assist in that process! The label does not tell me where the client needs support, or where they don’t. Rather than using these labels, we can be descriptive about support needs to ensure support is given when and where it is needed. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and they vary widely from person to person. We also have to remember the environment plays a huge part in when support may be needed! Does this client require support to eat only in certain environments?

Watch this clip of YouTuber Chloe Hayden further explain the need to drop these labels:

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