So, I don't really like to talk about autism in relation to "function" or "severity". I honestly believe that autism is for a reason, and to compare or describe some people as being "severely affected" or "higher functioning" sounds so harsh, as if someone who can't speak, for example, is "less able to function" than someone who can. I don't believe that. I believe that even those who aren't able to speak have a lot going on inside, they just haven't been given the tools to let that out.
I think in recent years this has come a long way. With the invention of special computers and programs to help these people who cant speak have an outlet of communication, I think we are starting to see proof that these people have active, exciting minds, they just aren't able to speak for some reason or another.
I think it is fantastic to give these people the ability to speak. I think it is beautiful that we are finally saying that, okay, they can't speak, but their brains still are going a million miles an hour, lets get them hooked up to a computer program and give them some tools to speak to us from where they are at!
It really isn't that different from deafness, or blindness, or Helen Keller, is it? Even Helen Keller found a way to communicate thanks to an understanding person or people who found a way to meet Helen where she was at her ability of function! We should be doing no different to autistic kids. So they can't speak. So what? It doesn't mean that they are stupid, or brain dead, or mentally handicapped. Meet them where they are. Give them the tools, whatever that means individually, for them to communicate. Stop focusing on how "disabled" they look, and start being creative and thinking about what they can do!
I think the two links I posted in the beginning of this post are a good place to start talking about these things. We DO tend to judge all autistic people as WE think they are. We have a LOT of learning left to do!