What people choose to label themselves doesn't really matter.
Likewise, "bright and high-functioning" are pretty vague terms.
If there is a line of division to be drawn, then disabled /not disabled is where I draw it.
... which to me at least, seems equally subjective. Able or not able to do what exactly?... and there's the yawning gap of "things that can be done but are made more difficult".
I don't think there is any line to be drawn, because it is a spectrum.
Retro, on the spectrum
The division is at the point where a person is able
, or unable
to take control of their own affairs independently
For example, to be able to call 911 in the case of an emergency,
to be able to tell someone else if they have been injured or need help or are lost,
to be able to connect being hungry with going to get something to eat,
to be able to use a restroom other than the one in one's own house, and for that matter,
to be able to identify the physical need to use the toilet in the first place, when it occurs.
to be able to know what clothes to wear during the cold winter months.
This is stuff which is basic to getting through life.
These are a few examples.
My son, for example, is quite smart in many areas. He could read when he was two years old.
Does he talk? Yes. Sometimes.
Is he be able to express his thoughts and emotions and wants and needs, verbally? No.
Will he ever be able to live on his own and take care of himself,
without some constant assistance from another person?
I don't know. It is very likely that he will not.
It doesn't look like it at this point.
In other words, the difference between being abled
is the ability
to function independently, meaning to be able to make decisions for oneself
and to be able to convey what one's needs are to another person,
even if it non-verbally done.
This is a basic component of living.
This is what defines ability and disability.
The "spectrum" includes everybody. We are, each of us, neurologically unique.
"autism" and "aspergers" are not specific terms.
They are abstract concepts, defined as the occasion arises,
by the cognitive and behavioral traits of the individual.
many who are challenged
by the inability
to empathize with the situations of others
do not see that many people with autism are disabled in a severe way.
While "spectrum" is a vague concept, "disabled" is clearly definable.