High Functioning Autism

This is a particular form of autism which is often confused with Asperger’s Syndrome and as a result of this is difficult to diagnose.

But what is apparent with this autistic spectrum disorder is the above normal level of intelligence. Plus they have a higher than normal level of functioning.

By that we mean that they have an outstanding ability in certain types of activities which require an innate talent or attention to detail. Examples of these include working with computers, engineering, mathematics, science, drawing and music.

But they also display noticeable signs of autism such as an inability to socialise with others, initiate or maintain a conversation, engage in playful activities or empathise with others. Their speech developmental is abnormal and they prefer to work on their own rather than in the company of other people.

High functioning autistics develop an obsession with a particular subject or object, e.g. collecting a particular type of magazine.

Many people with this autism are referred to as ’geeks’or ’eccentrics’by other people.

Children with high functioning autism

Children with this spectrum disorder often have problems with their coordination and motor skills, e.g. walking or balancing on one leg. They prefer tasks which require them to perform the same movement over and over again but without the need for hand-eye co-ordination or a high level of physical dexterity.

But the defining feature of this disorder is their lack of social skills. This is a problem for both adults and children although this can be dealt with by a series of interventions which teach these skills to autistic people.

This inability to detect and act upon social cues or to interpret another person’s actions can cause a range of problems. A high functioning child may find themselves being manipulated by another child or inadvertently upsetting others as a result of a social gaffe which they are completely unaware of.

Plus these children dislike situations in which they are exposed to sensory overload: this means being in an environment or setting in which they have too many demands upon their senses.

An example of this is being invited to a child’s party where they have to cope with music, flashing lights (if there is a disco), talking and social interaction. This causes them to withdraw into themselves and avoid eye contact with others which is often see as shyness.

A high functioning child prefers a structured, ordered way of doing things. They prefer their own company and will focus on a particular task, such as making a list of their comics rather than play with toys or engage in games.

Plus they often prefer to wear a set of clothing which is in a single, uniform colour. They will have several sets of the same outfit and in the same colour.

Adults with high functioning autism

Many adults with this disorder span two worlds as they say. They are able to talk, read and write and show no signs of any impairment with their cognitive abilities. Plus this is often combined with an above average level of intelligence.

This means that they manage to function in society with few problems and may be considered ’eccentric’ rather than autistic.

But they also exhibit some of the characteristic signs of autism such as awkwardness in social situations, problems with communication and language difficulties. These vary in degree between high functioning adults with some adults showing only a few signs whereas others are more noticeably affected.

Some of these adults are able to successfully merge into society and are able to have a family, career and friends in the same way a non-autistic person has. They can manage their autism to the extent that it is hardly noticeable and are not seen as out of the ordinary by non-autistic people.

However, there are other adults who experience problems as a result of their autism. These include difficulties at work due to their inability to socialise with work colleagues or to engage in work related humour.

This awkwardness often spread to other areas of their lives such as personal relationships and social gatherings/events.

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