One type of autism that is often misunderstood is high-functioning autism (HFA). In this article, we will explore what HFA is, its characteristics, and how it is diagnosed and treated.
A doctor can find traits of ASD in children 18 months or younger. By the time a child is 2 years old, an expert will usually be able to make a formal diagnosis. But sometimes, people get a diagnosis much later. They might find that they have high-functioning autism as an older child, a teenager, or as an adult.
While HFA and Asperger’s may be used interchangeably in some contexts, there are some subtle differences between the two that are worth noting.
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High-Functioning Autism: What is it & How is it Diagnosed
People with high-functioning autism may have trouble developing deep social relationships with others. Part of this issue also includes an inordinate focus on self. A person with high-functioning autism may spend an excessive amount of time talking about themselves, not allowing another person to share a complete thought or response. This makes carrying on a conversation difficult. In the family or household setting, a person with high-functioning autism may only think of themselves when doing activities. For example, they might pour themselves a drink without asking if anyone else would also like a drink. They might take more than what others perceive as a fair share of a snack or treat, genuinely not thinking that others might also want some of the items.
One of the hallmark high functioning autism symptoms is a strong dislike of change. An individual might eat the same meal every day for breakfast, and they may eat it in the same quantity, on the same dish, and in the same place. Any disruption or change in the routine could cause an outburst in the individual. For example, if the usual brand of peanut butter has run out, and a different brand has been purchased instead, the person with high-functioning autism may have an outburst of anger or frustration. If someone has used their preferred dish, they may have a similar outpouring of volatility.
There is no cure for HFA, but early intervention and treatment can help individuals with HFA learn social and communication skills, manage their behaviors, and improve their overall quality of life. Some common treatments for HFA include:
What Is High-Functioning Autism
Continually discussing the same topics in conversation, obsessively playing the same song repeatedly, or reading every article written about a certain topic are signs of high-functioning autism in adults and adolescents. These interests can be negative if they take over the individual’s life or interfere with their relationships with others.
Like all people on the autism spectrum, people who are high functioning have a hard time with social interaction and communication. They don’t naturally read social cues and might find it difficult to make friends. They can get so stressed by a social situation that they shut down. They don’t make much eye contact or small talk.
Before all autism-related conditions were grouped at ASD, doctors used to call high-functioning autism Asperger’s syndrome. It was originally named in 1944 by Viennese psychologist Hans Asperger. But it wasn’t officially classified as its own disorder until 1994.
However, it’s important to note that early intervention and diagnosis can lead to a better outcome for individuals with HFA. If you suspect that you or your child may have HFA, it’s crucial to seek an evaluation from a qualified professional.
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Treatment of High-Functioning Autism
Individuals with HFA may exhibit a range of symptoms and behaviors, which can make it difficult to diagnose. Some common characteristics of HFA include:
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association published the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). This edition of the DSM had some important changes to the way autism is diagnosed. Previously, diagnoses like Asperger’s Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder were used to describe individuals at the extreme ends of the autism spectrum. High-functioning autism and Asperger’s are not an official medical diagnosis, but rather unofficial terms used to describe individuals who have mild symptoms of autism. Parents and providers in the field may still refer to these terms to indicate a level of support or degree of disability.
10 Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. It is a spectrum disorder, which means that it affects individuals in different ways and to varying degrees.
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Understanding High-Functioning Autism
Developmental screening. This takes an even deeper look at how a child is developing. This is a normal part of well checks, even if your kid has no concern for ASD. Experts recommend that children get developmental and behavioral screenings at 9 months, 18 months, and 30 months. They also suggest that they get specific ASD screenings during their well checks at 18 months and 24 months.
It’s important to note that regardless of whether an individual is diagnosed with HFA or Asperger’s, they will still face similar challenges related to social communication and interaction, sensory processing, and executive functioning.