Autism is a disorder with a wide range of conditions and variations. Autism has become more well known in our society in the last twenty years and our awareness of it is only growing. The autism spectrum contains a lot of different conditions including Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism.
High Functioning Autism refers to people on the Autism spectrum who can live more easily with their symptoms.
What is Autism
Autism, also called autism spectrum disorder, has a wide range of symptoms. They include:
- Repetitive behaviors
- Problems with social interaction
- Challenges with speech and other forms of communication
- Trouble making eye contact
- Narrow interests
- Sensitivities to stimuli
- Poor motor kills
- Upset by minor changes in routine
- Repetition of words or phrases
Signs typically occur during childhood when children have trouble connecting and interacting with other children. The most obvious signs usually appear in children between 2 and 3 years of age. Early diagnosis can be the key and help your child in the future.
Some Autism facts:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 59 children in the US are on the Autism spectrum
- One third of people with autism remain non-verbal
- One third of people with autism have intellectual disability
- ADHD, anxiety, and phobias can also be present in children on the Autism spectrum
- A sign of autism in infants is when a child doesn’t coo by 12 months or say a single word by 16 months
What is High Functioning Autism
High-functioning autism includes individuals with an autism spectrum disorder who can communicate, read, write, and handle social interaction. They can live independently and are mostly like everyone else.
People with High Functioning Autism spectrum disorder may have a hard time in social situations and reading social cues. They may find that it is difficult to make friends and to communicate freely with other people. These are symptoms that are common throughout all of the Autism spectrum disorders. It is also possible that individuals living with High Functioning Autism can find it difficult to make eye contact and may have a repetitive routine and/or habits.
But, with High Functioning Autism there are less language delays and the symptoms are less severe than classic Autism. In fact, what really sets High Functioning Autism apart is IQ scores. Because of language difficulty in classic Autism, children may have lower IQ’s. People with High Functioning Autism tend to have IQ’s in the normal, or even advanced, range.
Although children with High-Functioning Autism have less language delays, a symptom of this condition is late development of language. Slight behavioral ticks are also common.
Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism are less severe than classic Autism but people with Asperger’s differ from them and in some ways, have even less symptoms.
What is Asperger Syndrome
Asperger syndrome is a condition that is also on the Autism spectrum and is considered very highly functioning. Asperger syndrome is characterized by social awkwardness and specific interests. The usual onset of Asperger Syndrome is before two years old. Children with Asperger Syndrome may also flap their hands which is a symptom found in children with classic Autism.
Children with Asperger Syndrome also have IQs that fall in the normal or, quit frequently, superior range. In a lot of ways children with Asperger Syndrome may seem just like any other child except they are socially awkward.
While children with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism can be similar, they also differ.
High Functioning Autism vs Asperger Syndrome
In some circles, High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome are interchangeable. However, as of now, they are a separate diagnosis. There has been talk of integrating them into the same category because they share many of the same symptoms.
The main difference between Asperger syndrome and High Functioning Autism is with Asperger syndrome, there is no language delay. A diagnosis of High Functioning Autism for a child requires that, in early development, there was a problem with language development. With Asperger syndrome, this doesn’t exist.
There are many similarities between High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Children with both may find if difficult to express their feelings and to connect with others emotionally. They may also struggle with eye contact. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism may speak in a flat voice with little emotion. They also may need to follow their schedule precisely and have obsessive interest in one subject.
Both Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism can be misdiagnosed or doctors may miss it entirely. Parents may not seek out a diagnosis because symptoms like lack of social skills aren’t as glaring as the symptoms children with classic Autism show. Sometimes, children may not be diagnosed until later in life when the symptoms become more apparent. This can happen as a child progresses through school and starts to have trouble in the classroom setting.
Treating High Functioning Autism
The main thing to remember is Autism is a varied condition that presents differently in each individual. A treatment that may work for one person may not work for another. The common denominator is early detection and intervention. If diagnosed early, a child has the best chance at living a normal life. Doctors work with the child’s strengths to determine the best treatment options.
Treating High Functioning Autism involves treating the symptoms rather than the condition. By doing this the child can learn to control their symptoms. Treatments include parent education and training, cognitive behavioral therapy, social skills training, speech therapy, sensory integration, and in some cases, medication.
Treatments for High Functioning Autism
Parent education is an important tool for treating High Functioning Autism. Caregivers will need to integrate successful treatments into their child’s everyday life. If treatment is consistent and routine for a child, the outcome is successful.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help manage other symptoms of High Functioning Autism like anxiety. Since children with HFA may be prone to emotional or angry outbursts or depression, cognitive therapy is a tool that helps them learn to self regulate. It has been shown to be helpful in reducing anxious or depressed thoughts. Lastly, cognitive behavioral therapy is tailored to each child and has been shown to improv specific behaviors in patients.
Social skills training involves exercises to improve social skills in children. Therapists use group activities to improve social skills and build social groups. They may also act out social situations or listen to social stories. This is very effective in teaching children how to interact with their peers.
Speech therapy helps with communication. They correct awkward ways of speaking and help children to interpret speech of others. They also work on social cues, eye contact, and facial cues.
Sensory integration therapists work with children to control their reaction to external stimuli. It can help reduce anxiety by improving a child’s response to touch or sounds that they previously found upsetting. Many children find other areas improved after gaining control of their senses. It can be especially helpful in controlling outbursts and emotions.
Medication can’t treat High Functioning Autism itself but children may need medication to help with symptoms like anxiety, depression, or hyperactivity.
Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders
The exact cause of Autism Spectrum disorders are unknown. Research suggests there is a combination of genetics and environmental factors that contribute to a child developing autism. A chemical imbalance, lack of oxygen at birth, or viruses can also be causes of autism.
It is important to remember there isn’t any one cause that is certain. Even if a person has a gene that is associated with developing autism there is no guarantee they will be autistic. Just like not everyone exposed to an environmental risk factor will develop autism. It seems a genetic predisposition to the condition plays a part in development.
There has been a lot of talk in the last few years about vaccines. There is research from the last two decades exploring the link between autism and vaccines. The research is clear that there is no link. In short, vaccines do not cause autism. It’s important to get your child fully vaccinated.
Overall, research on Autism spectrum disorders is ever expanding. A diagnosis isn’t the end of the world as there are many ways to treat High Functioning Autism and still live a full life. In fact, the condition is relatively common and many individuals with High Functioning Autism live unaffected by their condition.