High functioning autism is a complex disorder. Read this article to have a clear understanding about its symptoms and some favorable ways to deal with it.
Autism can be described as a pervasive developmental disorder due to which certain basic skills, such as social interaction, communication, and behavioral skills of a person are impaired. The term high functioning autism (or HFA) is used in those cases where an individual shows a few of the symptoms of autism but the IQ level score is average or more than that. Its signs are mostly identified by parents and health care professionals in the early childhood years itself.
However, in some people it can be recognized when they have already reached adulthood. Unlike autism syndrome, people with HFA can speak, read, and write without any visible signs of cognitive delays. But their mindset is a bit different from people with non-autistic minds. As a result, interaction with society at large is quite challenging for them.
Symptoms in Children
The symptoms that are observed in children with HFA are not as obvious as that of child autism. You cannot make out its symptoms from their physical appearance, performance, or overall response. Here is a checklist that can help you in this regard:
- Some of them are highly sensitive towards certain stimuli. It could be a particular sound, like thunderstorm, loud noise, bright light, or texture of foods. When they have to deal with such issues they tend to get upset about it.
- Most of these children like social interaction but they cannot start a conversation on their own or continue a conversation for long. They tend to get stuck with one single topic and prefer to talk about it only.
- They tend to suffer from anxiety or depression quite often. It mostly develops out of some extreme fears that lie within them.
- Their spoken language skills may develop slowly as compared to other children of the same age group. However, once they have acquired the skill, their vocabulary will be as good as others.
- While communicating with others, their flow of speech is usually slower and may lack emotion. They may fail to understand gestures and facial expressions.
- They often face problems with physical coordination skills or motor skills. It can be identified with their clumsy response during activities like sports. Usually, it does not have any adverse impact on their daily life activities.
- Many of them develop a certain kind of obsessiveness towards a particular game or toy. They are interested to do that activity all the time and like to talk about it all the time.
Characteristics in Adults
Adults with HFA often suffer from a social dilemma. This is because they cannot identify themselves with the typical autism community nor are they comfortable with the society at large. Here are the key characteristics:
- Social interaction is a challenging task for these people. In social situations, they are in a serious mood all the time and try to remain aloof. For this reason, they are often being misunderstood as being arrogant.
- They exhibit repetitive behavior which means they love to repeat some things again and again. It could be a line from a poem, a topic from a previous conversation, or about an object that they like.
- They have strong emotions but unfortunately they fail to express themselves in the right manner. It makes them frustrated and results in sudden mood swings or emotional outbursts.
- They face problems in maintaining good personal relationships. A rejection in a relationship can drive them into deep depression and low self-esteem.
When parents suspect that their child is showing some signs of this type of autism, they should take the child to a specialist. They conduct screening and physiological tests, and study the observed symptoms to confirm whether any developmental problem exists or not. Since it is not a disease, it cannot be treated with any medicines. Rather, a series of therapies are highly beneficial for this purpose.
It includes educational therapy where the education program is structured in such a way that the child can develop his/her learning skills. Behavior therapy addresses difficulties related to behavior, communication, and social interaction. Language and speech therapy help improve their pronunciation and understanding of the language.
Occupational therapy brings about improvement in the motor skills. If these treatments start at an early stage of life, then one can expect good results from them, and the child can blend well with the mainstream society. Adults can manage this condition really well provided they get adequate support from people around them.
Unfortunately, many people in our society assume high functioning autism as mental retardation. This is absolutely wrong. Rather, these people are extremely talented with outstanding qualities in them. If we can give them a secured and supportive environment, they can have a flourishing career, fulfilling relationships, and lead a productive life.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a mental health expert.