High Functioning Autism

High functioning autism is used to describe those individuals in whom many or almost all of the symptoms of autism are present; however, they did not develop language typically. Autism is a type of brain disorder characterized by difficulty in communication and interaction with other individuals. The symptoms of autism range from total inability to communicate with others to inability to understand the feelings of others. Many psychiatrists consider high functioning autism almost similar to same as Asperger’s syndrome.

High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

image001People suffering from the HFA or Asperger’s syndrome want to get involved
 with others, a characteristic that is not present in other forms of autism. However, they simply don’t understand how to do it. They may be unable to understand the emotions of others. They may be not able to read body language or facial expressions of others. Due to this these individuals may be teased and they often feel as if they are social outcasts. This social isolation can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety in such individuals.

What Are the Similarities?

Both high functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome are part of the ‘autism spectrum’. HFA and Asperger’s have many characteristics in common, such as average of above-average intelligence levels, other than the differences that exist in language development. However, they may exhibit signs and behaviors that are seen in other types of autism such as:

  • Delayed development of motor skills
  • The deficient skill of interacting with other individuals
  • Reduced understanding of the abstract uses of language such as give-and-take during a conversation or humor
  • Showing obsessive interest in specific information or items
  • Reactions those are stronger than normal to smells, sounds, textures, sights or other stimuli such as flickering light

What Are the Differences?

The major difference between them exists in the development of language. Children suffering from HFA usually develop language delays early on similar to other types of autism. Children suffering from Asperger’s, however, do not have classic language delays until they develop enough spoken language to make their language difficulties visible.

How to Diagnose

Children suffering from the HFA or Asperger’s syndrome are difficult to diagnose in the earlier stages unlike children suffering from more severe forms of autism. This happens because the symptoms of HFA are less noticeable. In fact, symptoms may not cause problem until a child starts attending school. Diagnosis is based on the assessment done by the doctor about the symptoms of the child in three main areas:

  • Social interactions: The child will not make eye contact or is unable to understand the feelings of another person.
  • Verbal and non-verbal communication: The child will either not speak or repeat a phrase again and again.
  • Interests in objects, activities or specialized information: The child will develop symptoms such as playing with only a particular part of a toy or may become obsessed about a particular topic.

How to Manage

A variety of therapies are used to treat High-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome including

  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA), in which a child who shows appropriate social behavior and communication skills is rewarded. The technique is based on the theory that when a particular behavior is rewarded, it encourages the child to continue that behavior.
  • Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) is a method that involves teaching communication and coping skills in a structured manner. This system utilizes the strengths of a child in visual skills and memorization.

Apart from these, other treatments may be recommended depending upon the needs of a child. These include:

  • Medicines to treat symptoms of anxiety, hyperactivity, obsessive behavior, inattention or depression
  • Occupational or physical therapy to assist with motor skills
  • Language and speech therapy to assist with the development of communication and language
  • Social skills therapy to help the child work on his language and social skills so as to assist in group interaction
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