What is High Functioning Autism

“He doesn’t look like anything is wrong”. This comment I hear all the time when it comes to the twins. And I’m sure I’m not the only Parent. Having a son or daughter who has autism is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you will ever face, but if that diagnosis is coupled with the term “high functioning” you may find yourself frustrated more often than not. What Is High Functioning Autism? This is a question we are often asked and would love to address to help other parents understand more about our children.

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WHAT IS HIGH FUNCTIONING AUTISM? Let’s first establish what autism is. Autism is a disorder in the development of a persons social and communication skills. While that is a basic answer, it gives you an idea of the areas of life that autism will effect. The range of severity is vary wide. While many autistic children are faced with an inability to speak for years or even at all, others are considered high functioning and to the untrained eye might not be easy to diagnose. High Functioning Autism doesn’t exhibit itself obviously to outsiders. The ticks, fears, social issues, sensory issues and mild communication problems are often easy to overlook if a child is high functioning. Their delay in speech communication may have led them to a small vocabulary until they are close to school age. Many people only see the current state of a child, and have no idea what progress they have made in the past. Some signs of High Functioning Autism:

  • Delayed initial speech but functional communication as child ages
  • Above average intelligence and logic at an early age
  • Difficulty in social situations – in ability to understand or relate to peer groups
  • Lack of social comfort – seeming “mature” for their age. Not being able to understand jokes, humor or typical roughhousing amongst peers.
  • Obsessive actions regarding appearance, cleanliness, fears and social situations
  • Sensory or Texture issues. This applies to food, clothing, smells, and anything that may touch their bodies.
  • Shortened attention span
  • Prone to tantrums or meltdowns when overly tired or overly stimulated

This list is very short compared to the many signs out there you may be seeing exhibited in your child. The point of this list is not to give you a comprehensive look, but a small understanding of why our children act the way they do sometimes. For a high functioning autistic child every day things may look and seem to be the same, but what happens on those rare occasions is what proves their diagnosis. Next time you see a child who is fidgety, crying for no reason or refusing to eat the food on their plate in a restaurant, think twice before reprimanding the parent. A high functioning child with autism may seem perfectly normal on the outside but be caving on the inside. Their food odor or texture may be too much for them to handle. It could be the end of a very busy and over stimulating day. Or it simply could be exhaustion and the inability to focus coming out. What is high functioning autism? It’s a diagnosis that explains why some of our children handle social skills and communication differently than others.


You may also hear, what does a child with high functioning Autism look like?

zion and ziah twins Meet Zion and Ziah- both of my twins are on the Autism spectrum- both are high functioning. They have a lot of similarities when it comes to Autism signs, but yet vastly different. As the saying goes, when you meet on child with Autism, you meet one child with Autism.