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What is High Functioning Autism?

Autism can be confusing to people who aren’t directly involved in the diagnosis and/or treatment of the disorder. Much of this confusion can be attributed to the fact that autism, and our knowledge of it, has evolved quickly over the last 10 or so years.

What we know of autism today is much different than what we knew of autism even a few years ago. In 2013, multiple related disorders got clumped together by the American Psychiatric Association into one name known as autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.

One of the disorders that was wrapped into ASD is known as Asperger’s syndrome, which is also referred to as high-functioning autism. This name isn’t an official diagnosis or medical term, but rather an informal way to refer to people who have ASD and can write, read and speak, as well as handle some basic skills such as dressing themselves and eating.

In most cases, people who have high-functioning autism are able to live independently. That being said, like all forms of autism, people who have Asperger’s syndrome are affected by it in different ways, with some exhibiting severe symptoms and others exhibiting only mild symptoms.

This adds to the confusion surrounding ASD, which we will clarify below.

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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

For many years, only people who had severe symptoms ended up receiving an autism diagnosis. It wasn’t until the 1990s that more mild forms of autism were recognized.

It was at this time that people started being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. However, that was treated as an entirely different developmental disorder as autism.

That all changed in 2013, when the APA created the official designation of ASD, which includes:

  • Autistic Disorder
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Rett disorder
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder — not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)

When that happened, Asperger’s syndrome stopped being used from a medical standpoint, though some people who were diagnosed before 2013 still use the term. It’s also at this time that some began to refer to people with Asperger’s syndrome as having high-functioning autism.

What are the Symptoms?

Many of the symptoms of high-functioning autism are the same as those in ASD.

People who have it often have a difficult time communicating or in social situations. They often aren’t able to naturally read other people’s social cues, and could have trouble making friends.

Social situations may cause them to feel anxiety and/or stress, which could cause them to shut down. People with high-functioning autism might have trouble making small talk or eye contact when they talk to other people.

People who have high-functioning autism typically like to keep a routine, some so strict that they get anxious or thrown off if there’s even the smallest change to that routine.

Like other people with ASD, those with high-functioning autism exhibit symptoms on a wide range. Some might perform well at school, though others might have trouble concentrating and get easily overwhelmed.

Some people may have the ability to hold a steady job and build a career, while others will have trouble doing so.

How is High-Functioning Autism Diagnosed?

All disorders that fall under the ASD umbrella are diagnosed in the same way. At Blue Gems ABA, we have an in-depth autism diagnoses that includes three steps.

The first step is a screening and initial assessment. During this step, we use tools such as the M-CHAT. This will give us an initial idea. We’ll also talk with you about your child’s behavior and how they’re developing.

Next, a clinical psychologist will conduct a more detailed evaluation. They observe how your child communicates and interacts socially.

After all the assessments are done, we conduct a review of all our observations. We then discuss the details of our analysis with you, including whether your child is being diagnosed with high-functioning autism or any other form of ASD.

If your child does receive an ASD diagnosis, we will work closely with you to suggest effective therapies and interventions that can make a huge difference in their lives.

What Treatments Are There for High-Functioning Autism?

The best treatment for high-functioning autism is applied behavioral analysis, or ABA therapy. This proven treatment is based in scientific evidence, and draws on helping children with ASD develop the communication and other skills they need to succeed in life.

ABA therapy can be administered in your own home, and is personalized to each child’s unique characteristics, skills and behaviors. In addition, it integrates family members and other caregivers so that the skills learned during therapy sessions can be reinforced outside of sessions.

These are just a few of the reasons why ABA therapy has been proven as one of the best treatments for high-functioning autism and all ASD severities.

Let Blue Gems ABA Help Support Your Child’s Success

Blue Gems ABA is one of the most trusted providers of ABA therapy in the country. We have experienced clinical psychologists who can assess your child for autism and then ABA therapists to administer targeted treatment should they receive a diagnosis.

Supporting your child is our number one goal, and we strive to reach that goal every day.

For more information, please contact Blue Gems ABA today.