When learning about and seeking information related to autism, you’ll inevitably run into the question of what is high functioning autism, and how is it different from classic autism? First of all, if you’re familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome, you already know something about high functioning autism — they now share the same diagnosis according to the DSM IV.
What is high functioning autism compared to classic autism has a lot to do with the development of language and social skills. A person with high functioning autism may demonstrate above average intelligence, and be perfectly adept at many things that a person with classic autism may not be able to grasp. Despite that being the case, the individual will struggle greatly when it comes to language and social interactions.
What is High Functioning Autism, and How is it Similar to Classic Autism?
Since high functioning autism and classic autism both involve difficulties with language and communication, it’s similarly difficult for children with these conditions to express how they feel and identify with others. Difficulty connecting with others is also accompanied by challenges with reading facial expressions and body language.
Like classic autism, people with high functioning autism may have trouble making or maintaining eye contact with other individuals, or expressing themselves non-verbally. People with high functioning autism usually tend to speak without much emotion or inflection to their voice, or may have an irregular speech pattern altogether.
Another trait shared between classic autism and high functioning autism is the inclination towards following strict schedules and routines. This is often coupled with an intense and/or obsessive interest with one specific subject. On one hand, they can talk one’s ear off about a subject that may not be interesting to the other person — but on the other hand they can become quite successful as bona fide experts in their field.
Finally, another of the most similar traits is an increased sensitivity toward external stimuli such as sound, taste, touch, smell, and so on. As an example, people with high functioning autism may have a particular aversion toward a food not because of how it tastes, but because of its texture. They may also show a greater than average interest in music because of their increased sensitivity to sound, or an intense dislike for certain sounds or loud noise in general.
What is High Functioning Autism, and How is it Different From Classic Autism?
One of the most defining differentiators between high functioning autism and classic autism, is that individuals with HFA tend to have above average intelligence with normal to superior IQ levels.
Despite their high level of intelligence, individuals with HFA may stand out as being awkward amongst their peers due to pronounced difficulties in understanding the concepts of social norms. As a result, well-intentioned individuals with HFA may often be misunderstood by others.
Due to the fact that children with HFA tend to function well in school academically, they may end up being misdiagnosed or not being diagnosed whatsoever. In addition, the difficulties in social interaction faced by those with HFA do not begin to manifest until later on life. As a result, children with HFA may not get the support they need at a young age compared to children with classic autism, since the symptoms are usually not observed until much later.
For more information about what is high functioning autism, we recommend you browse through some of the additional resources on our website.