Autism is a disorder that affects brain development. There are many symptoms and diverse ranges of severity that accompany autism. Those with autism who are thought to be high-functioning can typically live independently.
Even though we use the term, it is sometimes not thought to be accurate in defining the true challenge of autism. This can cause expectations to be unrealistically high. It is thought that this description of autism reflects IQ. The thought process is that IQ doesn’t always affect a person’s ability to function in daily living.
What is the autism spectrum?
The spectrum that is used to define the types and severity of autism is used to identify the level of support that is needed for the person to function. There was a time when only those with severe symptoms were diagnosed with autism. Then some terms were used for the milder cases of autism. Now all autism-related disorders are grouped into ASD.
This refers to those who are on the lower/milder end of the autism spectrum. At this level, the person is typically intelligent and has no problem handling daily life. While he or she can discuss his or her interests, he or she tends to have a difficult time socially.
Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
This spectrum of autism includes those who are in the middle of Asperger’s and true autistic disorder. It was one of the original terms used to identify the severity of autism. Now the person would be diagnosed with ASD and a level of severity.
This is one of the older terms used to identify the severity of autism. Though the symptoms are the same as the other spectrums, this typically identifies a very intense level of autism.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.
The diagnosis in this category was at one time rare and most severe. It described those who developed normally but then quickly diminished socially, verbally, and mentally at a young age.
What is the severity scale of ASD?
There is a protocol that is followed when it comes to diagnosing autism. Along with certain symptoms, there is a level of severity that is used by most psychologists. The severity is determined by the level of support that an individual will need due to communication and behavior impairments.
Three levels are used. The level that has a high need for support is level 3, substantial support is level 2, and level 1 requires some support. Level 1 is typically the level of severity of high-functioning autism.
What are the causes of autism?
There is no determined cause of autism. There have been noted links to genetics playing a part in being at higher risk, but there are no true genetic causes. There are biological factors that may have a role in the risk of autism, such as brain metabolism or connections. There has also been some supporting evidence of genes and environment playing an autism part. For instance, certain genetic risks and specific environmental circumstances could contribute.
A few factors that are considered to increase the risk of autism are the advanced age of either parent, complications at birth, low birth weight, twins/triplet births, and pregnancies less than one year apart. It has also been noted that prenatal vitamins containing folic acid may decrease this risk.
What are the 10 signs of high-functioning autism?
High-functioning autism is said to be a level 1 ASD. This would indicate that a person who has been diagnosed with this level of autism can function well independently with some supportive assistance. Some signs could indicate a person may have level 1 ASD/high-functioning autism include the following.
1. Subject/idea fixation.
Examples include repetitive discussion of the same topic, playing the same song over and over, or reading everything about a certain topic.
2. Abnormal linguistics.
Those who have high-functioning autism are known to begin talking at an early age with a higher-than-normal vocabulary. They may seem odd in the way they express themselves verbally, focus on specific topics, or avoid speaking to peers.
3. Emotional sensitivity. This is one of the most common symptoms of high-functioning autism. These individuals have no problems in the day-to-day tasks of life, but they tend to struggle with controlling their emotions. Their emotions can affect the rest of their day and are often more intense than what would be considered normal reactions.
4. Difficulty with physical sensations.
It is very common for those with high-functioning autism to have a low tolerance for intense physical sensations. They may show difficulty with processing certain types of feelings, noises, smells, or tastes.
5. Difficult social interaction.
Those who have been identified as being high-functioning autistic often show signs of the inability to interact with peers. They have a limited social circle, difficulty with group assignments, and a hard time sharing. While they may seem socially awkward, in actuality they are struggling with autism.
6. Repetitive/restrictive habits.
These types of behavior in these individuals can cause problems with work, school, or other day-to-day activities. Repetitive habits are those that involve doing the same thing a certain number of times before being satisfied. Restrictive habits are those that are limited in interest, focus, or activity. This may be displayed by only wearing certain types of clothing.
7. Routine dedication.
Individuals with high-functioning autism are typically dedicated to their daily routines. They tend to stick to the schedules that they have grown into or have been set in place by others. Any deviation can cause intense frustration.
This is not the same as being vain or self-centered. This type of behavior stems from the inability to connect socially with others. They don’t intend to have this improper focus on themselves.
9. Difficulty with change.
This is one of the classic signs of high-functioning autism. Any change in how something is done, the amount of time, the items used, or the type of things they do at a certain time can cause an outburst of anger or intense frustration.
10. Uncommon patterns or movement.
Those with high-functioning autism tend to display various movement patterns that are not typical. The most common movement noted is walking on the ball and toes of their feet.
How is high-functioning autism diagnosed?
Diagnosing individuals with high-functioning autism does not involve biomedical testing. The diagnosis is typically done through a formal evaluation based on a suspicion of its presence. Most of the time the professional clinician will take into consideration the explanation of symptoms by the parent or pediatrician. There is an assessment that can be done by observing the behavior of the individual.
Once there is a suspicion of autism, the parents, pediatrician, and clinical professional can monitor the development to see if other signs begin to present themselves. There may also be some screening that is done to detect further symptoms of autism. A diagnosis can include a psychologist, pediatrician, or speech-language pathologist. These experts can help determine the development of any level of autism.
How to help an individual with high-functioning autism.
There is no cure for autism. Understanding how to support those who have been diagnosed helps them have a good quality of life. The best way to help high-functioning autistic individuals is to work with them on navigating daily living with the challenges they experience.
Sometimes medication may be used to help treat other aspects such as anxiety or depression. The most common treatment options are occupational therapy, talk therapy, and physical therapy. Most high-functioning autistic individuals benefit from individual counseling sessions that help them learn to manage challenges.
There are several ways to help these individuals maintain independence so that they can experience life in terms they understand. Christian counselors use scripture-based sessions to keep the individual in a positive mindset. If you think connecting with a Christian counselor can help someone you know with high-functioning autism, please reach out to a Christian counselor today.
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