What is high functioning autism? Is it dangerous?

High-functioning autism (HFA) is a term used to describe people with autism who do not show intellectual disability. Compared to the rest, people with HFA can live full and independent lives. However, therapeutic intervention as well as support in work and life are very necessary.

What is high functioning autism?

High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is a classification of autism in which a person shows no intellectual disability but may exhibit impairments in communication, recognition, and expression. emotions and social interactions.

HFAs are not included in the American Psychological Association’s DSM-5 or the World Health Organization’s ICD-10. Because both of these diagnostic criteria do not divide autism based on intellectual ability.

High-functioning autism is characterized by features similar to those of Asperger’s syndrome. The defining feature recognized by psychologists is the significant delay in the development of early speech and language skills, usually before the age of 3 years.

Further differences in characteristics in people with HFA versus those with Asperger’s syndrome include:

  • Better visual/spatial ability
  • Poor verbal reasoning ability
  • Movement is less deflected
  • Standalone operating problems
  • The male:female ratio is much smaller
  • Not good at empathizing with others
  • Curiosity and interest in various things

A lot of people with high functioning autism still have close friends, understanding and likable bosses, and romantic partners. Clear conversations about preferences as well as accommodation are often required for parties to work well together. When this is accomplished, many people with HFA will find their way into a rather happy world.

Signs of high functioning autism

High functioning autism can manifest in many different ways. However, there are some signs and symptoms to watch out for, including:

Emotionally sensitive:

Although often overlooked, emotional sensitivity is a common problem for people with high functioning autism. These individuals are still able to function in daily life but struggle to control their emotions.

For example, experiencing the morning with some incidents can make you irritable and difficult to concentrate for the rest of the day. In addition, people with this autism may also have unusually intense emotional reactions compared to the rest of the population.

High self-esteem expression

Children with high functioning autism may function normally but struggle with emotional control

– “Closed” to specific topics or ideas:

The person may constantly discuss the same topics in conversation, or listen to the same song obsessively, or read every article written on a certain topic. These preferences can become negative if they take over a person’s personal life or interfere with the person’s relationships with others.

Sensory problems:

Many people with autism have sensory processing disorders. This is often referred to as sensory overload, which is quite common in people with high functioning autism.

Noise, crowds, bright lights, strong smells, tastes, or touch can make people with HFA feel unbearable. This makes it more difficult to go to restaurants, movie theaters or shopping malls. Even a simple hug or socks can be challenging for people with sensory processing problems.

Excessive devotion to habits:

People with HFA often spend most of their time in routines. They may stick to habits that others have built for them. For example, read a book exactly 15 minutes before going to bed, brush your teeth exactly 5 minutes after eating, etc.

Any deviation from routine can cause the patient to become frustrated. People with high-functioning autism may spend a large amount of time performing routine tasks. This takes a toll on self-care, exercise, sleep, work, and study.

– Social awkwardness:

People with HFA may have difficulty recognizing social cues and body language. Common problems they may experience when interacting with others include:

  • Understand the right greetings
  • Know when to let others talk
  • Adjust the timbre and volume of their voice

high functioning autism expression

Most people with high-functioning autism are socially awkward

Social awkwardness can be a very significant obstacle to making friends, finding work, and dating. This is especially true of a lot of people with HFA.

– Development of repetitive or restrictive habits:

Repetitive habits are also another sign in people with HFA. These habits can affect their ability to deal with what to do or what others want them to do.

One type of repetitive habit is more likely to involve movement. Individuals may have to tie and take off their shoes several times before they feel satisfied before they start walking or leaving the house.

In addition, some people with HFA develop restrictive habits that interfere with life. For example, an individual may refuse to wear anything other than a t-shirt. This can affect their health and well-being if they are living in a place with cold weather.

– Don’t like change:

Another sign of high-functioning autism is a great dislike of change. An individual may eat the same meal each day for breakfast. Especially they can eat the same quantity, the same dish in the same place.

Any disruption or change in routine can cause an outburst of discomfort for them. For example, one common food item that has run out and another that has been purchased to replace it can cause a person with an HFA flare-up to be angry or frustrated.

– Focus on yourself:

People with HFA may have difficulty developing deep social relationships with others. Part of this problem is due to the excessive focus on self. A person with HFA often spends too much time talking about themselves, not allowing others to share their thoughts. This makes it difficult to continue a conversation.

In a family setting, a person with high functioning autism may think only of themselves when performing activities. For example, they can pour themselves a drink or grab a snack without asking if the other person wants something to eat.

HFA identification sign

Many people with HFA are only concerned with their own needs and always ignore the needs of others

Operational function issues:

Executive functioning is the term used to describe the skills that a person uses to organize and plan their life. This includes things like making and sticking to a schedule or following a schedule to complete a long-term project.

Most people with high functioning autism have difficulty with executive functioning. This can make it difficult to manage a family or cope with small changes in the schedule at school or at work.

Anxiety and depression:

Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders often tend to go hand in hand with HFA. People with HFA are more likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder than the general population.

However, the exact cause of this high risk is still unclear. It could be high functioning autism causing mood disturbances. However, it could also be due to the social rejection that often accompanies HFA.

Causes of high functioning autism

The cause of high-functioning autism is so far unknown. Although the biological basis of HFA is still little known, several studies have revealed structural abnormalities within specific brain regions.

Areas identified in the medial prefrontal cortex include, amygdala, fusiform gyroscope area, superior temporal sulcus, and prefrontal cortex. Other abnormalities were observed in the caudate nucleus, which is thought to be associated with restrictive behaviors as well as a significant increase in cortical gray matter and atypical connectivity between brain regions.

Causes of HFA

Certain abnormalities in brain structure may be involved in the development of high-functioning autism

There is a misconception that certain vaccines such as the MMR (rubella, measles, mumps) vaccine can cause high functioning autism. This is based on a study published by Andrew Wakefield but has been determined to be inaccurate and has been removed.

However, the results of this study have discouraged some parents from giving their children vaccines that have been clinically proven to prevent disease that can cause intellectual disability, even death. dead.

Is high functioning autism dangerous?

People with high-functioning autism are typically average or above average intelligent. However, they may have difficulties with communication and social interaction. This will cause many obstacles to their daily life as well as their work.

Experts say high-functioning autism is a condition that doesn’t cause too much concern and isn’t too dangerous. Very few people with HFA need help using the toilet or basic hygiene. However they will most likely still need a lot of support in other environments.

A person with HFA with severe sensory problems, anxiety, and persistence may actually have more difficulty in the workplace than someone who is less intelligent, has less anxiety, and has fewer problems. more perceptively.

Furthermore, an individual who is “underperforming” may spend most of his or her day in a supportive environment. In this place, the possibility of dangerous interactions is almost zero. Meanwhile, someone with high functioning autism may need to navigate an environment full of complex and dangerous situations.

In addition, many people with high-functioning autism have other mental health conditions. These accompanying problems need to be treated. People can learn to manage them and live a more balanced life.

Here are some other conditions that can develop with HFA:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): This is the most common comorbidity in people with HFA, researchers say. People with ADHD may have difficulty calming their minds to focus and learn. This often reduces their ability to participate fully in therapy.
  • Social phobia: Incessant teasing, communication difficulties, and feelings of loneliness can cause people with HFA to avoid social situations altogether. About 30 percent of people with high-functioning autism struggle with social phobia to some degree, the researchers say.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Some people with HFA feel anxious and stressed all the time, even if they don’t know why themselves. This is a generalized anxiety disorder, and about 16% of people with high-functioning autism experience it, the researchers say.

Is high-functioning autism dangerous?

People with HFA may develop additional generalized anxiety disorder

Diagnosis of high functioning autism

There is no blood test or brain scan that can identify autism in general and high-functioning autism in particular. Instead, professionals will use tests and observations to both identify autism and determine the appropriate form of help.

The Autism Society UK explains a diagnosis of HFA is appropriate when a person has:

  • Persistent difficulty with both communication and social interaction: Body language, tone of voice, and innuendo confuse people with HFA. They seem insensitive, as they often don’t know how to delicately navigate conversations. Or they may behave in ways that others don’t see fit.
  • Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or interests: They may find comfort in routine, and they may also try to reduce exposure to bright lights, colors, smells, or temperatures. They often focus on one activity and feel their best while participating in it.
  • Symptoms that limit and impair daily functioning: Everyone has one or two eccentric personalities. However, people with high functioning autism can have problems so severe that they cannot do things easily.

Mental health professionals will conduct interviews with the person and, if appropriate, others may also join the conversation. Parents, teachers, and close family members can share insights about children. Romantic partners, friends, and employers can talk about adult habits.

Statistics show that the number of people diagnosed with high functioning autism is on the rise. However, it is not clear whether this is due to increased awareness and better screening or because more people are actually developing the disorder.

How to treat high functioning autism?

Autism spectrum disorder in general and high functioning autism in particular cannot be cured. These include a set of symptoms that persist throughout life.

Many people with HFA believe that the way they think, communicate, and act is an important part of who they are. They often ask if they need treatment or should the world be more accepting of their needs?

Experts explain that people with HFA often miss social cues. They want to connect with others but don’t know how to form authentic relationships. Therefore treatment is essential, methods may include:

1. Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is considered very useful for people with high functioning autism. Psychotherapists can help clients build skills related to:

  • Social interaction: How did these people initiate the conversation? How do others respond? With training, a child with HFA can learn to start and exit conversations in a consistent, graceful manner.
  • Variety of Talking Topics: For a person with HFA, a favorite topic often dominates all of their conversations. An ABA specialist will coach clients on various topics to discuss. In addition, a psychologist can help the person identify and respond to nonverbal cues of anxiety or boredom.
  • Body language: A psychologist can teach clients how to make direct eye contact or shake hands. In addition, the therapist explains to the client why these types of communication are not ideal in certain situations.

In addition to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, people with high functioning autism can benefit from a number of other approaches. Include:

  • Complementary and alternative therapies (AAC)
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Sensory integration therapy
  • Movement therapy

Therapy sessions can take place indoors, in classrooms, or in public spaces. The goal of psychotherapy is not personality change. Instead, psychologists aim to provide clients with the tools they need to be more successful in relating to the world around them.

2. Drug use

There are no medications specifically studied to treat autism in general and high-functioning autism in particular. Medications may be considered by your doctor for related symptoms. Such as depression, anxiety or behavioral problems.

Medicines are often used after other forms of alternative treatment have failed. Depending on each specific case, the doctor will consider giving the patient the right medicine to use.

The use of drugs should ensure compliance with the doctor’s instructions, pay attention to the correct dose, frequency and time. If you are prescribed an antidepressant, do not stop taking it suddenly because there are many serious risks.

Most people with high-functioning autism can live full and independent lives. They can do well in therapy and benefit from ABA, AAC, speech therapy, movement therapy, etc. It is important to see a psychologist early and get the right intervention.


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