Why High Functioning Autism Is Hard to Define

High-functioning autism (HFA) is neither an official diagnosis nor is there an agreed-upon definition of what the term means. In the broadest sense of the term, high-functioning autism may mean any of the following:

  • A person with relatively mild symptoms which, despite their mildness, are significant enough to merit an autism spectrum diagnosis.
  • A person with autism whose IQ is higher than 70
  • A person with autism who is successfully navigating a typical school or work environment
  • A person who is able to mask symptoms of autism successfully so they have in expected ways and can “pass” for neurotypical

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How My Adult Autism Diagnosis Led to Self-Acceptance

Sitting in the psychologist’s office was proving to be more difficult than I had expected. This was the fourth “session” I had been through with him, but today, the unmistakable static sound emanating from his noise machine resembled something similar to a chainsaw. This was a new feature piece to the office, or at least the first time I was sharing space with the device while it was turned on. “At least the fluorescent lights were off,” I silently told myself.

I was there to complete my evaluation for autism spectrum disorder and receive the results from the four hours of testing, not including the additional interviewing that had occurred during the same day’s meeting. It would be appropriate to say I was anxiously pensive.


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21 Songs That Have Helped People on the Autism Spectrum Cope With Sensory Overload

Sensory overload happens when too much sensory stimulus is occurring at once — it can be triggered by a crowded room, a TV turned up too loud, strong aromas, fluorescent lighting and much more. It’s often associated with certain diagnoses like autism, sensory processing disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder, although anyone can experience it.

Music is not always a reliever to sensory overload — in fact, sometimes it can make it worse, so you should ask your loved one on the spectrum if playing a song helps or hurts. But for a lot of people with autism, music works wonders when they are trying to calm themselves down. We asked our readers on the spectrum who use music as a tool to share what songs they play if they’re experiencing sensory overload or melting down. We’ve dropped a Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post if you’d like these songs in one place.

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Why Autism Functioning Labels Are Harmful — and What to Say Instead

Commonly, when you hear someone say they know someone who is on the autism spectrum, you immediately hear them continue the topic with one of the following: “Oh, but he’s high-functioning.” “She’s on the other side of the spectrum.” If you haven’t heard this in a everyday conversation, consider yourself lucky. But you’ve probably at least seen it in articles or organizations that are meant to support the autism population.

I get it, its been common terminology for a long time. It’s not entirely your fault if you use it, but now’s the time to learn and change the use of functioning labels for our autistic friends, family, and community. I am autistic. On my diagnosis paperwork, it does not say high-functioning or low-functioning. It just says autistic, yet I am constantly called high-functioning from doctors, support workers, family members and more. It sounds like a compliment, right? I might be autistic but at least I’m high-functioning, right? Wrong.

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I Have Autism. Here Are the 5 Things I Want Parents to Know.

I was diagnosed with autism when I was 4. I found the word a terrifying place. In some ways, it’s still a frightening place for me. But I have reached a point where I am a professional public speaker on autism.

Parents often ask me to give them advice for their children who are on the autism spectrum. There are many things parents don’t understand about their children with autism. Here are things I wish parents of children with autism would understand.

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Finding ways to have fun at home with your child while simultaneously developing things like social, communication, language, self-regulation, and fine and gross motor skills can be a challenge for any parent, and when you add developmental delays into the mix, it can feel downright impossible.

Learning delays, sensory processing challenges, and explosive meltdowns can make everyday situations feel overwhelming, and finding ways to interact with your little one at home can be difficult. While you want to teach your child important life skills and help him learn how to play independently, finding the right activities for kids with autism, sensory processing disorder, and other challenges isn’t easy, and without an arsenal of indoor activities for kids up your sleeve, weekends, sick days, and school holidays can be extremely daunting.

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To the Mama Whose Child Was Just Diagnosed With Autism

Dear Sweet Mama,

If I could go to you and hug you tightly, and promise you it was all going to be OK, I would. There are many things I’d say if I were face-to-face with you.

But I’ll start with this:

You will get past the diagnosis.

When the diagnosis is new, your vast range of emotions will be hard to sort through. You won’t know if you are happy that someone confirmed you weren’t wrong about the diagnosis, or if you are scared to death about what this will all mean. It’s OK. It’s OK to grieve. It’s OK to cry, scream, question why, feel bitter and isolate yourself for a time. But don’t stay there mama. Please inch your way back out. There will be times where it will feel impossible. Hold on anyway. You and your little one will make it through. You are an All Star team together. You will inspire and feed off of each other’s accomplishments and strength along the way.

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15 People on the Autism Spectrum Describe What a Meltdown Feels Like

“Why are you freaking out?”

“Calm down.”

“That child having a tantrum just needs some discipline.”

“What a brat!”

“What a weirdo.”

People on the autism spectrum, and their loved ones, unfortunately hear phrases like these every day. Why? Because they often experience sensory overload when too much sensory stimulus is occurring at once. It can be triggered by a crowded room, a TV turned up too loud, strong aromas, fluorescent lighting — or a hundred other things. It’s also associated with diagnoses like sensory processing disorder (SPD), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder and more, although anyone can experience it. Often, a meltdown is the only way to relieve the building tension of sensory overload.

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What Are the Symptoms of Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can look different in different people. It’s a developmental disability that affects the way people communicate, behave, or interact with others. There’s no single cause for it, and symptoms can be very mild or very severe.

Some children who are on the spectrum start showing signs as young as a few months old. Others seem to have normal development for the first few months or years of their lives and then they start showing symptoms.

But up to half of parents of children with ASD noticed issues by the time their child reached 12 months, and between 80% and 90% noticed problems by 2 years. Children with ASD will have symptoms throughout their lives, but it’s possible for them to get better as they get older.

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Why It Takes So Long to Get a High Functioning Autism Diagnosis

High functioning autism (HFA), sometimes called mild autism or — until 2013 — Asperger syndrome, is often diagnosed when individuals are teens or adults. But to qualify for an autism diagnosis, symptoms must be present from early childhood. This means that the person being diagnosed as an adult has always had symptoms of autism, but somehow those symptoms flew under the radar for years.

Why Autism Can Be Hard to Diagnose

High functioning autism can be tough to diagnose in a very young child, There are a number of answers to that question. For example:

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