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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