What Does It Mean When You Say “High Functioning Autism”?

by | Mar 1, 2021

“High functioning autism” is a phrase that many people with autism don’t like.

Unfortunately, the term high functioning autism has become a catch phrase, used mostly to indicate the the individual is not so severely impaired by their autism that they are a danger to themselves or others.

It tends to be associated with individuals with higher IQ, as opposed to those who have cognitive delay in addition to autism.

The current growth in the diagnosis of autism is primarily in the area which is considered high functioning autism.

Understanding High Functioning Autism

People with high functioning autism often appear to be neurotypical. Some can fly under the radar and perform well enough to create a functional life, but we may see residual difficulties in the areas of social interactions, employment, and family relationships.

When an ongoing and lifelong pattern of these types of difficulties appear, it is worth considering whether or not the individual is dealing with autism.

If you care about someone, but don’t like the headaches that arise from the way they interact with their world, you may be dealing with someone with high functioning autism.

“Autism can be very elusive, especially when a child is so bright that he or she can carry on a meaningful conversation with an adult.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for us as parents to see the autism or understand it. One of the most frequently asked questions I get from parents whose child is newly diagnosed with high functioning autism is “What is normal developmental behavior for my child, and what is the autism?

Autism can be very elusive, especially when a child is so bright that he or she can carry on a meaningful conversation with an adult.

And that makes parenting a really confusing and difficult task!

Parenting a Child with High Functioning Autism

It is such a tightrope walk!

On the one hand, lowering our expectations (along with revising our hopes and dreams for our child) feels a bit like we are betraying our kids, giving up, criticizing them, or branding them as different in a negative way.

As parents, we all want to hope for the best for our children and help them stretch to achieve it.

On the other hand, continuing not to adjust our expectations of our child sets both the child and us up for frustration and disenchantment; it sets our children up to experience failure and our disappointment in them.

How do you navigate the tightrope of parenting a child with high functioning autism? Too far in either direction and we are creating additional difficulty for all of us.

The only way I have found to achieve peace with the balancing act required to parent a child with autism is to understand the autism at a very deep level, accept my child as unique, and strive to discover the workarounds he requires to carve out a life that he loves.

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