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High Functioning Autism Behaviors

Decode high functioning autism behaviors for better understanding and effective strategies.

Understanding High-Functioning Autism

High-functioning autism, a term often used to describe individuals on the autism spectrum who do not have intellectual disabilities, presents its own unique set of challenges. Even those who are fluently verbal may experience difficulties in language and communication. Understanding these challenges is the first step in decoding high functioning autism behaviors.

Language and Communication Challenges

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who are fluently verbal still experience language and communication challenges. These challenges may vary by age and individual, and may persist from childhood into adulthood, exemplifying the syndrome of autism [1].

Language characteristics associated with high-functioning individuals with ASD often include difficulties in exchanging meaningful messages, an essential aspect of communication. This could manifest as difficulty in understanding or conveying abstract concepts, interpreting or using non-verbal cues, or comprehending and utilizing appropriate language for different social contexts [1].

Moreover, other characteristics beyond language difficulties may indirectly impact communication during interactions, providing clues to the need for additional support in various life areas for individuals with ASD.

Social Communication and Unwritten Rules

Social communication for individuals with autism spectrum disorder involves understanding the unwritten rules that govern interactions, which may change depending on the circumstances and the person being communicated with [1].

For instance, an individual with high-functioning autism may struggle with understanding the appropriate proximity to maintain during a conversation, the social norms of initiating or ending a conversation, or the nuances of facial expressions and body language. These challenges can result in misunderstandings or miscommunications, leading to feelings of frustration or social isolation.

To gain insights into the language and social communication problems of individuals with autism spectrum disorder, reading their biographies, autobiographies, or novels can be beneficial [1]. These first-hand accounts can provide a valuable perspective into the lived experiences of those with high-functioning autism, helping us better understand their unique challenges and strengths.

In conclusion, while individuals with high-functioning autism may not display the same level of visible difficulties as those with more severe forms of ASD, their challenges in language and social communication are significant. Understanding these challenges is key to providing effective support and interventions, and fostering a more inclusive and understanding society.

Characteristics of High-Functioning Autism

Understanding high functioning autism behaviors requires a deep dive into some of the most common characteristics associated with this condition. Two of the most prevalent traits are sensory sensitivities and attention and processing deficits.

Sensory Sensitivities

Sensory sensitivities in individuals with high-functioning autism manifest as hyper or hypo-responsiveness to sensory stimuli. Research indicates that over 96% of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) report such sensitivities across multiple domains [2]. Furthermore, these sensory hyper- and hypo-responsiveness are more prevalent in individuals with ASD than in other developmental disabilities.

The pattern of sensory deficits in ASD is not uniform, but historically, touch, smell, and taste were thought to be particularly at risk [2]. For instance, a child with high-functioning autism might get overwhelmed by the texture of certain fabrics or the smell of certain foods. Conversely, they might seek out specific textures or tastes.

Understanding these sensory sensitivities is crucial in providing supportive environments for individuals with high-functioning autism. Tailoring surroundings to minimize overstimulation and creating opportunities for safe sensory exploration can significantly enhance their comfort and ability to engage.

Attention and Processing Deficits

In addition to sensory sensitivities, individuals with high-functioning autism may also experience attention and processing deficits. These challenges can impact their ability to process sensory information effectively.

Specifically, atypical neural activity in the primary auditory cortex has been observed in individuals with ASD, suggesting disruptions in auditory processing. This could potentially lead to difficulties in understanding spoken language, following verbal instructions, or tolerating certain sounds.

Moreover, individuals with high-functioning autism may also have deficits in attentional shifting and selective attention. This means they may struggle to shift their focus from one task to another or concentrate on a specific task amidst distractions.

Recognizing these attention and processing deficits is key in devising effective strategies to support individuals with high-functioning autism. This might involve providing clear, concise instructions, allowing extra time for task completion, or minimizing background noise during concentration-heavy tasks.

By comprehending these characteristics, we can further enhance our understanding of high functioning autism behaviors and create more inclusive and supportive environments for individuals with ASD.

Behaviors in High-Functioning Autism

Understanding high-functioning autism behaviors can be crucial in helping individuals navigate through life. The manifestation of these behaviors can vary, especially between children and adults.

Children with High-Functioning Autism

Children with high-functioning autism can display a variety of behaviors. They might exhibit delayed speech and show fear of social situations. There might be difficulties in making friends and they might express obsessive interests. Their ability to share can be hindered and they could portray sensitivity to sensory inputs. They might resist touch and can experience meltdowns when overstimulated. These behaviors can serve as a checklist for understanding and recognizing high-functioning autism in children.

High-Functioning Autism Behaviors in Children
Delayed Speech
Fear of Social Situations
Trouble Making Friends
Obsessive Interests
Difficulty Sharing
Sensitivity to Sensory Inputs
Resistance to Touch
Meltdowns When Overstimulated

Adults with High-Functioning Autism

In adults, high-functioning autism behaviors can persist from childhood or develop in adulthood. These can include discomfort with eye contact and trouble with social cues. They might experience anxiety in social settings and struggle with nuances in verbal communication. Sensory overload can be a common occurrence, along with tendencies towards perfectionism. They might prefer isolation and have difficulties in conversations, with intense emotions also being a characteristic trait. This understanding can help in recognizing and providing the necessary support for adults with high-functioning autism.

High-Functioning Autism Behaviors in Adults
Discomfort with Eye Contact
Trouble with Social Cues
Anxiety in Social Settings
Trouble with Verbal Communication Nuances
Sensory Overload
Preference for Isolation
Difficulties in Conversations
Intense Emotions

Recognizing these behaviors can help in understanding the unique challenges faced by individuals with high-functioning autism. With proper support and understanding, both children and adults can navigate their world more effectively.

Co-occurring Disorders

While understanding high-functioning autism behaviors is crucial, it's equally important to recognize the potential for co-occurring disorders. These can include a variety of mental health conditions and cognitive challenges that often accompany autism.

Common Comorbidities

Individuals with high-functioning autism often experience a range of co-occurring disorders. These can include anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, OCD, and bipolar disorder. These conditions are present in both children and adults on the autism spectrum.

Co-occurring Disorders Prevalence in High-Functioning Autism
Anxiety Disorders High
Depression High
OCD Moderate
Bipolar Disorder Moderate

In addition to these mental health conditions, many individuals with high-functioning autism experience sensory processing disorder. This can result in difficulties with noise, crowds, bright lights, strong tastes, smells, and touch. These sensory challenges often persist into adulthood, adding another layer of complexity to the individual's experience.

The connection between autism and these mental health conditions is not entirely clear. It may be related to genetics, environment, or the social rejection and discrimination that individuals with autism often face. Regardless of the cause, it's essential to recognize these co-occurring conditions and incorporate their management into the overall treatment plan for high-functioning autism.

Pursuing an Autism Diagnosis

For many adults who have lived with undiagnosed high-functioning autism, pursuing a diagnosis can provide explanations for long-standing struggles. A diagnosis can shift perspectives towards self-acceptance, grant access to support services, and improve daily life with proper strategies.

Getting a diagnosis can also foster a sense of community and belonging, helping individuals to live authentically. For those who have faced challenges in recognizing social cues and body language, leading to social awkwardness and difficulties in making friends, finding and keeping a job, and dating, a diagnosis can provide much-needed clarity and direction [3].

Understanding high-functioning autism behaviors and the potential for co-occurring disorders allows for more effective support and treatment strategies. This holistic view of the individual's experience can lead to a more fulfilling life for those on the autism spectrum.

Living with High-Functioning Autism

Living with high-functioning autism, also known as autism with low support needs, brings its own unique set of challenges and rewards. It's crucial to remember that every individual's experience is different, and the autism spectrum is just that — a spectrum. However, with the right support and understanding, individuals with high-functioning autism can lead full, enriching lives.

Full and Enriching Lives

Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) spectrum often lead full and enriching lives, successfully pursuing careers, maintaining relationships, achieving academic goals, and contributing meaningfully to their communities. Despite facing challenges in social skills and communication, many individuals with high-functioning autism can excel in careers that do not heavily rely on communication skills.

For instance, Temple Grandin, a successful individual with ASD, built a unique career designing systems for managing livestock. Given the right opportunities, individuals with high-functioning autism can thrive in various career paths that suit their skills [5].

However, it's important to note that autism with low support needs, previously known as high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome, still presents challenges in day-to-day activities such as sensory overload, difficulty understanding social cues, and emotional regulation.

Support and Community Involvement

Pursuing an autism diagnosis for adults can provide explanations for long-standing struggles, shift perspectives to self-acceptance, grant access to support services, improve daily life with proper strategies, foster community and belonging, and help individuals live authentically [3].

Students on the autism spectrum may face a variety of "hidden challenges" that can undermine their ability to navigate a typical college campus and perform well in class. These challenges may include communication and social skills deficits, sensory perceptions, motor skills, learning styles, and coping strategies. The observable behaviors of students on the autism spectrum may make them appear inattentive, bored, rude, defiant, or possibly even on drugs [6].

Therefore, community involvement and support become crucial in helping individuals with high-functioning autism navigate their daily lives successfully. This support can come in various forms, including educational accommodations, therapy, support groups, and more. By fostering an understanding and inclusive environment, we can help individuals with high-functioning autism lead fulfilling lives while acknowledging and addressing their unique challenges.

Education and Evidence-Based Practices

When it comes to teaching students with high functioning autism, evidence-based practices (EBPs) can play a vital role. These practices are heavily informed by research and are shown to produce positive outcomes. This section will delve into the application of such practices and strategies in the educational setting.

Evidenced-Based Academic Practices

Federal laws in the United States, such as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA '04), mandate the use of evidence-based academic and behavioral practices and programs for children with autism. This is to ensure that the teaching methods used are proven to be effective and beneficial for these students [7].

The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder has identified 27 evidence-based practices that have been shown to improve outcomes for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. These practices encompass a wide range of strategies, from structured teaching and visual supports to peer-mediated instruction and intervention. The selected practices should be tailored to fit the specific needs of each student and should be implemented consistently for the best results.

Implementing Effective Strategies

Implementing evidence-based practices for students with high functioning autism involves a systematic process. First, educators should collect baseline data to determine the level at which a behavior occurs before implementing a strategy or intervention. This data should be gathered for at least four days or until a pattern of behavior is evident.

The next step involves setting a goal for addressing the target behavior in a child's individualized education program (IEP) or individualized family service plan (IFSP). The goal should include information about the child's current level of development and their learning goals.

Finally, when selecting an evidence-based practice (EBP) for a child, educators should consider the individualized needs of the student, the expertise of the staff, and the available resources. The chosen strategy should align with the student's learning objectives and should be flexible enough to adapt to their evolving needs.

In conclusion, educators play a crucial role in supporting students with high functioning autism. By implementing evidence-based practices and using effective strategies, they can help these students overcome their challenges and excel in their educational pursuits.