Asperger’s syndrome (AS)/High Functioning Autism (HFA)

People who are high functioning may have a hard time with social interaction and communication, as all people on the autism spectrum. They neglect to naturally read social cues and might find difficulty in making friends. People with high functioning autism can get so overwhelmed by social interactions that they shut down.  It can be very difficult to make eye contact or small talk.

People on the spectrum who are high functioning rely on routine and order. They might have repetitive and restrictive habits that seem strange to other people.

Some people with high functioning autism do well in a mainstream classroom while others become overstimulated in school.  In the workforce, some can hold a job and others find it very hard to do so.  Autism is a spectrum and everyone is different.  Even for the highest performing person with autism, social skills are usually impaired to varying degrees.

 High Functioning Autism isn’t a medical term or diagnosis. It’s a casual term used by some people when they refer to those with an autism spectrum disorder who can speak, read, write, and have daily living skills like eating and getting dressed. They may live an independent life and are a lot like their neurotypical peers.

Asperger syndrome is one of several previously separate subtypes of autism that were merged into the single diagnosis autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with the publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual in 2013. Compared with those affected by other forms of ASD, however, those with Asperger syndrome do not have profound delays or difficulties in language or cognitive development. Some even demonstrate mature vocabulary – often in a highly specialized field of interest.

Parents are usually the first to notice missed social cues that are obvious to other people, like body language or the expressions on people’s faces. For instance, a person with Asperger’s syndrome may not notice that someone is getting annoyed. He may be unable to read facial expressions and continue a one-sided conversation. Sometimes people with Asperger’s syndrome or high functioning autism may lack emotions or talk in a monotone voice. It’s important to remember that autism is a spectrum disorder and every person is different.

Starting in the 1990s, milder forms of autism were recognized, including high functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome, which share many of the same symptoms. Prior to that only people with more severe symptoms were diagnosed with autism.

Many people with Asperger’s syndrome have average or above average IQ. You might notice that a person with Asperger’s has trouble with social skills and can have an obsessive focus on one topic or repetitive behaviors. Asperger’s syndrome use to be diagnosed as a separate condition by doctors, but in 2013, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), changed how it’s classified.

However, Asperger’s syndrome is technically no longer a diagnosis by itself. It is included as a part of a broader category called autism spectrum disorder.  Many people still use this term due to it’s distinct differences from more severe autism cases.

People identifying with Asperger’s syndrome may refer to themselves in casual conversation as Aspies.  People with high functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome can be quite gifted intellectually and verbally.  But they have social, emotional and sensory difficulties that can profoundly affect their lives.  This intelligence can give false confidence and prevent parents from seeking treatment for their child.  Although many are able to master academic work at a rapid speed, they fall behind in many other areas of their lives.

These behaviors are often associated with Asperger’s syndrome. However, they are rarely seen in any one person and vary widely:

  • difficulty in social situations
  • monotone or repetitive speech
  • challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
  • self-centered talk, one-sided
  • difficulty in comprehending social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases
  • limited or lack of eye contact or reciprocal conversation
  • obsession and extreme known of specific, often unusual, topics
  • awkward movements and/or mannerisms