Autism is a brain disorder in which communication and interaction with others is difficult. The symptoms of autism may range from total lack of communication with others to difficulty in understanding others' feelings. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
High-functioning autism is at one end of the ASD spectrum. Signs and symptoms are less severe than with other forms of autism. In fact, a person with high-functioning autism usually has average or above average intelligence. The differences from other forms of autism have led many psychiatrists to consider high-functioning autism as similar to or the same as Asperger's syndrome.
Whether it's labelled high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome, coping with this condition presents daily challenges -- for those who have it and for their family and friends.
What are the signs and symptoms of high-functioning autism?
People with high-functioning autism do not have the delayed language development that's typically found in people with autism. In addition, people with high-functioning autism have average or above average intelligence. However, they may show other behaviours and signs similar to what's seen with other types of autism:
- Delay in motor skills
- Lack of skill in interacting with others
- Little understanding of the abstract uses of language, such as humour or give-and-take in a conversation
- Obsessive interest in specific items or information
- Strong reactions to textures, smells, sounds, sights, or other stimuli that others might not even notice, such as a flickering light
Unlike people with other forms of autism, people with high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome want to be involved with others. They simply don't know how to go about it. They may not be able to understand others' emotions. They may not read facial expressions or body language well. As a result, they may be teased and often feel like social outcasts. The unwanted social isolation can lead to anxiety and depression.
Causes of high-functioning autism
Autism runs in families. The underlying causes, however, are not known. Potential causes under investigation include:
- Inherited genetic conditions
- Other medical problems
- Environmental factors