What is High Functioning Autism in Children?

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A child with autism playing alone while other children are playing together behind her
Published:  June 13, 2023

In recent years, there has been growing awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and its impact on children. However, high-functioning autism in children can go unnoticed for a longer period of time, as symptoms might be less apparent than in other cases. With proper recognition and diagnosis children with high-functioning autism can access the necessary resources to overcome their challenges and achieve a higher quality of life.

What is High-Functioning Autism in Children?

High-functioning autism is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, repetitive behaviors or interests, and challenges with non-verbal communication. Children with high- functioning autism often have a strong interest in specific topics or subjects, and pay extra attention to details. While they may be gifted academically and in verbal communication, they often struggle with understanding social cues, maintaining eye contact, and engaging in conversations with their peers.

Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

Autism and Asperger’s syndrome are both part of the autism spectrum. Autism is a broad term that encompasses a range of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by challenges in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. It affects children at all intellectual levels and can vary widely in severity.

Asperger’s syndrome, on the other hand, is considered a subtype within the spectrum. People with Asperger’s typically exhibit milder symptoms compared to other forms of autism. They often have normal to above-average intelligence and language skills but struggle with social interactions, sensory sensitivities, and repetitive behaviors. With the latest revision of diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5, Asperger’s syndrome is no longer diagnosed as a separate disorder but is now included under the broader diagnosis of ASD.

Signs of High-Functioning Autism in Children

Recognizing the signs of high functioning autism in children is crucial for early intervention and effective support. Some common symptoms of high-functioning autism in children include:

  • Social Challenges: Children may struggle with making friends, understanding social norms, and interpreting non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language.
  • Repetitive Behaviors: They may engage in repetitive movements or routines, have intense interests in specific topics, and show resistance to change.
  • Communication Difficulties: Language skills may be well-developed, but children may struggle with understanding sarcasm, irony, or figurative language. They may also have a monotone or overly formal way of speaking.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Many children with high functioning autism are hypersensitive to certain sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, or specific textures, which can cause discomfort or distress.

Diagnosing High-Functioning Autism in Children

Diagnosing high-functioning autism in toddlers can be challenging due to the subtlety of its core symptoms. However, as children with high-functioning autism enter a traditional school setting, associated signs often become more apparent. This is when a team of professionals like pediatricians, child psychologists, and teachers may start to observe and assess the child’s social interactions, communication patterns, and behavioral tendencies more closely, aiding in the diagnosis process. Child psychologists may also use assessments, questionnaires, and developmental history to facilitate a comprehensive evaluation.

It’s important to note that diagnosing high-functioning autism requires careful consideration of a range of factors, and a diagnosis is not solely based on specific criteria. The goal is to ensure an accurate diagnosis, which is the first step towards accessing appropriate interventions and support for the child.

ABA Therapy for High-Functioning Autism in Children

Early intervention plays a crucial role in supporting children with high functioning autism. By identifying and addressing challenges at an early age, children can develop necessary skills to succeed. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is an evidence-based treatment method widely used to support children with autism.

ABA therapy focuses on understanding and modifying behavior through positive reinforcement and structured activities. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and Registered Behavior Techniques (RBT) utilize ABA techniques tailored to each child’s individual needs, targeting social skills, communication, self-regulation, and adaptive behaviors. This comprehensive approach enables children to thrive in their learning and social environments.

Wellspring Learning Centers for ABA services in Nashville is dedicated to providing professional and effective support for children with high-functioning autism. Our experienced team of BCBAs and RBTs create personalized treatment plans to meet each client’s unique needs in collaboration with parents and caregivers. By combining evidence-based practices, innovative techniques, and a compassionate approach, we’re committed to helping your child reach their maximum potential. Contact us to learn more or get started today.

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