Autism is an intellectual disability. High-level autism generally refers to people with autism who have significantly developed language and independent living skills. However, the term is problematic, and it is not a clinical diagnosis.
High-level autistic people can usually live independently and have successful careers. However, the use of the term remains controversial, with many autism advocates affirm that it is ableist and deceptive.
Keep reading to learn more about high-level autism, including the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis.
While autism is a clinical diagnosis based on specific diagnostic criteria, the specification of high level autism is not. Rather, it is a judgment on a person’s ability to function in society. As a result, different healthcare professionals may disagree on who is working well and who is not.
In the past, some clinicians called people with Asperger’s syndrome “Functioning well” because they are less likely to have language problems and often have fewer visible signs of autism. Because “high functioning” is a subjective judgment, based on cultural norms and not on a diagnosis, the criteria vary depending on who makes the diagnosis.
Some people may use the term when a person:
- is diagnosed with autism in adulthood or relatively late in childhood
- does well at school or at work
- has no clear language differences or developmental delays
- can live independently
- It favors certain types of functioning, such as language skills, over others, such as the ability to understand social norms.
- He is capable and judges some people to be better or less successful than others.
- It relies heavily on cultural norms that prioritize academic success and language.
- It may ignore the need of qualified “high-level” people for help.
- It prioritizes the experiences of society with the autistic person rather than the experience of the autistic person in society.
- Some people use the term “high functioning” to dismiss the concerns of adults with autism about how society treats children with autism. When this happens, the parent or caregiver of a child with autism may argue that a “high level” person does not fully understand the autistic experience.
Rather than applying functional labels, doctors are now talking about
Additionally, the autism spectrum approach bundles several once-distinct diagnoses, such as Asperger’s syndrome, into a single spectrum of conditions.
Learn more about the levels and spectrum of autism here.
The neurodiversity movement
In recent years, the terminology around autism has changed dramatically in part because of the neurodiversity movement. This campaign calls for rethinking how we define autism by looking at the condition through the lens of human diversity.
The movement aims to encourage people to value diversity in neurobiological development in the same way as in ethnicity, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
Researchers do not know what causes autism. Preliminary research links multiple genes to a higher risk of disease, but scientists have found no single genetic cause, nor a single gene or combination of genes that inevitably leads to autism.
However, there is some evidence that the interaction between genes and the environment can lead to disease. For example, a person with a genetic mutation that increases the risk of autism may only develop the disease under certain circumstances, such as as a result of infection or exposure to certain toxic substances.
Research is also underway on how other biological factors may increase the risk of autism. Changes in the brain’s metabolism, brain connections, or the body’s immune system can increase the likelihood of its development.
It is important to note:
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People with autism, including those considered to be highly functional, can have a wide range of differences. AT
Differences with social and emotional reciprocity
People with autism with social and emotional reciprocity differences may, for example, have difficulty initiating or responding to communication, finding it difficult to participate in its typical back-and-forth nature. They may also have difficulty talking about non-preferred topics.
People thought it was an inability to empathize that led to this. However, new research has changed our perception of autism and empathy. It’s almost the opposite, where people with autism can even be overly empathetic.
It’s just that their experiences and their neurotypes are different. There is not a lack of empathy, just another way to understand and treat it. For example, people with autism can isolate themselves, but that’s not because they prefer to be alone. Instead, it could be because they can feel boring or cause problems for others.
Differences from non-verbal communication
A person may have difficulty reading other body language, identifying non-verbal emotional cues, maintaining eye contact, or making age-typical facial expressions such as smiling.
Challenges with relationships
They may find it difficult to develop or maintain friendships. People with autism may not engage in make-believe games, be unwilling to make friends, or have great difficulty fitting in with others.
People with autism should also have at least two of the following four differences:
- Stereotypical or repetitive behaviors or interests: They may become intensely fascinated by certain objects, repeat things that people say, have verbal or motor tics, or engage in repetitive movements.
- An intense need for routine and consistency: They may engage in rituals that seem obsessive or compulsive, struggle with the change more than is typical for someone their age, or be unable to handle even minor adjustments, like a change in brand of nuggets. of chicken that parents buy.
- Restricted and intensely focused interests on specific topics: They can be dedicated collectors, memorize long sets of facts, and be unable to stop talking about a minimal range of topics. Others may perceive these interests as unusual or strange.
- Changes in sensory processing: They can be very sensitive to sensory input, such as loud noises or the textures of itchy clothes. Or they may have very blunt sensory responses, not noticing when things are very loud or bothersome.
These symptoms should be present early in development, although they may change or worsen over time.
Autism should also present itself as the best explanation for these symptoms, rather than another diagnosis, such as brain damage. Finally, symptoms should appear in multiple situations, not just at home, at school or in stressful situations.
People with high-level autism may have milder versions of the same symptoms.
There is no blood test or other lab test that can detect autism. However, depending on a person’s symptoms, a doctor may recommend certain tests to rule out other conditions. For example, a healthcare professional may advise taking blood tests to look for signs of infection in a child, or performing tests on a child’s brain to look for injuries.
To diagnose autism, a doctor will ask questions about a person’s medical history and then assess them for common symptoms of autism. They must meet certain diagnostic criteria to qualify for a diagnosis. Having one or two signs and behaviors associated with autism is not enough, even in people with pronounced behaviors.
Autism is not curable, but it can change throughout a person’s life. Some children may even seem get out of behaviors leading to their diagnosis in adulthood. In other cases, a person may not realize that they have symptoms of autism until they are an adult.
Parents who are comparing treatment options should be aware that one of the most popular treatment options, applied behavior analysis, is the subject of permanent controversy. Adults with autism often claim that the treatment is abusive.
Medication can also help people with autism deal with specific symptoms, such as anxiety or obsessive thoughts.
In addition, educational and professional accommodations can help them thrive at work and at school.
Learn more about autism, including disease management and support, here.
High-level autism is a judgment on a person’s skill and success, but it is not a formal diagnosis.
It’s best to think of autism levels as a spectrum, in which people with autism have unique behavioral differences to varying degrees.
No matter how well an autistic person performs, they need and deserve support and accommodations so that they can reach their full potential.