High-Functioning Autism & Aspergers Syndrome

About high-functioning autism & Asperger’s syndrome

It is a common misconception that Autism/AS only affects boys. This is not the case. Girls can have it too, but may display it differently. Currently, the ratio of boys to girls is 4:1.

High-functioning Autism/ Asperger’s Syndrome is often referred to as a ‘hidden disability’. This means that you cannot tell that someone has the condition from their outward appearance. People with the condition have difficulties in three main areas, known as the ‘triad of impairments’. They are:

Social Communication

People sometimes find it difficult to express themselves emotionally and socially. They may:

  • have difficulty understanding gestures, facial expressions, or tone of voice,
  • have difficulty knowing when to start, or end a conversation, and choosing topics to talk about,
  • use complex words and phrases, but may not fully understand what they mean,
  • be very literal in what they say and hear, and can have difficulty understanding jokes, metaphors, and sarcasm. For example, they may be confused by the phrase ‘That’s cool’ when people use it to say something is good.

In order to help a person understand you, keep your sentences short and to the point.

Social Interaction

Many people want to be sociable but have difficulty with initiating and sustaining social relationships, which can make them very anxious. They may:

  • struggle to make and maintain friendships,
  • not understand the unwritten ‘social rules’ that most of us pick up without thinking (eg. they may stand too close to another person, or start an inappropriate topic of conversation),
  • find other people unpredictable and confusing,
  • become withdrawn and seem uninterested in other people, appearing almost aloof,
  • behave in what may seem an inappropriate manner.

Social Imagination

People can be imaginative in the conventional use of the word. (eg. many are accomplished writers, artists, and musicians) but they can have difficulty with social imagination. This can include:

  • imagining alternative outcomes to situations, and finding it hard to predict what will happen next,
  • understanding or interpreting other people’s thoughts, feelings, or actions. The subtle messages that are put across by facial expression and body language are often missed,
  • having a limited range of imaginative activities, which can be pursued rigidly and repetitively (eg. lining up toys, or collecting and organising things related to his or her interest).

Some children/adults may find it difficult to play ‘let’s pretend’ games, or prefer subjects rooted in logic and systems, such as mathematics.

Besides the three main areas of difficulty, other common characteristics are:

  • love of routines,
  • special interests,
  • sensory difficulties.

For more information please View the National Autistic Society Page ‘Adults with Autism or Asperger living with autism.’

Watch ‘Amazing Things Happen’ – an animation that gives an uplifting introduction to Autism, for young non-autistic audiences aiming to raise awareness, understanding, and tolerance in future generations.

Take A Test

Autism / Asperger’s Quiz >

The AQ Test – Use this quiz to help you determine
if you might need to see a mental health professional for diagnosis
and treatment of Autism or Asperger’s.

Aspie Quiz >

To go directly to the test click on I accept.

The goal of this test is to check for neurodiverse/neurotypical traits in adults. The neurodiversity classification can be used to give a reliable indication of autism spectrum traits prior to eventual diagnosis.

The Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale-Revised (RAADS-R) >

The professional form for a diagnosis – a score over 65 indicates Autistic Spectrum

Other related conditions

(Please see ‘Useful Links‘ for more information)

Autistic Spectrum Disorder