High Functioning Autism Symptoms

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication and social interaction skills. Individuals with high-functioning autism have average or above-average intelligence levels, but they may struggle with other areas of daily living. Here are some of the symptoms of high-functioning autism:

Social Interaction

People with high-functioning autism may struggle with social interactions. They may find it hard to read social cues or understand how to engage in social situations. Difficulties with making eye contact, initiating conversations, or responding to others can also be seen. Individuals with autism may struggle to understand the nuances of humour, sarcasm, and irony. They may express emotions inappropriately or have difficulty interpreting emotions in others which can lead to errors in reading social situations. In some cases, individuals with autism may prefer to be alone or have difficulty making friends.


Individuals with high-functioning autism may misunderstand verbal and non-verbal communication. They may take things literally and struggle with idiomatic expressions or auditory information coming in too fast for processing. Conversely, autistic individuals may have robust, sometimes encyclopaedic, knowledge and express themselves in a particular subject. However, they may struggle with conversation that deviates from their topic of interest.


High-functioning autistic individuals may have difficulty with changes in routine. They may have a strong attachment to sameness and may struggle when disruptions occur. They may exhibit ritualized or repetitive behaviours, such as lining up toys or repeating certain phrases. Changes in schedule, such as transition points can be particularly stressful to high-functioning autistic individuals.

Sensory Sensitivities

Individuals with autism may have one or more sensory sensitivity or insensitivity. They may over- or under-react to noise, taste, touch, smell, and visual stimuli. They may be particularly sensitive to certain textures (e.g. clothing) or large crowds. Autistic individuals may find certain sounds, like the hum of fluorescent lights, particularly unpleasant or inhospitable. These may lead to overstimulation or anxiety in the individual leading to outbursts or withdrawal.


Meltdowns happen when an individual with high-functioning autism experiences an extreme reaction due to being over-stimulated, dysregulated or when they are unable to cope with a sudden change in routine or a lack of control in their environment. This can manifest as crying, screaming, yelling, hitting or lashing out, and running away. It is essential to be present and supportive during a meltdown, while removing the child from further sensory stimulation.

Verbal Outbursts

High-functioning autistic individuals may experience verbal outbursts if they become overwhelmed or frustrated. These outbursts can range from mild expletives to more aggressive or threatening dialogue. Individuals with autism can experience a high degree of anxiety or hyperarousal when overstimulated by any external entanglements. This can lead to aggression or anxiety mixed with verbal outbursts resulting in confusion or fear in individuals close to them.


Individuals with high-functioning autism are more likely to experience anxiety than their neurotypical peers. They may struggle with day-to-day tasks and experience anxiety rooted in predictability, change, or uncertainty. This extends to social interactions, events, or new environments. Individuals with autism may experience meltdowns, ranging from mild tics to more sustained and severe outbursts, when experiencing excessive anxiety.

Sleep Difficulties

Individuals with high-functioning autism may have difficulties sleeping or sleeping through the night. Sleep difficulties may arise due to anxiety and overstimulation or difficulty in relaxing physically and mentally. It is crucial to establish good sleep hygiene habits to help individuals with high-functioning autism to practice instead of the poor sleep habits, which can worsen the autistic individual’s condition.


High-functioning autistic individuals may also have a hyperfocus and intense interest in an area of personal interest, which can lead to the individual’s withdrawal from social situations or participation in diverse extracurricular activities. This hyperfocus can manifest as an obsession with a particular topic, leading to a high degree of knowledge and understanding. However, they may struggle with commercial application, social language or dynamic facing in the everyday functioning of society leading to a loss of opportunities or work posts.

Treatment and Management of High Functioning Autism

While there is no cure for autism, early diagnosis and intervention can help individuals with autism to lead meaningful and productive lives. Psychotherapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech-Language Therapy are interventions that can help individuals with high-functioning autism develop the skills necessary to interpret social cues, communicate effectively, and regulate their sensory experiences. Caregivers, educators, and individuals with high-functioning autism must be patient and willing to learn.

Possible Conclusion

While each person’s journey with high-functioning autism is unique, individuals with autism may need extra support to navigate daily life. Caregivers and educators must understand these symptoms to manage the child’s health effectively. Professionals should work together to give thoughtful, tailored interventions and treatments that enhance the individual’s daily living skills, both in micro and community settings. Families and professionals can work synergistically to help autistic individuals attain optimal health and prosperity.


FAQs about High Functioning Autism Symptoms

What are some common symptoms of high functioning autism?

Individuals with high functioning autism may have difficulties with social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. Some common symptoms include trouble with eye contact, difficulty understanding sarcasm or jokes, a preference for routine and structure, and intense interests in specific topics.

How is high functioning autism different from other forms of autism?

High functioning autism is a term used to describe individuals who are on the autism spectrum and have good cognitive and language skills. This is in contrast to more severe forms of autism, where individuals may have intellectual disabilities and significant language delays. However, it is important to note that each individual with autism is unique and may have different strengths and challenges.

Can high functioning autism be treated?

While there is no cure for autism, individuals with high functioning autism can benefit from early intervention services such as behavioral and communication therapies. These therapies can help individuals develop social and communication skills and manage behavior. Additionally, some individuals may benefit from medication to treat co-occurring conditions such as anxiety or ADHD.


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