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Why high functioning autism can be difficult, by Champika Gallage

It is often said that people with high functioning autism have less difficulties than people who have severe autism. Individuals with high functioning autism are often thought as very intelligent with extraordinary talents and high IQ levels. Because of this, people assume they don’t have as many struggles as people who have lower functioning autism. But the reality is quite different. 

People with high functioning autism may have significant challenges that could prevent them from living a comfortable life, having a successful career or even having self–worth.

When people with high functioning autism go out into the community they may look like you and I. But their behaviours may come as a surprise.

When they notice the reactions of others, they can display challenging behaviours. They can be exceptionally sensitive to negative reactions.

They can have sensory issues. That means they may find going to crowded places very hard, as they’d have to cope with higher levels of noise and smells. As a result a person who has high functioning autism, is mobile and verbal, may be unable to use public transport or be in an airport

Communication difficulty

This can be one of the biggest problems a person with high functioning autism will have to face, in their day to day life. Following instructions could be a very challenging task for them. For example, if they were in the post office and were asked  to ‘put the parcel on the scale and then pass it over to the counter‘, they may only process ‘put the parcel on the scale’ or ‘pass it over to the counter’.

They can lack organizational skills like planning events in daily life.

For example, they might not notice that the milk or bread is running low or planning to save money to pay their bills at the end of the month. So, they may find it is very hard to plan and manage a household on their own.

They may have more than one condition such as:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • OCD

This can make it difficult for them to function or live their lives without distractions. Their anxiety levels can start to raise frustration, fear and confusion.

High functioning autism is not an easy diagnosis to live with. Remember that they also need very diverse support, the same as people with severe or moderate autism.

Find out more about how we support autistic people.

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