Autism is a brain disorder in which communication and interaction with others are difficult. The symptoms of autism may range from total lack of communication with others to difficulty in understanding others' feelings. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
High-functioning autism (HFA) is at one end of the ASD spectrum. Signs and symptoms are less severe than with other forms of autism. In fact, a person with high-functioning autism usually has average or above-average intelligence. The differences from other forms of autism have led many psychiatrists to consider high-functioning autism as similar to or the same as Asperger's syndrome. However, usually children with HFA have language delays early on like other children with autism. Children with Asperger’s, though, don’t show classic language delays until they have enough spoken language so that their language difficulties can be noted.
Temple Grandin, a new film biography about the best-selling author,
renowned animal scientist, and perhaps America's most famous person with
autism, debuts in February on HBO with a strong cast and a sensitive narrative
starring Claire Danes. It depicts a woman who is uniquely talented (she
imagines the world through the eyes of the animals she studies) but also
heartbreakingly hamstrung (everyday noises can be deafening and changes to
The film -- with Catherine...
Whether it's labeled high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome, coping with this condition presents daily challenges for those who have it and for their family and friends.
What Are the Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome?
Other than the difference in their language development, people with high-functioning autism and people with Asperger's syndrome share many similar characteristics. They typically have average or above-average intelligence. They may, though, show other behaviors and signs similar to what's seen with other types of autism. These include:
A delay in motor skills
A lack of skill in interacting with others
Little understanding of the abstract uses of language, such as humor or give-and-take in a conversation
Obsessive interest in specific items or information
Strong reactions to textures, smells, sounds, sights, or other stimuli that others might not even notice, such as a flickering light
Unlike people with other forms of autism, people with high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome want to be involved with others. They simply don't know how to go about it. They may not be able to understand others' emotions. They may not read facial expressions or body language well. As a result, they may be teased and often feel like social outcasts. The unwanted social isolation can lead to anxiety and depression.
Causes of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome
Autism runs in families. The underlying causes, however, are not known. Potential causes under investigation include:
Inherited genetic conditions
Other medical problems
The fact that higher levels of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive diorder, and Tourette's syndrome as well as other tic disorders often occur in families with children with autism suggests some relationship among these different mental processes.