Wednesday, June 19, 2024

High Functioning Autism Coping Strategies

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I recently read an interesting research article that discussed coping strategies used by adults with high-functioning autism. What I appreciated about this article was that they interviewed adults with autism directly. While we know that self-reported data is not always accurate, I think its important to consider the perspectives of individuals who actually have autism. So, Im grateful that more research like this is being conducted.

Ill share a few points I found particularly interesting. You can read the rest in the full article .

The authors of this article also point out the need to help individuals with autism develop healthy coping strategies.


Dachez, J. & Ndobo, A. . Coping strategies of adults with high-functioning autism: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Adult Development, 25, 86-95.

What Are The Levels Of Asd

ASD is divided into three levels:

  • Level 1. People at this level may have symptoms that dont interfere too much with their work, school, or relationships. This is what most people are referring to when they use the terms high-functioning autism or Aspergers syndrome.
  • Level 2. People at this level require some outside support on a daily basis. Examples of outside support include speech therapy and social skills training.
  • Level 3. People at this level require substantial outside support on a daily basis. In some cases, support may include full-time aides or intensive therapy.

Emotional Impact Of Living With Autism

Dealing with ASD can take an emotional toll on the families and people living with the condition. They need to get as much emotional support as they can.

For an autistic adult, finally getting a diagnosis after a lifetime of living with symptoms of a condition they didnt know they had can be difficult.

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What Does High Functioning Mean

So, what does it mean if you are autistic and “high functioning?” It depends. Typically, if someone is diagnosed with ASD: Level 1, they are considered “high functioning.” However, someone’s social skills might be Level 1, and their behavioral issues might be Level 2.

Furthermore, although autism is a lifelong diagnosis that an individual does not “grow out of,” an individual might experience autistic burnout, a condition that causes increased functional deficits.

Factors that contribute to labeling an autistic person as “high-functioning” include how well they are able to hold a job, form and maintain relationships, communicate, and mask their autistic traits. Essentially, the better someone can blend in with a neurotypical society, the higher functioning they are. Because of this, many high functioning autistic people do not get diagnosed until later in life.

Importance Of An Active Lifestyle

Pin on High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

There are several treatment programs tailored for people with ASD. Very few of these programs include a physical activity regimen. Some people with ASD might find that their motor skills such as walking or coordination are affected by the condition.

Staying physically active has been proven to improve communication skills and reduce negative behaviors in autistic children.

A person with ASD needs to stay active to remain healthy. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep is as important as any treatment plan involving medication and psychotherapy.

Engaging in organized group sport and game activities can also help an autistic child develop their social skills.

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Peer Support For Autistic Individuals

Peer support and advocacy are key for autistic individuals. Those looking to connect with organizations run by and for autistic people can refer to the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network and the Asperger/Autism Network.

These organizations include information about getting diagnosed, treatment options, advocacy, and social support for autistic people and their loved ones.

Why Build Coping Skills

There are so many reasons why parents should start building coping strategies with their autistic children. Having these strategies in place will be helpful with behavior during potential anxiety inducing and stressful situations.

Parents and teachers can help children grow by leaps and bounds if they provide support and coping strategies. Having the ability to cope with different calming strategies can help children develop better self regulation skills.

Having an array of strategies can also prove to be helpful during social situations and stressful times. They can help improve the quality of life of the child, their family, and teachers.

Building coping skills should be part of a toolbox of skills autistic people could use to stay calm and prevent what would have otherwise become a meltdown. If a person is experiencing less stress and feeling better because they have learned how to deal with stress and anxiety in their everyday lives, this has the potential to start affecting other aspects of life in a positive way.

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Resources From The Organization For Autism Research To Support Hfa And Aspergers Students In The Classroom

To help teachers provide the best possible education for autistic students, the Organization for Autism Research provides a comprehensive kit called An Educators Guide to Aspergers. The kit gives teachers six ways to support students who are on the autism spectrum:

  • Collaborate
  • Manage behavioral challenges

The guides essential messages are understanding students as individuals, reaching out to their parents and support staff who know them best, and helping to set social goals and encourage and support peer interaction. Some of the basic symptoms of HFA or AS make these students targets for bullying or teasing its important for classrooms to be well-armed against such events.

Connor Yates Goes Viral With A Speech About His Experience As An Autistic Student

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His excellent writing and delivery earned first place in schools speech competition and qualified him to compete at the district level, but the speech went viral because it provided insight into the social and educational difficulties of people like him. Yatess goal of spreading awareness calls everyones attention to the importance of creating a supportive educational environment for students with high functioning autism.

Young people with high-functioning autism or Aspergers syndrome are increasingly common. Both diagnoses identify students on the autism spectrum who have average or high intelligence and whose biggest outward symptoms tend to be social in nature. The characteristics of HFA and AS mean that these individuals are members of mainstream classrooms.

These students may not have high academic support needs, but still encounter frustrations in the classroom that impair or interrupt their or their classmates ability to learn. Much of Connor Yatess speech focused on challenges he met when interacting with peers, including not being able to look at friends when he spoke to them.

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Enforce The One And Done Technique

Talking through feelings of anxiety can be helpful, but if your child has a tendency to fixate on something that is causing her anxiety, and you find that her anxiety increases the more you discuss it, consider a one and done approach whereby you discuss the issue once, and then table it for a later time. This ensures your child is able to express her feelings, and that she knows she can talk about it again if her anxiety elevates, while also limiting her ability to obsess over it.

Modifications That Support Learning For A Wide Range Of Students

It would be extremely inappropriate for a teacher to share a students private diagnosis with their classmates. However, there are ways to encourage social interaction that support all students and do not require identifying an individual student or their specific needs. These include:

  • Simplifying language and class plans
  • Keeping a visual schedule
  • Flagging transitions
  • Individualizing lesson plans when needed

These modifications help students with HFA or AS and also enhance learning for sensory integration disorder children or others who may need concrete support mechanisms. Creating small circles of support or partnerships can help all students avoid bullying and practice empathy. The social connections that come from small groups tend to break down bullying behavior and support peer connection.

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Six Constructive Coping Strategies For Anxiety

As noted in the table above, there are many constructive strategies that can be used to cope with anxiety. These strategies can be divided into six major groups that provide a range of anxiety reduction solutions.

1. Physical Activity

Physical activities and regular exercise are a ways of releasing emotional energy and clarifying thinking. People who have an ASD are notoriously poorly coordinated and, sometimes, being clumsy in sporting activities during the school years and being teased by peers regarding physical abilities and dexterity can lead to the belief that physical activity is to be avoided. However, we know that physical activity can be more effective than medication and even psychotherapy in alleviating anxiety. It may help to consult a personal trainer who can assess body type and personality to determine which physical activities would be most effective. This does not have to be team sports, and can include solitary practice sports such as cycling, swimming, horseback riding, or going to the gym. Regular exercise is excellent for mental and physical health. And, Asperger qualities of perfectionism and determination can contribute to success in a chosen sport. I know of several famous sports personalities who have Asperger’s syndrome who serve as great examples.

2. Relaxation

3. Special Interests

4. Being With Animals or a Favorite Person

5. Diet and Nutrition

6. Sleep

Prevent Meltdowns By Identifying High

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Perhaps the most important part of serving HFA students is being able to identify when these students are under extreme stress or having difficulty coping. They are not often able to articulate their feelings in the moment and can quickly melt down, leading to tantrums that disrupt the class and undermine social connections with their peers.

Identifying early behaviors and intervening before they escalate can help HFA students avoid this scenario. Students with HFA will often exhibit subtle behaviors that indicate they are experiencing extreme stress. OAR calls these signals rumbling and says that they include muscle tensing, nail biting and other discomfort behaviors.

This is where the true benefit of open communication with a students family comes through: Parents are often well aware of their childrens rumbling signs and appropriate steps for behavior management during that time. Discussing these signals and coping strategies before a student has a meltdown can be key to a teachers ability to intervene and manage the classroom.

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Difficulty With Verbal Communication

A child with HFA will typically have no problems understanding language. Learning individual words, grammar rules, and vocabulary may not be an issue for them.

The use of language to communicate, however, can be problematic. Someone with HFA may have difficulty understanding sarcasm, metaphors, or idioms. This is known as “pragmatic” language.

In addition, some people with HFA may struggle to speak when under stress or overwhelmed.

Dont Avoid Stressful Situations

When our children feel stressed and anxious about something, our natural instinct is to find ways for them to avoid it. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Unfortunately, this sort of negative reinforcement only works in the short-term. While we may be able to keep our childs anxiety under control through avoidance in the here and now, most anxiety-provoking situations cannot be avoided forever, and it is our responsibility as parents to set our children up for long-term success and help them find coping strategies.

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Coping Strategies For Autism

Coping is getting adapted to stressful situations that happen around us based on conscious or unconscious ways which can reduce unpleasant feelings.

Coping skill is how a person can approach unpleasant situations which are stressful in life. Some ways to cope with stress are doing exercise, listening to music, playing with clay, getting a hug, reading, writing, Going somewhere very public, making a list of blessings in life, focusing on something else, creating or building something, taking a break, planting some seeds, doing puzzle, painting, cleaning the room, rearrange furniture, sort through photographs, dancing, etc.

Coping mechanisms are helpful to adapt to surroundings that may be unpleasant situations for an individual. Coping Mechanisms will be used by the people who have depression, anxiety, feel loneliness, need to cope with anger and needs stress management.

Coping strategies will help people with Autism to overcome the anxiety they are experiencing in daily life situations. There are so many different ways of strategies that can be manifested by themselves and can be unique to each and every one.

Some of the coping strategies dealt with by individuals with autistic children include,

  • Appraisal focused or adaptive cognitive
  • Problem-focused or adaptive behavioral
  • Emotion-focused

Problem-focused strategies are mechanisms that can alter the behavior of the person.

Those With Asd Find Many Ways To Deal With Their Anxiety

A Higher Functioning Form Of Autism | Cuan Weijer | TEDxDunLaoghaire

Being highly anxious most of the time is emotionally and physically exhausting and can lead to hyper-alertness, constant vigilance/racing thoughts, difficulty sleeping, and stress-related medical conditions. So how can a person with an ASD cope with an almost constant feeling of nervousness and fear? There are many strategies that are known to effectively alleviate anxiety. While some are helpful, there are a handful of strategies that should be avoided.

10 Strategies Frequently Used to Cope With ASD and Anxiety


6. Sleep

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More Ways To Manage When Normal Routines Are Disrupted:

1. Remain connected with family, friends, supports, and others who are important to you. Given social distancing, make use of the phone, social media, and other tools.

2. Be careful about fusing with or absorbing angst from others. Its a myth that autistic people dont perceive other peoples emotions. Many adults with autism believe its actually the other way around we may experience emotional fusing and take in emotions from others a bit too much, leading to overwhelm and shutdown.

3. Develop and differentiate between plan A and plan B. Our A plans are pretty much blown out of the water. Its important to really think and organize around life now .

4. Get outside on bright, sunny days . Nature can be very restorative. Whether youre walking or riding your bike, bring masks and gloves when heading out, and maintain proper physical distance.

6. Stimming is not regression its coping. Many autistic adults are relying more on soothing and coping behaviors. Some may feel that they are regressing back to these behaviors, but this is not the case. Autistic individuals need to give themselves permission to engage in self-regulatory behaviors in these stressful times so feel free to self-stim!

7. Simplify when heading out. Bring as little as possible when going out, except for must-haves like masks. Plan how much cash youll bring in advance or use credit cards.

8. Set up a protocol for returning home and disinfecting items. This includes:

Strategies To Deal With Autism As An Adult:


It is true that you are not alone and that many others are experiencing the same thing as you. Connect with people, organisations, associations, books, and websites dedicated to supporting adults on the spectrum. Many organisations and digital portals are available that help individuals connect with others who are working towards the same goals they are. You can find support through online or local associations to learn how other people are coping with their challenges, what strategies have helped them, what therapies have benefited them and what support and services are available for you to utilise.


Learning about ASD and gaining knowledge about it are the first steps that will help you. By understanding autism, you can identify the symptoms and reduce your anxiety. As a result, guiding you to the most appropriate treatment option. You can search for e-Health and other learning methods that encourage self-management and independence. Additionally, some local support groups can help you find out about services and funding that may be available to you. Additionally, you can find some books and E-resources on websites run people who were diagnosed with ASD and to learn how they dealt with some of the challenges they faced.


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Coping Strategies Of Adults With High

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  • Journal of Adult Development
  • Journal of autism and developmental disorders
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  • Psychology
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  • Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research

The Six Different Types Of Coping Strategies

autism, high functioning, high functioning autism

The above list offers some general suggestions but, according to Henry Ford Healths article titled 6 Strategies for Coping with Change, there are six main coping strategies that can also be utilized:

  • Have a plan beforehand It is typically comforting to autistic people to have a plan and consistency. That way they know what to expect next
  • Self regulation and knowing the signs of stress and anxiety Self regulation and recognizing the signs of when things are stressful are beneficial skills to have. If someone knows that something could be a trigger, they can avoid it or at least be prepared for it
  • Understanding and talking through the events of the day and reflecting Not only does talking about the day help the autistic person recount their day, it also exercises their social skills. Another benefit is if there was a trigger that occurred and was recognized, or not, that can be noted for future events where it could happen again
  • Develop a schedule with structure and stick to it A schedule with structure is helpful because it provides consistency and keeps unwanted surprises at bay
  • Create and engage in positive and calming strategies Knowing and practicing calming coping strategies will help when and if stressful situations occur
  • Think about something you are thankful for Gratitude helps people feel good about what they have going on in their lives. It is a positive practice and something that helps to not only combat stress, but also depression
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