Wednesday, May 22, 2024

What Is The Difference Between High And Low Functioning Autism

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Current And Proposed Specifier

High vs. Low Functioning Autism | What’s the Difference & Does it Matter?

At present, DSM-5 allows to use specifiers of language impairment, intellectual impairment and severity levels to distinguish clinical profiles of ASD broader category. Nevertheless, considering the results obtained from the clinical profiles comparison and from the DSM-5 severity levels distinction, it is necessary to consider the risk that, in the severity specifier Level 1 of the DSM-5, many phenotypic variances could be squeezed making this level very heterogeneous. Because of this, any attempts to predict clinical outcomes, develop individualized treatment targets or identify etiological factors may become unreal . Lai et al. underlined that defining autism using the umbrella term ASD, could hide the evident heterogeneity. In order to make progress in autism research and ultimately improve clinical practice, there is the necessity to move forward in the identification of subtypes within the autism spectrum. Maybe, a subtype specifier for HFA and AS could be useful to direct specific age-related paths of treatment .

In the present study, the suggested threshold is lower .

Get Support When You Need It

Raising a child with low-functioning autism isn’t always easy. Many of these children need around-the-clock care, and that leaves you with little time to address your own needs and desires. 

Connect with your local autism support group, and talk to other parents dealing with the same challenges. Reach out to your friends and family and give them concrete ways to help you. Build up your support system, so you’ll be ready to help your child as much as you can.

What Is The Issue With High Vs Low Functioning Autism

    The problems with differentiating an individual on the grounds of High and Low functioning autism are:

    • They try to assess an individual on the grounds of the level of intelligence, anxiety, perseveration, aggression, sensory challenges, and special talents. Which is inappropriate.
    • Both the terms fail at providing a whole picture of what a child is capable of, what are the areas they can excel in or improve in.
    • This differentiation does not make it clear how they will work in their social atmosphere and their relationships.
    • Neither term commits or provides enough information about how they are going to perform at a given task or what job profile would suit them.
    • It is a rather complicated task to differentiate between the need of support of a child on the basis of high and low functioning autism.
    • Basically, both these terms do not provide a whole picture of a child with autism. It does not specify how well they might respond to treatment, the need for the support they will require, and live their lives in general.

So How To Differentiate Between People With Autism

The differentiation as per the diagnosis suggested by DSM-5 includes three levels of autism that are based on the level of support that people with autism need.

Do you think we should bring back the classic differentiation of high vs low functioning autism or the recent differentiation based on levels is a better approach? Share your viewpoint with us in the comments section below.

When Should I Diagnose My Child With Low

You should let your child get diagnosed with this kind of psychological disorder when you notice 2 or more symptoms of this autism spectrum disorder.

You should also observe if your child is severely affected by this kind of autism spectrum disorder in his or her life.

Diagnosis can help your child with this kind of autism spectrum disorder the treatment he or she needs.

The symptoms that are predominant and distressing to the affected child will be treated first before trying to improve other mild symptoms.

This kind of treatment is done to get those distressing behaviours for the sake of the affected child with this kind of autism spectrum disorder and others who care about the child.

The following are symptoms that the diagnostician will be taking note of during diagnosis:

  • First is your affected childs ability to communicate even with this kind of autism spectrum disorder. Your childs doctor will assess his or her verbal skills and nonverbal communication during the diagnosis.
  • Next, the medical team will observe your childs behaviour during the diagnosis. This kind of team will watch for stimming and self-injurious behaviours in the affected child. This kind of team will pay attention to how restrictive and repetitive the behaviours are in the affected child.
  • Finally, this kind of team will consider the everyday impact of behaviours and communication complications.

Treatment For Children With Autism

Difference Between Asperger

Learning about the difference between autism and Aspergers is helpful, but taking action is even more important. At Therapeutic Pathways, we encourage parents to seek treatment for their child as early as possible. Research suggests that early intervention provides the best opportunity for children to learn valuable independent life skills.

For more information about treatment options, contact Therapeutic Pathways at 422-3280.

Determining The Level Of Autism

There is no specific test to ascertain an individuals unique level of ASD. Rather, a doctor or psychologist needs to spend time with the individual to observe their behavior. This enables the medical professional to gauge the persons social and emotional development and capabilities, as well as their communication skills. They will also look at the persons ability to form and maintain relationships with those around them.

Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosable as early as eighteen months of age. However, many individuals do not get diagnosed until later in life, making treatment more challenging. If you suspect your child has ASD, you should go see a specialist at the first opportunity. Various treatment options exist in Little Rock for those with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Levels Of Autism From A Less Neurotypical Perspective

I’d like to share something I came across a good while ago. Though I’ve been able to locate it on the web, I’m not quite sure of its original source. It goes something like this :

“I know an autistic person who can typically make eye contact, understand body language, and understand sarcasm, while not having a lot of meltdowns and keeping their ‘stims’ to themselves. This person would be considered high-functioning. I also know an autistic person who gets overloaded in public places, often can’t stand to be touched, go to the store alone, or switch from one activity to another. They might also forget to shower or eat. This person would be considered low-functioning. Guess what? They’re both me.”

Autistic people aren’t the only ones who suggest that this classification system is no good, mind you; some researchers argue against it as well. 

  • American Psychiatric Association. . Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders . Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

Sensory Processing Difficulties In Low

There are also sensory processing difficulties that are evident in affected children who have this autism spectrum disorder. These affected children are very resistant when it comes to someone touching them.

This is because they feel things too much and human touch can be very tingling for these affected children who have this autism spectrum disorder.

This behaviour can only make them less likely to engage with other people since they are afraid of interacting with them due to this physical distance even if there are safe situations for touch.

These affected children who have this autism spectrum disorder are observant when they are in an entirely different environment.

For instance, these affected children would notice that they have moved from a carpeted floor to a wooden one. 

These changes can make these affected who have this autism spectrum disorder feel discomfort since they know they are in a new environment.

These affected children would not be comfortable about a new home or having a vacation in a different environment.

Does Autism Worsen With Age

The Different Levels/Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder | High Functioning vs Low

There has not been a lot of scientific studies done yet to show whether or not autism improves, stays the same, or worsens with age, but those that have been done have had interesting results. One of thelargest studies that followed 300 children ages 2 to 21 demonstrated that only about 10% of these children showed significant improvements with their symptoms over time. Approximately 80% of the children showed little to no change at all by their teen years.

Of the studies that have been conducted, the children that showed the most improvement in their symptoms were tested and shown to have a high IQ from the beginning, and they also received intensive speech and communication therapy early-on to improve their communication skills. A strong ability to plan and complete complex tasks at a young age was also aligned with a later ability to understand other peoples thoughts and emotions more clearly with increasing age.

Thus, its uncommon for autism symptoms to worsen as a child grows older. But it is possible, with the right treatment and increased parental engagement, for a childs symptoms to lessen as with increasing age as they reach adolescence and adulthood.

How Many People Have Low

Autism spectrum disorder is associated with three severity levels. People with Level 3 autism need a significant amount of help with everyday activities, and they have very poor communication skills. Parsing data for those traits makes prevalence clear. 

Autism Speaks says about a third of people with autism are nonverbal, and about 31% of kids with ASD also have an intellectual disability. At first glance, it seems obvious that a child with an inability to speak or problem solve would have low-functioning autism. But the reality is more complex. 

Experts explain that people who appear nearly neurotypical are often considered high-functioning. By contrast, people thought of as low-functioning have disabilities that are visually and aurally obvious. Each person with autism spectrum disorder has strengths and challenges, and they are often location dependent.

A child with ASD might do just fine in:

  • School. The child can complete assignments on time, sit quietly throughout the day, and avoid bullying.
  • Church. The child can sit quietly through a sermon.
  • Cars. The child can ride in the backseat of a car calmly.

But that same child could struggle with meltdowns at home. If an unexpected person appears or the routine changes, the child feels overwhelmed. 

An assessment of high-functioning autism might make sense at school. At home, the term doesn’t fit as well. 

Asperger Syndrome And High Functioning Autism

The diagnosis of AS required at least two symptoms of social interaction impairment and one symptom of behavioral and interest restriction, a normal cognitive functioning and the absence of significant general delay in language. Moreover, diagnostic criteria for Autistic Disorder should not be met . This implied a differential diagnosis between AS and Autism, especially the type without cognitive delay, also known as High Functioning Autism . HFA is not a term used in the DSM, but it is commonly used to identify patients diagnosed with Autistic Disorder or PDD-Not Other Specified , with average or above average intellectual abilities . HFA differs from low-functioning autism in terms of clinical presentation, prognosis and need of support and assistance in daily life. Since AS and HFA are both characterized by a normal cognitive functioning, there has been considerable debate over whether AS and HFA are distinct conditions, suggesting different etiological and neurobiological mechanism, or share a similar underlying neuropsychological functioning and should therefore be regarded as variants of a single disorder .

According to Hans Asperger original description, his patients differ from those described by Kanner . Instead, Lorna Wing, translating Aspergers work, named the syndrome and Kanners autism both part of an autistic continuum .

Low Functioning Autism Symptoms Signs Treatments And More

What is Low Functioning Autism?

Low functioning autism refers to children and adults with autism who show the most severe symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder and are diagnosed as having Level 3 ASD. They are usually unable to live independently and require support from a guardian throughout their lives. Weve included information to help you gain a better understanding of the autism levels of severity, the difference between high and low level autism, the signs and symptoms of low functioning autism, and treatment and safety options.    

Levels Of Autism: What The Dsm

What is Low

The diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder themselves are fairly straightforward:

  • “Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts” this may refer to differences in body language, different ways of communicating with others that neurotypical people find hard to understand, and a different way of expressing or feeling emotions. 
  • “Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities” this can refer to physically repetitive movements or the repitition of sounds , a need for rigid routines, being really interested in a particular topic or a few, and things like wanting or needing to eat the same foods every day. 
  • Symptoms have to show up in childhood, even though they may not have been recognized as autism. 
  • Symptoms affect daily functioning in a negative way. 
  • Another diagnosis couldn’t better explain the symptoms. 

There’s quite a few more “specifiers”, terms that further describe any given autistic person’s personal autism, such as “with” or “without” intellectual or language impairment.

The levels of autism are quite interesting:

Rather than referring to levels, it’s also common to hear talk of “low-functioning” vs “high-functioning” autism. 

What Is The Difference Between High And Low Functioning Autism:

Before we find out why we should reconsider the classic differentiation of high vs. low functioning autism we shall review it in detail.

The most prevalent difference between these two categorizations is that high functioning autism means deficits are being ignored and low functioning autism means assets are ignored.

Another difference between high and low-functioning autism is on the basis of behavior. Children with high functioning autism have similar abilities to his/her neurotypical peers while those with low functioning autism have inhibited ability to conduct daily life.

Aba Therapy Help For Low

Applied Behavioral Analysis orABA therapy is a type of treatment for autistic children that aims to improve their social and communication skills as well as their learning abilities by using positive reinforcement. For children with autism spectrum disorder and certain other developmental conditions, ABA is considered to be the gold standard in therapy. At Hidden Talents, we use ABA therapy to help parents and children better understand how both positive and negative behaviors develop and are maintained through relational transactions.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder learn differently than other children. They have unique skills and strengths and through ABA, our staff will determine not only your childs weaknesses but also what skills and strengths they possess to help them overcome the challenges they face. By using an approach that actively looks for the childs strengths and weaknesses, we can create a customized intervention plan for targeted treatment designed to promote positive behavior modification under the watchful eye of our trained BCBAs.

During the assessment process, the childs social environment is evaluated including the school, family, and the childs level of functioning. A treatment plan can then be created and ongoing services are requested for the child.

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What Is The Difference Between High

High-Functioning Autism and Low-Functioning Autism are different degrees of a spectrum of the same developmental disorder. While children with HFA and LFA may occasionally have similar behavioral characteristics, these characteristics are much more pronounced in children with LFA. 

Many times, children with HFA are able to live relatively normal lives, though they may need specialized tutoring, therapy, or other treatments to improve their quality of life. However, children with LFA will need to attend special schools and will have very different lives from average children.

Its important to understand the differences between these two types of autism. Parents of autistic children must know that HFA and LFA does not determine a childs:

  •       Perseveration levels

Most of these traits and behaviors vary among all children and individuals. Some HFA children are very aggressive, while some LFA children are quite docile. 

Some LFA children are very talented, and some HFA children may perform well in other areas of life, but struggle with certain repetitive behaviors. The primary difference between these types of autism is the severity of a childs struggle to learn and their ability to relate to other people, form relationships, and communicate with others. 

The signs and symptoms of LFA are listed below to help you understand this disorder more clearly:

Explaining Autism To Your Family And Friends

Differences Between Asperger’s & High-Functioning Autism

After receiving your childs autism diagnosis, youll likely have new questions every day. One thing that most parents struggle with at first is how to explain autism to their friends and family. Being honest about your childs diagnosis and how it affects him/her is important. The more you educate people in your childs life, the more successful interactions will be.

Give people concrete ideas on how to support your child and interact with him/her. Explain to family and friends how autism affects your child. Give specific examples and explain your childs reactions. To the extent that you are comfortable, provide comprehensive answers to their questions.

People will likely have lots of questions. It is okay to tell people you are still figuring things out. It is fine to say that you do not have all the answers and refer them to a helpful article. These conversations are ongoing ones. Each time you start a new conversation, it will likely get easier.

How Are Asd Levels Determined

While its difficult to determine a persons ASD level, trained psychologists have some tools that can help them accomplish this, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition . This assessment is typically paired with a thorough developmental history.

ASD can be diagnosed as early as 18 months . However, many children, and even some adults, may not be diagnosed until much later.

Being diagnosed at a later age can make treatment more difficult. If you or your childs pediatrician think they may be autistic, consider making an appointment with an ASD specialist. Learn more about testing for ASD.

Autism Levels Of Severity

Autism is referred to as a broad spectrum because the autism levels of severity can be extremely different amongst those diagnosed. Despite this, the DSM-5 has categorized autism into three levels of severity. Level 1 refers to those who require support but are able to live independently with symptoms that may not be overly obvious, this is controversially labeled as high functioning autism. Level 2 autism requires more substantial support with much more apparent symptoms. Level 3 refers to those who require the most substantial support and is often referred to as low functioning autism, these individuals also tend to have an intellectual disability. They display the most severe symptoms of autism and usually have the hardest time socializing and communicating with many being nonverbal. Although there are treatments and several ways to help them experience a better quality of life, they require the most support and it is nearly impossible for them to gain independence as they continue to need help with basic activities throughout their lives. They are also more likely to have other conditions like epilepsy, tuberous sclerosis, and Fragile X syndrome.

The Risks And Consequences Of High Or Low Functioning Autism Labels

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder experience the world differently, not to a greater or lesser degree. The dynamic of ones social abilities, expressive and receptive language development, intellectual skills, restrictive interests as well as repetitive behaviors all vary. Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual identifies three levels of support to specify the Autism Spectrum diagnosis. However, each person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis is unique. Over the years, the subjective labeling of people with Autism as high or low functioning popularized. The persons ability to blend into a crowd, speak, self-manage, and socialize became arbitrary markers in deciding if they are labeled with high or low functioning Autism. This binary scale of further labeling someone with high or low functioning Autism has been adopted by a vast majority of people, including people with Autism themselves. On such a large and varied spectrum, its disheartening to place someone with Autism on a 2-point scale. There is no medical indicator to decide if a person is high or low functioning. Furthermore, there are risks and consequences of using such a limiting label on such a large spectrum.

Makenzie Sandler, BCBA, LBADirector of Clinical Services

Learn more at and The author can be contacted at or 741-9000.


What Are Typical Symptoms

Quotes About Autism

Few tools give accurate representations of functional ability. Some parents rely on their observations to guide their child’s treatment plan. 

Experts explain that behaviors vary greatly between high-functioning and low-functioning kids. Children on the low-functioning side of the spectrum exhibit behaviors that make daily life challenging. 

Every person with ASD has social, communication, and sensory difficulties. But people with severe forms of ASD have significant difficulties with:

  • Language. They may not use verbal tools at all.
  • Senses. They often grow overwhelmed when exposed to bright lights, crowds, or loud noises.
  • Repetitive movements. They may rock back and forth, moan, slam doors, or bang their heads.

A child who can’t speak and has a low IQ could struggle with:

  • Expressing desires and dreams. A child like this might throw tantrums, flap hands, or self-harm in frustration.
  • Problem solving. A low IQ makes learning tough. Children in new situations could freeze rather than finding a solution.
  • Connecting. Expressing love, calling for attention, or otherwise reaching out to others could be challenging for children like this.

Children with severe forms of ASD often have other health challenges, including allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, sleeping disorders, and genetic conditions such as fragile X syndrome.

Definition For High Functioning Autism:

High functioning autism is a type of autism in which there are usually significant developmental delays in motor function and language ability. Children with HAF have an IQ of 70 or higher, but they have problems with social interaction and do not understand social cues. People with high functioning autism may show repetitive behaviors such as hand flapping.

Living With Low Functioning Autism

Nothing can prepare you for a positive diagnosis that your child has autism, and even more so if it is determined that they have Level 3 autism. Fortunately, with the raised awareness of autism, there are several support options for you and your child. Access to information is readily available and most people are at least somewhat aware of what autism is and its symptoms.

One of the most important first steps is to choose a team of professionals who will help treat your child. This is usually comprised of your pediatrician, a psychologist, and a range of therapists depending on your childs unique symptoms and diagnosis. The professionals you choose to work with will help you to understand your child, give you advice on how to interact with them and what you can do to keep them safe and help to improve and minimize their symptoms.

Another important step is to get support for yourself. Having an autistic child has several challenges and unexpected twists and turns. Its emotional and overwhelming and you will need people you can share your experience with who understand what youre going through. Joining a group to learn the skills necessary to deal with autism and having a group or community of parents who you can share experiences and resources with is invaluable.

Hfa Is Recognized As Unique But Classified The Same

Today, they are not categorized differently in psychological terms from any other person on the autism spectrum. But because ABAs work primarily in functional terms, HFA can be a very useful label. ABAs design their treatment programs around observed behaviors, and use different techniques based on the severity of those behaviors and the nature of the antecedents.

Both antecedents and behaviors for high-functioning autistics are likely to trend much closer to non-ASD behavioral norms. An ABA treating a case of HFA might not treat it much different from how they would handle a person exhibiting inappropriate behaviors stemming from issues like excessive anger or depression.

A high-functioning autistic is more likely to understand, at least conceptually, social norms and the importance of complying with them; they can be more a partner to their own therapy than a passive participant. In many cases, they are eager to adapt themselves to fitting into social circumstances. This can allow ABAs to use the rule-based and obsessive tendencies of the HFA patient as part of their treatment!

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