aspergers · autism · HFA · special needs

High Functioning Autism: Characteristics

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….but he doesn’t look autistic! 

Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that from friends, acquaintances, people at church, teachers, therapy and medical professionals. They have all said it at one point or another, although,Yes, D does have high functioning autism. 

high functioning autism characteristics

What does High Functioning Autism look like?

Neuro-Typical Days

Many times, children with high functioning autism have days that can best be described as normal. These are the days when your child is able to handle and process everything you throw at him/her. These are the days that s/he resembles a neuro-typical child for the most part.

They are the days that leave you trying to shake the cobwebs from your brain and saying to yourself, Maybe it’s me? Maybe I’m losing my mind and there is nothing wrong with my child?

Ahh…but never fear, you will quickly be snapped out of that thought with an unexpected dose of autism (how we describe it in our house). 

 Bad Behavior

Wait! Don’t yell at me for calling it bad behavior. This is what high functioning autism looks like, not what it really is! 

Many times what someone from the outside sees is the behavioral characteristics of a spoiled brat. They see a child who is throwing a fit in the store begging for candy or a toy. They see a child who is fussing, yelling, or lying in the floor refusing to move because s/he wants to go home. They see a child who kicks the tire of the car or hits someone with him/her.

Those people from the outside looking in begin to judge our parenting. They wonder why our children aren’t better behaved. What have we done to allow them to behave this way? Why can’t we get them under control?

What those people don’t see is the child who expends every amount of emotional, mental, and physical energy in his or her body to maintain composure for an entire school day.

They don’t see a child who has sensory processing disorder and has an adverse reaction to the fluorescent lights in the store, or the bright red color, or the sounds of all of the people talking around him.

Those people don’t see the child who has an intense fear of getting lost in a store, nor do they see the child who has such an extraordinary sense of smell that his brain cannot process all of the smells of the people, the perfumes, the paper.

They don’t see the little boy whose body feels like he may explode if he doesn’t touch the soft fabric of the t-shirt across the aisle or rub his hands across the ridges on the caps of the bleach bottles.


Children with high functioning autism are bundles of anxiety. Our psychiatrist actually defines high functioning autism as inconceivable anxiety. Of course, there are other diagnostic criteria, but anxiety is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle.

Nearly anything can cause anxiety in children with high functioning autism. It is important to be aware of the triggers with your child or the child you are working with. In our house, some of the triggers are lack of sleep, fear of losing control of himself, fear of disappointing someone else, changes in routine, and not knowing or understanding the expectations of those in authority are just a few.

School is one of his biggest anxiety triggers. It encompasses more than one of the above triggers. He works to maintain himself all day so that he does not lose control of himself. He is terrified of disappointing his principal, autism support person, his teacher, or us. School is full of routine changes with fire drills, assemblies, testing, substitute teachers, and more. Not understanding the expectations is usually not an issue, but with a substitute or new teacher, there is a lot hanging on his inability to read social cues.


These children often feel like everything inside their bodies is out of control. They are often out of touch with their emotions, their senses are in overdrive, they are full of anxiety, nothing in their body works as far as they are concerned. 

Their feelings of lack of control create a sense of urgency to be in control…They feel out of control, so they want more control.

Unfortunately, because of their lack of social skills and weakened ability to read the emotions of others, their desire for control often comes across as mean, rude, and aggressive.

We often see this in conjunction with D’s increased anxiety in certain situations. One of our more irrational situations that drive anxiety and control is the elevator. He is panic-stricken at the thought that one of the littles may push the alarm button. Therefore, he attempts to control the situation by pushing the littles away from the control panel inside the elevator, he often yells at them to get away, and he will stand with his body against it to be sure that no one can get near it.

Rigid Thinking

Adding to the anxiety and feeling like they have lost control, children with HFA have very rigid thinking.

These children are built on routine, they are built on things being the same, and things being the way they perceive them. These children are not your typical creatures of habit, instead they perseverate, or obsess, over things being the same all the time. Their food must taste the same, their favorite place to eat should not change the menu, they want only one brand of pencils, crayons, or markers. They are unable to go with the flow of out with the old, in with the new.

They also find something they are interested in and obsess over it to a point of driving everyone around them crazy.

If it is a movie, these children know every word to their favorite part (they may not know every part of the movie), they know the words to every song, every movement of the characters, the entire movie set. If it is a certain comic, they will know everything about the characters, from their favorite food to their shoe size.

Oh, and, you will know it all too!

D has an unusual obsession with The Doodlebops. He knows every song, every movement to every song, what each of their instruments and costumes look like. He knows everything and he demonstrates that through constant play.

His play, however, is not imaginative. His thoughts are so rigid that he is unable to get past what is on the show to play with what is in real life. He cannot pretend that a long yellow shirt is DeeDee Doodle’s dress when playing with Pouty. Instead, he cuts up a pillow case, uses a pink crayon, and colors it to resemble the piano dress that is worn on the show.

The level of rigid thinking seems ridiculous, but their minds use this rigid thinking to maintain control and to feel as though they have some control.

Over the next several posts, I will discuss these areas and many others in an attempt to help others understand this crazy thing called high functioning autism. 

Please leave  comment here to add to the list of characteristics, or offer any other helpful information in future posts. I look forward to hearing what you have to share.

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111 thoughts on “High Functioning Autism: Characteristics

  1. Really nice description! Generally, adults with autism shy away from functioning labels, because the bi-polar (as in two poles, not as in bipolar disorder) image they present is so far from the spectrum that is reality. Example: You meet an adult with autism who can drive, but on only roads he’s been on before… but he cannot cross the street alone. He can speak fluently but regularly experiences intense shut downs that lead to “losing his words.” He’s a brilliant writer– in fact, his IQ is over 140– but he can’t fill out any sort of paperwork without help.

    High functioning or low functioning?

    I find it more helpful to describe a person with autism with a few descriptors… D, who is strong verbally but hates change and has a lot of anxiety… instead of D, the boy with HFA. The former is much more helpful to those who want to help him.

    But, again– nice post and accurate description of what it feels like!

    1. Lydia, I totally agree with you! I have said that IRL many times that what is considered to be HFA is really so very low-functioning in many ways. I will touch on that in future posts in this series. There are definitely two very opposite ends of the spectrum.

      A funny story about D and where he lands on the spectrum. 🙂

      One day he was doing something that was inappropriate, but totally age appropriate for a boy his age. I don’t remember what it was, I am sure it had something to do with tormenting his siblings. LOL Anyway, I said, “D please stop!” He said, “I can’t, I have asperger’s!” I said, “D, having asperger’s or autism or anything else doesn’t make you do that, you’re just not making good choices.”

      He looked at me, perfectly appalled at my audacity, and said, “Mommy, autism and asperger’s is a spectrum. The spectrum is so big and there is no one else in the whole world that is the exact same place as me on the spectrum, so maybe it IS causing me to do this?”

      I looked at him and walked away. He rendered me totally speechless. I mean, he did have a point – there is no one who is on the exact same place as him…He was still being a brat at that moment, though. 😉

      1. This is my son and it made me laugh so much! We don’t use labels here, so at 8 he has no concept of what the word autism means, but he does have a very strong opinion of what it means to be an “Aiden”. Many, many of his excuses for bad behaviour revolve around “but that’s what Aiden’s do!” – his school and I are quick to remind him that actually he’s just your typical 8 year old and being an obnoxious

        1. .. (Sorry, pressed submit too early!) Twit, but it always makes me smile that he has the self awareness to try and justify himself. The thing I’ve noticed most however is his insistence on being honest and how black and white his feelings can be. The hardest thing for my son is when his actions are misunderstood. Case in point, he was learning about Gravity at school last year, and while waiting in line to be let into class after lunch, saw a pebble on the floor and a friend in front wearing a sunhat. In his mind, hats are worn to keep the wearer safe, and so he decided that he’d conduct an experiment (as he had in class) and dropped the pebble on his friends head – with obvious results! Even with teachers, head teachers and myself reassuring him that he’d already been punished for his mistake and that he wouldn’t be in trouble again, nothing we said could convince him that he’d done anything wrong by conducting his experiment – and he was in hysterics over being punished for it. In his mind, the responsibility for his friend getting hurt was on the naughty hat because it hadn’t done it’s job. He was horrified to discover that different hats have different purposes and that the a sunhat protects against the sun, whereas a hard hat protects against falling objects. It’s things like that that surprise me most with HFA. Similarly time and not having a sense of it – if I involve my son in planning our trip to the grocery store and list with him what we need to buy his anxiety levels are so much less than if we wander in to buy “food” – he needs the certainty of knowing we have to find a dozen items to understand that our visit isn’t indefinite. It’s heartbreaking to see the reactions of people who don’t understand his quirks because while he IS highly intelligent and able to manipulate and scheme his way out of things he doesn’t want to do, that’s not his default setting and if you look hard enough, there’s usually always a logical reason for why he’s acted a certain way – even if it is a bit off the wall. Sensory issues are by far the hardest I personally find to overcome. 🙂

      2. My 14 yr old son has aspergers. I am always saying he doesn’t have common sense. He came home from school one day and informed me that in his high school psychology class he learned that there is no such thing as “common sense”. I, of course, had to reply that there was. He came back with “Common sense cannot be scientifically proved That it is only based on theories which in the end is only someone’s opionions. In other words mom there are no proven facts of common sense and it just doesn’t exist.” This is the kind of responses I get from him all the time and I just have to let it go because he will always have a last word on any given subject.

        1. Same here. My son is 9, His IQ is nearly 140. I cannot argue with him and his thinking is very literal, very rigid. One of the best descriptions I use is that he is my cat. Aspies are much like my feline friends. He startles easy. Only touch him if he comes to you first. And then not too long or he will bite. If you initiate touch, he may recoil. He is a loner. Finicky eater. Mysterious. He likes to sit or hide in small places, it makes him feel secure. I have yet to use the term aspergers with him yet, trying to figure that out…

      3. I have aspbergers and my 14 year old son does as well.It is very true that we will dissect words ,definitions,sentence structure ,to align with our being correct in a statement.Sometimes he wins and sometimes I do.We can be extremely literal or nit pick semantics.We recognize it in each other and both see it as our attempt at humor.My wife won’t even attempt to argue with us because we will just frustrate her until she gives up.
        Just say to your son let’s start over.He wins you win.

      4. He may have had a point but it is a choice my son is HFA and 10 years old he makes the choice to not do his home work and the teacher has picked up on that its been disscussed a lot of his not wanting to work is out of choice not autisum and he will pretend he can’t add just so he can move on to the next subject out of boredom, I don’t allow this behavior no longer and you shouldn’t either especially when it comes to hitting other kids and he behaves very well in stores no fit pitching just likes to hide behind clothes.

      5. This story is part of why I am worried about getting an official diagnosis for my step son. He holds so tight to labels and uses them as excuses for everything.
        Also I am curious how you came about getting an official diagnosis. I feel like since it is so high functioning, it would be hard for anyone not spending a good majority of every day with him to notice these things. And not to just write it off as a bratty kid as you mentioned.

    2. Hello
      The way you describe D is identical to my 7 year old boy. I am having a very difficult time with school at the moment and getting them to understand these traits 🙁

    3. This. This all day long. I could be that person you are describing, and it aggravates me to no end when I have ‘low function’ days, but feel like people expect so much of me because of my ‘high function’ days. It’s a spectrum of ability, and every day it slides to a different point on that scale.

  2. Great article and I look forward to the rest! My daughter (nearly 5) (not diagnosed yet but suggested ASD by SLP, just haven’t gotten to a neuro-psy yet) seems normal frequently and then NOT.

    The comment about anxiety really resonated for me. For example, even though she’s never actually had any negative experience with a dog, she is currently terrified of them (we have a 50# dog at home who she usually tolerates). Or she gets a death grip in a pool even with a full life jacket on. It drives me nuts especially since her behavior is making my younger daughter get scared about things she isn’t scared of on her own. I can’t figure out how to help her get through the fear. I currently try challenging her fear (have you been jumped on, have you been scratched, what do you think will happen, etc….)not sure if it’s helping but I don’t know what else to do.

    Also perseverating, after the recent tornado’s in Oklahoma all she would talk about was tornado’s and was convinced that every time we had a rain storm that we would have a tornado (we live in MI). Luckily she will move on eventually (weeks or months later) to something else. Now she’s fixated on my having a seizure because about 2 wks ago I had one while out running and spent a few days in the hospital and then again while home a couple days ago. For safety we’ve had to make sure she can dial the phone. So now she plays “mommy had a seizure” ALL the time…cute, but getting old.

    what’s best is that I can never tell what things are going to get her terrified or stick in her brain that she’ll fixate on. such fun!

    1. Katie, trying to figure out just what they are going to fixate on is enough to drive us mad, isn’t it? I have come to a point where I just assume he is going to begin perseverating on anything I say and try to watch my words, news that he might hear, etc. Sadly, I still open my big mouth and say stuff I shouldn’t occasionally.

  3. Interesting… wondering if this could be my father or me. Anxiety, fixations, unhappy with changes. Yesterday, I had planned to pressure wash my driveway. Surprise! Hubby took the pressure washer to work with him. He told my mom that anyone could have thought he’d run over my dog! I boohooed so hard he could hardly understand me on the phone, but why? He interrupted my plan.

    I love creativity. I exhaust myself on hobbies, learning more about any one thing than 10 people should know. Painting, quilting, building furniture, stocks, looming, certain tv shows,, certain songs, planting and more planting, sewing, jewelry making, politics, spreadsheets… it will go on for months until I’ve worn myself out on something. I exhaust myself with details at work, cleaning house, etc. I can hardly get things done for focusing on the precision and correctness of a task. I exhaust my family with repetitive conversations. I can’t let things go. Large amounts of useless knowledge about planets and god only knows what else. My dad is worse. Plus noises, tastes, sensations, all can create havic.

    You just sound like you’re describing me! 🙁

    1. Theresa, thank you for your comment. It sounds like you do have a lot of those characteristics. That can be such an awesome blessing for you, especially if you have a strong support system, with lots of love and encouragement.

  4. Just came across this excellent post via Pinterest. Am going to tweet the link to it. Your examples for each characteristic are spot on. Helpful for parents not only in understanding their children, but in passing it on to others so that they might better empathize.

  5. Thank you! We just had my son’s kindergarten screening meeting and his teacher made the same profound statement when describing him to who will be his new principal. That he looks like nothing is wrong. This article is a wonderful way of explaining it.

  6. OMG it’s like I’m reading our life story! Thank you for putting it into words like this. I will be sharing with friends so they can get a better understanding of what we go through. Amazing writing 🙂

  7. I’m so glad I saw your post on the Throw-Back Thursday linky! We have a child with high-functioning Autism and fits it to a “T”! Our other two children (and myself) have Sensory Processing Disorder. So, needless to say, we can look like a big WRECK at public places. Some people ask “how I do it” to which I can only think to respond is I don’t have a choice. We can’t just stay isolated all the time, and homeschooling helps us to be more flexible so we can go places when most people are at work and school, but regardless, we still have to go places! Sometimes it’s like a “normal day,” and other days it’s not. We get the “why can’t you control your child(ren)” look as well as those who say “it doesn’t seem like he has Autism.” Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Emilee, those comments sound so familiar. It makes me want to say, ‘come spend a day with us!’ Many people would probably go running if they spent a day or so in the shoes you and I, and so many others, walk in every day. Thank you for commenting, have a blessed week! 🙂

  8. While we don’t have any children with autism, I think it is important to be able to understand from an “outsiders” point of view. Thank you so much for sharing on Throwback Thursday Blog Style. I am glad Emilee was able to see your post because you shared.
    I hope to see you back again at Throwback Thursday. Can’t wait to see what you share.

  9. Sooooo true!!
    Also my son went to camp out in the middle of nowhere with a re-enactment group (none of whom he had met before) but can’t stay overnight at home without me!!
    He drives & will drive to different places but does struggle with walking anywhere alone!! He can be both random & interesting all at the same time!! 🙂

  10. I am baybisiiting a 4 year old autistic boy. I am a sahm to a 2 year old boy. I need advice regarding calming him down when he wakens suddenly from a nap. He also snatches toys away from my son, and if not given it back,will throw twenty minute tantrums. I do not give in, since it seems a bit unfair to take from my youngest to give to an older kid. But I don’t know.if I’m expecting too much from the 4 year old boy. Should I give in and give him toys and save myself the tantrum, or just let it pass. My 2 year old has done better with sharing than the 4 year old. So I am at a loss to treat who as the baby.

      1. Apb, SOMEONE’s got to watch them. I babysit my 4 year old HFA granddaughter several times a week. She gets into fights with my mom who has Alzheimer’s and it’s a grand mess, since I have no training for either condition, but let me tell you, they teach me how to care for them better than any college professor could. No matter how much training or licensing you have, I imagine you just have to hit upon what works for each individual, and let me tell you, what works changes from day to day.

  11. I resonate with your thoughts and observations. It’s definitally a dose of autism day around here. My tile heaters and wall heaters have been tampered with, and showering took an hour!

  12. Thanks so much for this well written article! So accurate when compared to what I’m experiencing.
    Our public educational system by the way is not delivering appropriate instruction to our so called HFA….and it’s a crime in violation of the codes! I agree, too that the concept of high functioning is not always helpful. Yet there’s a sense of what is meant. But I wonder if those not living with this huge challenge understand and appreciate what the child and family suffer. I don’t think they have a clue and this article beautifully and explicitly describes that. Thank you again

  13. I’m sitting here in tears because you just described our 7 year old daughter . We basically feel ostracized from the world. Shopping is crazy. We barely go out to eat and never been to a movie as family. But she is the greatest blessing to us. We’ve raised 9 boys and tyn is the baby. Thank you for letting us know we are not alone.

  14. You just described my son. He was diagnosed as having ADHD at a young age. I felt in my heart that something was also going on that it wasn’tjust that. No one would listen to me til about two years ago when a dr asked me why i didnt get early intervention with him. I explained out situation…she was very upset that we were failed by his doctors all these years.

    1. This sounds like my situation also. After arguing with the dr for 4 yrs that there was something else besides ADHD and OCD going on I switched to another dr at a different facililty. After he spoke with my son, who was 12 at the time, for approx 2 hrs he told me that he felt he was more Aspergers than OCD. That day changed his life because he then was tested and it was confirmed as Aspergers. He has since made big strides towards learning his social skills and learning how to filter comments better. He still has a way to go but he has gained confidence knowing what is wrong with him instead of believing that he was a bad kid as others told him. Even his school has commented on how much he has improved in the past year and noted it in his IEP.

      1. Thank you, thank you. I have been feeling crazy. My son is 10 and was diagnosed with ADHD. I have argued for years that he has more than ADHD. Your post has given me extra strength to keep fighting for him.

    2. Hi Karen,
      My son as well was diagnosed adhd as a young boy (age4/5yrs) .. yes the dr.s failed us as well. I also knew something else was going on etc… we were finally heard by a psychologist yrs later (age 9 1/2) & the school still wouldn’t change his diagnosis to ASD (they kept it OHI Other Health Impairment) as a result… another school yr, waisted with no real help for him. They just kept “pushing him along to the next grade level” to stay with his peers as I was told. I completely identify with you!!!!!
      Thank you for commenting,
      Sincerely Yours,

  15. Great article. I think the anxiety over simple changes is the worst possible thing. Changes are difficult for any child, but for a child who has autism it is unimaginable. Most people do not realize it. Thank you for talking openly about life with an autistic child.

  16. “But he doesn’t look autistic.”

    Oh my goodness this is my son, I’m in tears reading your article. Thank you so much for posting. I’ve always wanted to put my experience in writing and your words have described them to a T. Thank you again

  17. Thank you so much for posting such valuable information. I have a HFA 7 year old son and you have described him to tee. He’s absolutely amazing and such a blessing. It’s challenging because I also have a HFA 14 year old daughter who is absolutely opposite and it’s hard to keep up. Nevertheless, these guys just rock my world! Thanks again!


  18. Your son has an immense brilliance, despite the aspergers diagnosis..he is absolutely correct..common sense is subjective and based on individual perceptions most of the time..he is scientific in his thinking and is very accurate with no rigidity do to socialization in his thinking, as you are displaying in yourself. It is absolutely nullifying and abusive in nature that you would say this young man lacks “your” common sense, or your opinions about what is within the realms of common sense. As a woman with extended education, and considered at the top of my class, this young man shows brilliance. Your words are crushing.

  19. My 11 year old son Mathew has ADHD and undiagnosed severe ocd (at least that’s what I call it) he does have a favorite movie and it is the only one he watches, he also gets something on his mind and for weeks even months he thinks about ways (obsesses) to achieve whatever impossible feat he must achieve. He does not Ave the social skills other kids do, he has no friends and never gets invites to parties-the opposite of my daughter- it is heart breaking to see how he is excluded and lonely. He refuses to wear good shoes to school because kids step on them, he cannot tell if it is intentional or accidental. If a child throws a ball and it hits him he cannot be sure if it was an accident or on purpose so he thinks everyone is being mean to him. His medicine makes him an emotional wreck and he blames his medicine for his behavior, I have to tell him that is not because of your medicine, it has not bearing on your ability to clean your room, which he dreads to the point of taking a punishment instead. He also controls his sister and playing with her stresses him if she does not cooperate with his excessive demands. A whole lot of the things in this article and the comments below it seem to explain or describe my son very well. HE stays frustrated or stressed most of the day.

    1. Hi Meagan,
      I absolutely understand!!! Getting my son in nature & horticulture has helped with his mimicking (strangers have called it “mocking”) exactly his sisters and brothers actions. He does that to try to learn how to “play”.
      We also did O.T. an hr per week outside of school and Speech outside of school. Social skills groups have helped a lot too.
      My Heart Breaks when my son asks me why he doesn’t get to go to parties???
      I completely Understand!
      Thank u you for letting me respond to you.
      Sincerely Yours,

  20. Touching back regarding my Asperger’s 14 yr old son. He has now removed himself from the medication patch he was on for his ADHD. He did this at the begining of the summer after school was out. He gets a little giggley at times and I tease him that he sounds like a girl but he doesn’t seem to get as angry. He says he feels more calm without the meds and that he can multi-task better. He used to be hyper-focused which made him very anxious. As he started back to school this year he chose to stay off the meds and I have to say he is doing much better. Sometimes as the child gets older and more mature you have to let them have a say in their meds. Afterall, they are the ones with the feelings not us as mothers. His doctor agrees with his choice stating that his past thoughts were that he’d be on the meds another year or so. The doctor feels that his maturity and understanding of his condition helps along with the therapy that helps him find ways of dealing with certain situations. He is a freshman this year and per his teacher, the school thinks that he may finish high school a year early.

  21. I came across this article because I googled “what does high functioning autism look like”. My 10year old son was just diagnosed and I’ve had family, friends and teachers say this to me.

    This article makes me feel better. My son does have normal days and then there will be an event and I’ll say to myself “if it’s not HFA then it’s something else – but it’s not nothing”. If I break it down simply, he is anxious, rigid, has sensory processing disorder and is very introverted. Thank you for sharing ❤️

    1. Something that I found really helps my son who has light characteristics like yours, is to research also the sensitivity and personality needs of those who have introverted tendencies. I found that I was contributing to his stress levels by expecting too much for his personality, and educational expectations of conformity. I found that giving him a creative outlet, such as a hobby he has chosen, to be very helpful in reducing his stress levels, and bringing more fun into his life, and more room for peace of mind, support and self acceptance. I also found that fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and a paleo diet, and giving up milk (sub with nut milk), with several healthy fruit/cheese or other combination snacks, helps keep him more even, and lessening certain expectations, when he is tired, or not feeling his best. I also found that medications made him feel worse, and altered his mind to the point of feeling he had no control, and deeply effecting his peace of mind and sleep cycles. We strongly advocated for no drugs, that traditional doctors try to give. What helped our son the very most was seeing a naturopathic doctor rather than a conventional doctor.

  22. I was searching on the internet about autism! And I came across this article! And it definitely explains mine and my son’s life!…… There are days where he seems like such a normal little boy! He plays.. Talks.. Too the point where I actually say to myself! Ok, you are just nuts! There is nothing wrong with him!….. But then his meltdowns come! And they are something else!. He screams so loud that he could break glass… Falls into the floor!… And if you spank him it only adds more fuel to the fire!.. To where he hits himself in the head, knocks tables over hits the walls!.. Just completely out of control!…. He has sensory processing disorder! And now he is being seen by a behavior therapist for autism!

  23. Thank you so much for posting this. I wish everyone I knew would read it and understand my daughter. This article is so her! She is high functioning autistic, but also deals with the anxiety, adhd and oppositional defiance disorder. We have had to pull away from family members that we love because they are either physically, mentally or verbally abusive to her because they think she is just a brat. They refuse to understand that her condition makes it so that she can’t help certain behaviors. Sometimes I wish that the condition showed physically like downs or cerebral palsy does, at least they would cut her some slack. My daughter is warm and loving and so talented in so many ways. People really do miss out on a lot because of stupidity

  24. That sounds a lot like my son. He is son on some days his psychiatrist shakes his head and I think I’ve lost my mind.
    My son is so misunderstood and can’t get any diagnosis past ADHD and anxiety and it is so frustrating. I will keep reading your posts.
    I wish more people understood. And could teach their children to be more accepting and tolerant.

    1. I spent several years with the same psychiatrist & therapist and it took changing doctors and therapists to get an aspergers diagnosis. It seemed people I knew and myself were able to see what was going on with my son but the doctor wouldn’t do anything further than his 15 min appointment. The therapist wasn’t much better and told me that we’d watch him and document. After watching for 3 years I lost patience and contacted an entirely different medical group area (insurance). Within 4 months I had the diagnosis I was looking for and my son has just flourished since he now knows what is wrong with him and that he is just not a “bad kid”.

  25. This rings alarmingly true. Particularly in relation to needing control. My little boy is only 3.5 but showing all the signs and on a waiting list for diagnosis. I’m sure a lot of people can’t understand that this is also part of the spectrum because it looks so different from their idea of asd.

  26. Thank you for this. I can totally relate, my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of 12. He’s almost 16 now, I wish I had known sooner. We always assumed he was just being naughty and he cried a lot as a toddler and young child. He hated going to Disneyland, SeaWorld or any amusement park, he always cried and said he wants to go home.
    My son is almost exactly as you described here.

  27. I have a brother with high function autism and we just learned this about a couple of months ago. He is 25 but has the mind of like a 14-16 year old. He is smart but won’t get out of the house unless to go to a doctors app. Or like a video game shop. He is so passonite about things it drives me insane and he won’t stop talking about them even when we have told him that he has overloaded our brains for the day. I don’t know what to do. :'( when I tell him to takeout the trash or do something he says he isn’t feeling well or just refuses and if you push him he gets really angry. Like he complain about there being no snacks in the house and then when I tell him that eating 5 bowls of cereal a day isn’t okay because then I have no breakfeast in the moring , and he dosent care. He never takes his medicine the way he is suppost to and then complains it’s not working. I don’t understand him at all and I he pushes me to the point of giving up. I know this sounds bad, but I’m turning 20 and I can’t emotionally handle him when he looses it! I can’t get him out of the house to do anything and then he gets really upset saying no one let’s him out of the house. I don’t understand anything!!! Please someone help me understand and maybe what to do!!!!!

    1. Your brother sounds a lot like my son. He has been diagnosed as on the spectrum since he was 6 years old…he is now 20. My son also has a mental health component that hasn’t been fully identified.

      You are asking for someone to help you understand. I’m not sure there can be any “Full” understanding of the specific behaviors or reactions. The understanding is limited to looking past those behaviors and reactions and see what your brother may truly be trying to say. Another big factor in my opinion is simple acceptance of those same behaviors and reactions.

      To the best of your ability accept and provide a loving and trusting environment for your brother. Once you accept it is easier to cope with your frustrations.

      I wish you the best of luck.

  28. i have two son and yesterday i went to the neurology he asked me do they smell the food sometimes they teachers complain about them ok they have autism i was like what but they do everything by their self they eat alone they shower dress alone talk clear english and spanish yes ok sometimes they have differences with others kids but not all the time now he sent me to a place to evaluate them im scared my two boys i dont think they have that . what should i think ?everybody told me they are not sick they are just spoil and think they can get whatever they want but i told them you want something you need to earn it be good at school listen to me and try you best they try for two three days at least i dont think an autism kid can even undertand thoses things i dont know maybe im wrong.

  29. My son L is 10 years and he was just diagnosed with high functioning autism. I was discouraged by his pediatrician about testing him for autism. It took a few years before I finally got the chance to get the questionnaire for autism; which is the first step of this crazy life journey. My son L also has ADD and a learning disability. I am researching and trying my best to learn; so icsn understand my child more/better. I see a lot ofthe characteristics from D in son. I find with him having older and younger sibling’s they really don’t know what to expect from L. It’s super hard to explain…the younger kids think he us getting special treatment…and in a way he is…but not how they precieve the special treatment. I truly thank you for sharing your crazy life… the impact has had a vast impression on my crazy life…and it’s a blessing to hear about thus crazy from another point of view instead of textbook or doctor lingo.
    I look forward to reading the rest of your post!!! 😉

  30. Brilliant article my Ds is exactly as you describe he constantly worries and gets himself into awful states to the point were I feel so drained and then he feels awful and worries that he is letting everyone down as he finds it so hard to control his emotions.

    I have daughter starting high school in the fall, and I could have written same blog with little change to the details. After reading your blog, I was most amazed at your moniker, LUVMYCRZYLIFE. I love my daughter dearly, but I’m not that found of that part of my life. How do you deal with it all?

  32. What would be some suggestions for getting someone diagnosed? I’ve tried a autism group who do testing. He talked to someone, played games, etc. And because he tested high, and communicated well, they said he wasn’t. But it’s my mother sense that it’s something. He is strong verbally, but high anxiety, among just about everything else stated in this article. But I cannot get anyone to listen to me….

    1. If you have concerns, there are two main avenues and you should do both. 1. Bring up your concerns to your pediatrician and insist on a referral to a Developmental Pediatrician. You will probably get put on a waitlist and it could be months before you ever meet this person. The wait is worth it. 2. Go through your public school system. If your child is between 3-5 years old, you should start with Early Intervention. If they are older, go to the social worker at your school. If the disorder is affecting their ability to do well in school, they will test him/her.

      Be diligent in your quest. Write down your concerns so you can relay them to the professionals. Keep track of milestones. Good luck!

  33. Reading this is don’t feel like a bad mom. My son was diagnosed with ADHD early in life. It wasn’t until 6th or 7th grade that it was thought that he may have autism.
    My family does look at him like he is spoiled and not disciplined. My husband used to say “he just needs a whooping with a belt”. (Which has never happened). I really have felt alone in this. I am glad to read that other people have gone through similar things.

  34. Hello. I have been following and reading the comments and doing some research about ASD and High functioning Autism. I believe my grandson has it but my daughter is in denial. I told her to please have him tested, but she refuses. She says i’m just trying to label him. I spend days at a time with him and his younger sister who is 2 years younger and see the differences in behavior. He is 4 and half now and I just want to help him get the best possible care. For example: He lines up his food like carrots, mm’s, fruit snacks. He is terrified of loud noises such as thunder, hand dryers, vacuum cleaners, and the jets in our tub. We noticed that he’s started covering his ears at the movie theater and Peppa pig Live. It took him forever to potty train because he was scared to sit on the toilet. He still is nervous about flushing because of the noise. Now because he freaks out about everything his little sister freaks out. She speaks better than he did at 2 but is now picking up habits from him. He refers to himself in the third person all the time too which I don’t know if that is a characteristic of autism but just found it be strange because she doesn’t. Am I just worrying to much? or should I keep pushing for her to have him tested. He’s my little buddy and I just love them so much I don’t want my daughter to get upset with me because of the issue but I feel as her mother i should bring these things to her attention. We are getting ready to take the children to Disneyland at the end of the month and I don’t know how he will react to the long lines, loud noises, and lights. We will fly for the first time and be on a plane for 4 hours. i’m just a little nervous myself. He hates waiting and we have had melt downs at water parks and amusement parks because we had to wait in line. He doesn’t seem to understand the concept of time and is obsessed with maps and where we are going all the time. He likes other children but they seem to find him a little strange and awkward because of his delayed speech. Help! any suggestions?

    1. My daughter also had sensitivities to sound and I’m happy to say that with an understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder and work with an Occupational Therapist, she now has the coping skills to handle this very loud world we live in. For your upcoming trip, can I suggest you get him some headphones? Noise-cancelling ones might make him feel more comfortable in such visually and acoustically loud places. Even just kid headphones are helpful. Also, a tablet (iPad, Kindle) can help with waiting. Also, give him some control with where you are going next, or at minimum, a heads up. Most importantly, be patient.

  35. how do i explain why my ten yr old with high functioning autism is mean or saying mean things with a mean tone but really isn’t seriously meaning to be that mean? he can also be super nice and sweet right afterwards… i just got into a new relationship his son who is also 10 also seems to butt heads, I have tried to explain to his son that he doesn’t understand that he is being that mean, I have the same problem explaining it to my own 12 yr old son, adam my autistic son is a very poor sport if he plays any games it doesn’t matter xbox outside a board game hide n seek he always has a meltdown how do I explain this to my spouse???

  36. I’m a single father of 4. My only son( “D” as well) I think has HFA. He keeps falling just short of all the “tests” for autism. So I’m not getting any real help for him. He is extremely intelligent. When it comes to book smarts he has scored in the top 90%. On his first day of kindergarten he was able to recognize the sight & sound of 24 letters. He has not spent one day at any preschool or daycare. Yet, he we’ll look at what we would just call a triangle and tell you that it is an equilateral triangle. I don’t even know where he learned that. He’s obsessed with numbers and shapes. He has told me the names of shapes I didn’t even know existed. But seems emotionally devoid. He’s very prone to temper tantrums and outbursts and gets physical at school. He has absolutely no patience or the ability to pay attention to something for longer than a second. Unless it’s something that really captures his attention, then nothing else exists but that item. Usually minecraft. Any kind of help or direction would be greatly appreciated. Public school for him has been an absolute nightmare.
    “D” Sr.

  37. My daughter is diegnosed with high functioning autism. I myself am sometimes confused as she can cope with many situations but one little thing can change our whole day and turn something good to something bad. My husband has worked away for many years and comes home for one month out of three, this in itself puts strain on our home life as the routine changes, he is very good and dies understand I sleep in my 12 yr olds room. We are under a specialist for this but what’s hard for him to understand is he is seeing her turn into a young woman and her meltdowns now come across as being very rude, she will ignor us be defiant and just rude! My husband gets so cross and in the pat two days has reacted by telling me he wants to smake her in the mouth and tonight said he wants to just slap her, he stares at her to a point where she will feel that uncomfortable she laughs! Her words .
    My husbands reaction is not rational and I don’t like to hear those things, I don’t ever think he would do anything but it worrys me that he can say things like that. I’m worried to leave them together as I can always defuse a situation as I am aware of her triggers, my main worry is that he is not recognising her disability and just doesn’t understand or like her
    He blames me for accepting her behaviour and makes me feel she’s rude because if me. I do believe there is a trait of aurtisum in my husband
    I feel really sad. Do you have xny advise?

  38. Wow absolutely great reading.. if I didn’t know any better I would think you were talking about my eight year old son. I look forward to reading anything else you have to say. God bless and I’m sure D is an amazing little person

  39. First of all, thank you for these words. A lot I’ve said before, and some things i thought and never said it because i was in fear of being judge. It brought me to tears, the fact that im in a constant guard with my children ( I have 5 kids all Autistic and from moderate-severe to high functioning ) i feel no one understands. I’ve worked hard with them, providing therapies to aid them on this journey its sometimes overwhelming, but so worth it. Its difficult balancing everything and still trying to keep or at least I try to have a social life.
    For all you moms out there keep on fighting, become the gentle warriors we are build to be, and GOD BLESS.

  40. Thank you so much for this post. Our son was recently given the diagnosis of HFA. We always knew there was “something” but didn’t really understand what it is. Everything you said D does, our son does. The elevator scenario, happens EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. we live in a high rise and its a constant battle between him and his sister. Or the obsession over things, his is the solar system. He could write a book about it. Thanks again. <3

  41. I very much appreciate this post. It helped me articulate what I can’t….what I very much want to go through life shouting at the top of my lungs. Thank you.

  42. I am having difficulties convincing that my child has high functioning autism against the school and the local expert here in Jakarta, Indonesia. It just break my heart and turn me into questioning myself of trying to label him with that instead of him being called a boy with emotional problem and bad behaviour. Do you have any advice based on experience?

  43. Thank you for this! This is exactly my son. He was recently diagnosed (finally) at 10. I have to share this with my family and friends!!

  44. Hello. I’m from Canada and have Severe High Functioning Asperger’s Syndrome. I can do most things myself although I have a great deal of difficulty with workplace social situations. Actually, all social situations are a tremendous challenge for me. I’m incontinent due to medical and psychological reasons, toileting is another tremendous problem I’ve had since I was a kid. Public bathrooms used to give me severe anxiety but I no longer have to worry about them anymore now that I have been using adult diapers for several years now. I’m 42 now and I still feel like a child but with an IQ of 160ish.

    I’ve been kicked out of preschool due to frustration, aggression and over-stimulation. For the same reasons I’ve also been kicked out of a private high school twice, for both grade 10 and grade 11. In adult life I’ve been fired 9 times from my jobs, been suspended twice, and I’ve quit my jobs (usually before I thought I would get fired) more then 30 times. Recently, I physically attacked a co-worker because he was making fun of me and I was fired. I react quite violently to bullying. Due to all of those socially challenging situations, I had a heart attack when I was 34.

    I am looking at getting an Autism support dog to help me manage unpredictable social situations but I’m unsure of how to handle this in a workplace situation. I may have to kibosh that whole idea because of my job. I have also thought about committing myself to a mental health hospital because I feel that I can no longer support myself reliably. My anxiety and depression have catapulted over the past year and I feel like I can barely hang on to my sanity. I have struggled with self-harm, severe aggression and suicidal thoughts for more than 30 years.

    A very late diagnosis is most likely the culprit for the severity of my situation.

    1. How are you? I have been thinking about you a lot. My son is 14, I worry about what his future
      Holds. I am encouraged and worried after reading your post. I hope you are doing better. I almost hate to say this, but do you take medication? Raising my son can be hard, but I love him no matter what.
      I always worry if I am doing right things with him. I worry I might coddle him. I always want him to understand reason for everything I do, concerning him. He is a good kid, and his teachers just praise how well he is doing. But at home I see some of what you talk about. My son is depressed and thinks he has to do everything perfect. Then he cry’s, it breaks my heart. He tries so hard. I am so proud of him. And you, it may have been difficult but you did it, you have achieved so much. My son was able to control his anger and anxiety, adhd, tics. With Meds, but at first I was so against Meds. But, now he’s been on for few years. No longer violent outbursts he tries so hard, to stay calm and as people say behave, but, we also avoid situations he can’t handle. Such as any place with a lot of people, noise, lights, etc. but, his Meds changed his life and our families life so much. He is functioning just as any other 14 year old boy, no more meltdowns, well maybe once every few months, instead of every day, before Meds. Trying so hard, and just losing it as you speak of. Please get help, I know you might get angry when you read this, my son hates when I try to talk or rationalize things to him 🙂 but maybe Meds can help. We mostly deal with him trying to be perfect in everything he does, School, and sports..sports is his thing. When he’s not perfect he will just cry in his room, car, away from others. He’s sad…which just bothers me as his mom. I just want to fix it. Please know you should be proud, you have and are trying to do what you can, the best way you know how. Meds changed my son from being able to not handle most things, especially hurting me, which he never meant, he would just lose it. But, now I see him have a friend or 2 and, I see him laugh and be happy a lot, we are a silly family. Try to laugh, I know it’s hard, but, even just laughing for no reason, can stop that aggression for my son, when he’s agitated because of a bully or something isn’t perfect. Don’t give up see a doctor they can help please. There are people who care, I worry about you 🙂
      I hope you are not mad for me sharing, but I never reply on any boards just read. But you can do it, surround yourself with the right people that care, in your community. Sometimes just talking can help reach out to someone.

  45. my grandson cannot sit in the classroom noise set him off to certain behaviors he’s not able to look at you for a long period of time he gets overwhelmed with a full sheet of work I’m at my wit’s end he’s very loving when he’s at home he cares about people he just feels very rejected not sure what I can do for him I am home schooling him at this time he’s taken care Garden three times he 7 years old and still in kindergarten the school just keeps calling saying come get him come get him can’t control me very aggravating

  46. Professionals…Dont know Shit…about high functioning Autism…. Thats what the system. Wants you to Believe…. Every child is unique and a one off… What works for the parents is longsuffering…patience meekness trial and error…lots of…compassion..and ..research in nutrition…in this toxic world… So you can rise above… All the quote proffessionals… That…have a title from a university…that they paid a lot of money for and…gave them false power and the. Broken medical system …that has been put on a pedistool…and is bias and one sided…the same system that administered the vacination…that damaged your children to begin with…so read and study. And..look at holistic treatment.. Dont take lightly… What you have been told bought and Sold… me ! I am 53 years old and i am the father of 4 amaising children of them has h f a…sm…and. He is 5 years old… And is getting better .but not with Synthetic Drugs …with correct ..nutrition and…lots of Prayer meditation.. Music…highten sensibilities… With Herbs and massage…things that you wont learn from.. Quote the Proffessionals…so Simplify your…point with..or points with precise..wording and..definitive… as to not lead ..some one to the wrong area…for Healing and Help…❤ the article you wrote was heart felt…and so was my responce…❤ one man sharpens another..just as iron sharpens iron…🐉

  47. This is my son to some extent. He is HFA but he does well with change. It wasn’t easy to make him feel comfortable, but i managed to do it. He does need reassurance. For example he needs to know the night before what we will be doing the next day. So i have to tell him what is happening. Like if there is school or if he has therapy. He has done well. Thankfully he is great in school, with all the schedule changing he learned to go with the flow. Sometimes I do wonder if he does have autism. Then I get a dose of it when we are having dinner. He does not like new food. He prefers his usual chicken or mac and cheese. I’m still trying to get him comfortable with new foods but it’s a slow process. He has accomplished so much, everyone that has worked with him or knows him are very proud of how far he has come.

  48. Your descriptions and ways of explaining HFA is so clear and understandable. Thank you for being honest and describing it in a way that makes sense to those of us who just want to be helpful in the best way but have no clue! Really brilliant – thank you 🙂

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  50. Thank you so much for this post. My son is 2 and a half and I’ve been thinking he’s somewhere on the spectrum from when he was 10 months old. I’ve been made to feel insane by almost everyone I know (husband included) apart from a dear friend. Now we’re on a waiting list for early intervention and a child psychologist at the moment says she does think he’s on the spectrum. I’m really struggling because I have days where I feel so guilty and utterly crazy for thinking there could ever be anything “different” about my son and other days I feel so crazy that I’m the only one who sees it because to me it’s obvious. My son is SO intelligent has such an impressive vocabulary and has an eye for symbols/shapes/numbers and construction however he also has such high anxietry that I feel so sorry for him that he should worry about everything at such a young age. I really loved your post and it’s given me a bit of strength in a time of need.

  51. My God! This describes my grandson so clearly it feels like you used him for study.
    It does help a lot to read something like this post that explains HFA so well. Anyone who doesn’t live with an Autistic child or can’t relate to these issues & challenges should read your post along with other articles related to understanding this affliction.
    Very good article, Thanks for sharing it.

  52. You pretty much summed up my 6 year old and the perceptions that others have of my parenting and his behavior. I have, on many occasions, thought that I must be the crazy one until I realized I am the only person my son can depend on and trust NO MATTER WHAT HE DOES! I have been teaching him that he has so many strengths and I love them all. And most important that EVERYONE has faults and “things” they need to work on…including me. Thank you for your great wording on what seems to be a reflection of my life.

  53. Why does no one have any answers? Professionals? I’ve been in this for years and no one can help us. ABA seems to know less than me. My boy is 9 and been I’m this since he was 2 1/2. Schools seem to be the worse and less knowledgble.

    1. Look at Danny Reade’s stuff from ‘Aspergers experts’ on you tube. You have to pay for some stuff but a lot is on you tube. Only one of the things that helped me with my son. Beautiful little puzzles our HFA children are !!!

  54. Great insight on the in’s and out’s of HFA. The one thing I am experiencing with my child is clothing and shoe sensory issues. The scariness of motion (bikes, rides, swimming) is if curiousity to me. I guess it is related to control issues that mention in your article. Do you know of any clothing lines or shoe lines that are best?

  55. Hi I have a son who been diagnosed high function autism spectrum for 5 years now. Now 7 years old. Me and mother are not together any more. Our son went through changes classes in school with different teachers and change of apartments. His behavior change. How can me n mother cope with our son behavior. What can we do.

  56. This is an amazing post-thankyou. I have SCOURED the internet and amazon for ANYTHING that gives me more of an insight into my HFA 13-year old boy. He is top of his year in science maths and history but he doesn’t want to see his friends at the weekend and his bedroom and school bag is a disaster zone! I loved the way you wrote ‘as it is’- thankyou Shivaun

  57. One last thing to Lena. I’m a Teacher and special needs coordinator and now specialist dyslexia teacher. I have advanced diploma in special education and specialist dyslexia teaching qualification and STILL the HFA puzzle is so puzzling …..!!!

  58. Oh Wow! You just described my son to a T! Not only that, but you also described “me”! I’m not diagnosed, but have always felt that “somehow different”. Now not only can I give my husband a crystal clear understanding of our son through your incredibly simple, straightforward, and wholly explanatory post, but I just learned a few things about myself that frustrate me and everyone else to no end because I didn’t understand why I have to be so painful. I think I’ll be seeing a whole lot of things from a different perspective now! Thank you so much! I wish I’d read this much sooner!

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