High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Level 1 Treatment (formerly Asperger's)

Do you have trouble communicating, interacting and socializing with others? Do you feel like you experience the world differently than others? 

Do you feel awkward in social situations, not sure of what to say or how to respond when someone talks to you? You have trouble negotiating the “give and take” of conversation? Talking to people sometimes feels like a chore. You detest social interaction.

Do you find it difficult to read other people’s faces or body cues? You aren’t sure what is it they are communicating non-verbally? This is confusing and perplexing to you.

Boy and girl in sunglasses looking away from each other

Do you have very focused interests, obsessions/fixations with specific things and/or excel in certain areas? Do you find it profoundly isolating to realize that almost no one in the world is going to fully appreciate the obsession that you have with your particular set of interests (and with the particular details about your interests)?

Do you have repetitive movements, speech or behavior? 

When someone asks you "How do you feel?", does your mind go blank? Is it hard to identify and articulate your feelings? Or what caused them?

Do you spend an inordinate amount of time on the Internet because you feel like you are in your element there? You feel liberated and more understood than having to deal with people face to face.

Do you resist change and prefer structure, routine and sameness? You have to be reminded several times to change one of your habits before you can do it. Transitions are difficult and you seem to only be able to focus on one thing at a time. You don’t like being interrupted.

In general, uncertainty and unpredictability in daily life are sources of anxiety for you.

Do you have few friends and tend to socially isolate? You don’t seem to enjoy what other people enjoy.

Do you have superior memory and are able to amass many related facts?

Do you have difficulty judging personal space or have motor clumsiness?

Are you hyper-sensitive to the environment, loud noises, clothing, food textures, lights, and smells?  Is it hard to process aspects of your environment at times?

Is your speech/language impaired in the area of volume, intonation, inflection, or rhythm?

Do you have difficulty understanding others’ feelings?

Do you notice a pedantic, formal style of speaking? An extensive vocabulary?

Do you ever make socially and emotionally inappropriate responses?

Do you interpret language literally? Have difficulty comprehending implied meanings and sarcasm? Cannot “read between the lines” Don’t understand social nuances.

Do you have great talent for creating and analyzing mechanical systems, such as engines, or abstract systems, like mathematics, computer programs or video games.

Having high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder can feel like you are on the wrong planet, ...like people seem foreign to you, and you to them.

Asperger Syndrome is now included in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis, and is considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. Affected children and adults have social and communication deficits and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Motor development may be delayed, leading to clumsiness or uncoordinated movements. Those with high functioning ASD do not have significant delays or difficulties in language or cognitive development. Some even demonstrate precocious vocabulary – often in a highly specialized field of interest.

The social communication deficits in highly functioning persons with ASD include being unaware of the social script and social norms; lack of typical eye contact, body language, and facial expression; and trouble maintaining relationships. Often someone with high functioning ASD has difficulties with social cues and nuances in body language. They may not notice for instance that someone they are talking to is no longer interested in the topic of conversation. They don't read facial cues well and may have trouble relating to another person's perspective. Some are very literal thinkers and do not understand sarcasm, metaphors or other such implications. As such, social interactions can be very overwhelming or confusing to them, especially when they do this unintentionally or unknowingly.

Fixated interests and repetitive behaviors include repetitive use of objects or phrases (perseveration), stereotyped movements, and excessive attachment to routines, objects, or interests. Persons with ASD may also respond to sensory aspects of their environment with unusual indifference or excessive interest. They have uneven processing of sensory input–being more or less sensitive than most. 

How does high functioning ASD affect the adolescent and adult?

Some people enter adolescence or adulthood with symptoms of high functioning ASD, but have never been given an official diagnosis. Part of the reason for that is because some Pediatricians and Primary Care Physicians have only recently become adept at noticing what to look for with this diagnosis. And other times, the symptoms are mild and they can hide them better. Many people will think that the person is a little "odd" or "eccentric" and his conversations stilted or myopic, but generally he can co-exist with his peers or co-workers. As the person enters his late teens and adult years, life can become more challenging and baffling.

1. Dating and romance - You're interested in someone that seems to share your passion for video games. How do you know if that person likes you? How do you ask someone out? What do you say? What is the dating protocol? How can tell if the relationship is going well? How do you maintain a conversation outside of your usual limited topic set? This can be confusing to someone with high functioning ASD.

2. Expanding your circle - Part of becoming an adult is venturing out into the world. How do you make sense of it all? What are the social norms outside of your little circle? You may be overwhelmed with sensory input - Too much noise, too many lights, too many people, too many smells etc....

3. College - If you have high functioning ASD, you may be a visual thinker in a verbal world. College is a whole lot different than high school. You will need to make sure you can get the help and accommodations you need to complete courses, take tests and graduate successfully.

4. Career or other vocations - Working a job likely requires that you interact with people on some level. If you have Asperger syndrome, you may need help navigating the labyrinth of office politics, dealing with office management, knowing when and how to ask for a raise, promotion, different assignment etc...

5. Marriage and Family - Marriage is difficult with neurotypical couples, but a relationship where one or both people have social and communication challenges requires a higher level of dedication to the relationship. As with any relationship, you need to be able to notice when something is not right, and address and resolve it before it spirals out of control and you both get frustrated.

We can help

There is no single or best treatment for high functioning ASD. Each person is different. An individual might have all or only some of the described behaviors to have a diagnosis.

Therapy may improve functioning and reduce undesirable behaviors. Many adults diagnosed with high functioning ASD find cognitive behavioral therapy particularly helpful in learning social skills and self-control of emotions, obsessions and repetitive behaviors. 

PsychLife uses principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Applied Behavioral Analysis to teach social skills, manage emotions, reinforce socially acceptable/desirable behavior, and to help with understanding and responding to others' thoughts and feelings.

Are there treatments available?

There is no cure for the autism spectrum disorders.  Treatment may include a combination of the following: 

Behavior modification: This includes strategies for supporting positive behavior and decreasing problem behaviors. 

Speech, physical, or occupational therapy: These therapies are designed to increase functional abilities. 

Social skills therapies: These therapies teach people with high functioning ASD the skills they need to interact more successfully with other people such as the ability to read verbal and non-verbal cues that is often lacking in those with high functioning ASD

Medication: There are no medications to treat ASD itself, but drugs may be used to treat specific symptoms such as anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. 

With effective treatment, people with high functioning ASD can learn to overcome their disabilities, but they may still find social situations and personal relationships challenging.  Many adults with high functioning ASD work successfully in mainstream jobs, although they may continue to need encouragement and moral support to maintain an independent life. ASD does not have to define you or your abilities. In fact, you can channel your exceptional abilities into an exciting career or vocation. Most people with high functioning ASD are beautiful, gifted, creative people with an extraordinary sense of honesty and loyalty. They process ideas very intently, think in pictures and are pattern oriented. Once they have figured out the perplexing world in which they live, they are empowered in their ability to transcend what they once considered a limitation. 

I can help you reduce your symptoms and live the life you’ve always wanted. I encourage you to contact me here or by phone: 904-543-6055 to schedule an appointment or free 15-minute consultation. Your inquiries will always remain confidential, and I return calls within 24 hours, usually sooner!