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High-Functioning Autism: Identifying the Daily Challenges

The term “high-functioning Autism” describes people who have an Autism diagnosis, but who are still able to do many of the things found in a neurotypical world.

Although not a medically recognized term, it still describes the capabilities of many people who have an Autism diagnosis. They work, have hobbies, and enjoy fulfilling and enriching personal relationships, including romance.

However, despite these accomplishments people with high-functioning Autism still face significant daily challenges. Identifying those challenges is important if you or a loved one has autism.

Consider some of the following challenges for those who have high-functioning Autism.

Navigating Social Interactions

For a neurotypical person, navigating social interactions is intuitive and fluid. After all, for most people, their education for how to handle interpersonal issues has been occurring since infancy.

However, for those with Autism social interactions can be incredibly difficult. For example, nonverbal cues may either be misinterpreted or not even recognized at all. There are so many factors that go into building relationships with other people. For those with Autism, even high-functioning Autism, it is challenging or even impossible to master this important social skill.

Planning Ahead

Another daily challenge for a person with Autism is planning ahead. It’s an important skill that we use every day to keep our lives on track.

For example:

  • Making appointments
  • Attending meetings
  • Buying groceries
  • Paying bills

If you have Autism, it might be difficult for you to plan ahead and anticipate these things until it’s too late. For example, you don’t realize that you need toilet paper until there is none left in the house. Or you miss an important appointment because you simply didn’t think about putting it on your calendar.

Coping with Unexpected Situations

People with Autism feel comfortable with routines. However, when something unexpected occurs, it can really be a problem.

For example, what do you do if the TV suddenly stops working? A neurotypical person might try to troubleshoot the TV and try to restart it. However, if they can’t fix it on their own, they’ll likely call someone who can help, such as an appliance technician.

Situations like that require problem-solving skills, which can be difficult to grasp for those with Autism. Hence, an unexpected situation can be stressful and frustrating to deal with.

Dealing with Sensory Issues

People with high-functioning Autism can have sensory issues. These problems are in regard to stimuli that they absorb from their five senses.

Typically, there are two distinct sensory issues:

  • Hypersensitivity: when someone is overly sensitive to stimuli in their environment. For example, loud noises or sounds can be distressing.
  • Hyposensitivity: when someone has less or no sensitivity to stimuli compared to other adults. They focus on one particular thing while other aspects of their world will be ignored.

Interestingly, an autistic person can be both hypersensitive and hyposensitive. For example, someone could be sensitive to loud, piercing sounds, but they will not be moved whatsoever one way or the other when they listen to loud music.

Being Different

Perhaps the biggest challenge that people with high-functioning Autism face is knowing that they are different and wanting to fit in.

By the time they reach adulthood, those with high-functioning Autism know that they experience the world differently from other people. However, instead of being helpful, this knowledge only serves to cause frustration as they try to navigate a world not designed to meet their needs.

Knowing that they’re different can cause a person to isolate themselves and struggle to have relationships with other people. And that can also be discouraging.

How Can Counseling for Autism Help?

Autism counseling can be incredibly helpful for adults with high-functioning Autism. A counselor will be able to help with developing skills and strategies for dealing with many of the above-mentioned issues. These challenges don’t have to be permanent obstacles.

The first step that’s required, though, is knowing how to best cope with these problems in order to be successful. Contact me if you’d like to understand your challenges and learn to successfully navigate these issues so you can lead a more fulfilling life.

Author

Joshua Howell, MS, LPC, NCC, AADC, ICAADC, SAP, SAE

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