Symptoms of High Functioning Autism

As a practicing speech and language pathologist since 1993, I have worked with numerous children and adults with the diagnosis of Autism. In this brief article, I would like to share my experience regarding the subtle differences that those individuals with high functioning autism experience on a daily basis, more specifically the adults, who tend to try and compensate for their own disorder.

Social interaction deficits are a symptom of high level autism. Difficulty maintaining eye contact is just one of these symptoms. Internally, there may also be an actual fear of situations, because often, the individual with high functioning autism may not completely understand certain situational cues, or the higher elements of language, like humor. I believe that these individuals internally understand that they cannot follow these social cues or elements of language and as a result, utilize social”scripts” that have been developed many years earlier to assist in specific communicative interactions. These self- taught “scripts” have assisted the individual in the past and may or may not help in the present moment.

Individuals with high functioning autism continue to prefer routine and order, even as adults. Although these symptoms have presented themselves in early childhood, they tend to improve as the individual ages, if the person has the desire to improve themselves and get “out of their comfort zone”. Personal relationships are usually problematic, secondary to the inability to appropriately communicate wants, needs feelings with loved ones.

Other symptoms of high functioning autism may include irregularities with coordination, motor skills and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Studies show that individuals with high functioning autism, either diagnosed or undiagnosed are very intelligent people.  With that said, it is my experience that if an adult individual truly wants to improve their communication abilities, then that individual will have to  learn various communication “rules” that are present in our society.  Some of those communication rules that I address in therapy include:  Initiate conversation in appropriate situations, use contingent queries and responses, respond to clarification requests from the listener, give appropriate verbal feedback when asked,  give appropriate non-verbal feedback,  allow appropriate pause time between interchanges,  not interrupt and/or overlap partner, give appropriate amount of information, make relevant comments,  ask questions that are relevant, send clear and concise messages to the listener and use polite/friendly form, as appropriate.

Please leave your comments below or feel free to contact me here for more information about communication and high functioning autism.



About Kyle Meades

John Kyle Meades, CCC-SLP has practiced Speech & Language Pathology since 1993. Therapy Group of Tucson, PLLC provides private, powerful and effective speech, occupational, physical & ABA therapy services in Tucson, AZ


  1. lisa and izzie says

    Happy New Year Kyle! Many wishes for an extraordinary 2014! Miss you!

  2. Wendy White says

    I have a grandson diagnosed with autism and developmental delay. he is currently receiving speech therapy at TMC and we have been told there will be no speech services after june and he will be placed on a waiting list. this is unacceptable to me as they have already changed therapists three times. if you can help in any way i would like to meet with you to discuss this situation. I can be reached via email or my phone number is 520 342 6395. thank you for your consideration.

  3. Wendy, give the office a call so that we can get you scheduled. 520-232-2021. I also sent you a private email. Thanks for reaching out to us.

  4. Janne Odlum says

    My name is Janne, I have a son who is now 32 and I think he may have autism, he has never been given the diagnosis but I have my suspicions. He was born a premature baby in 1985. He has had tests and assessments but been told he was was good with his hands. He functions very well but does have certain issues. Where should I go to find out if he has autism.? Regards Janne

  5. Thank you Janne for the comment, The best place to start is for your son to have a chat with his GP. From there, a neurological consult may prove helpful.

  6. Hello, I have a 17 years old sun that is diagnosed with high function autism, but he doesn’t believe that is true
    and slowly he stopped seeing his physiologist. Also he started stuttering at age 3. we are in the process of getting second opinion. do you recommend neurological assessment?
    Tank you

  7. A Neurologist could provide additional data, correct.

  8. Hello my son is 19 months and says about 10
    Words. Hasn’t been diagnose with autism. Should we be concerned? will speech therapy benefit him or should I just give it time? Thanks

  9. Speech therapy can definitely help and this is a great age to start. Also talk with your pediatrician.

  10. Hi there, my daughter recently graduated high school with honors,
    is so intelligent she doesn’t want to be bothered with unnecessary boring classes that are deemed by her to be compulsive boredom.!!!
    She knows what she doesn’t want to do, (the list is endless!!)
    She has no peer group to pressure her.
    Money motivates her but it’s not longer term. What would you suggest doing next.?

  11. Jessica Leonard- Sandino says

    I’m not sure if my 6 year old son is high-functioning autistic or if he may have some sort of sensory/ attentional deficit. His speech is slightly limited but he understands fluently. He also repeats himself extremely often. He learned to read after about 3 days of reading together and he is shockingly proficient with math. He just cannot pay attention to one thing at a time. He also does this rocking motion on specific surfaces like walls or couches or anything where his back hits the surface in a “bouncing” motion. He does the rocking motion rhythmically and often he begins singing along to the rhythm he is making while rocking. He makes rhythms all the time even when he’s not rocking. Do these symptoms sound consistent it’s any specific diagnosis you have encountered?

  12. The safest bet is to have a evaluation; More specifically speech and occupational therapy. Please call 520-232-2021 to schedule so that we can help!

  13. Sounds like she is doing it already!

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