High functioning autism is usually a label given to children or adults who have autism, but can read, write, and speak. The people who are labeled thus usually have average to above average intelligence. Perhaps when they were younger an IQ test might have given a very low result.
Our daughter, Amber, received a very low IQ score with her first round of tests. In fact, the system said she was borderline retarded. Sadly, this was because Amber could not speak at the time and the tests had a very large section devoted to speech. Today we know she is a very bright child with above average intelligence. Her father and I never doubted her intelligence, but the system is well aware now, as well.
High functioning autistics may strike you as ‘odd’ or ‘weird’ people. You may never know the person you are speaking with is HFA. HFA’s can talk to you, they won’t usually have a screaming fit like many people associate with autism thanks to television programs and movies like Rain Man. That’s not to say that HFA children never have tantrums, but not on the same scale as LFA children. (low functioning autism).
Someone who is HFA might appear clumsy, walking into walls, bumping into people, or stumbling over small items that are clearly in their path. They have a low sense of body space and do not always interpret the space of others around them. They might seem quirky, because HFA’s do not understand or anticipate the emotions or reactions of people around them.
One example of this is how Amber laughs at me when I scold her. She doesn’t understand that the expressions on my face are not just one more funny face I am making so she will giggle. It can be quite trying on my patience and admittedly, I will yell when my frustrations have come to their boiling point. It bothers me to do that, because she will jump. Amber had no idea, literally, that I was not playing with her.
So, many times I will make sure to say, several times, “Mommy is not playing or making faces. Mommy is angry. Please do not laugh, this is not funny” then go on to what needs to be dealt with. When you speak with someone who is HFA, you must be sure that you speak in literal terms. Be clear about what you want. HFA children deal in the literal sense of things and have a hard time processing abstract ideas.
You can spend time with your HFA child making different faces that mimic our ‘neuro-typical’ ideas of happy, sad, angry, and surprised. Be sure to explain the face each time you make it so that eventually the child will come to recognize them easily and respond properly. You can make a game of this, HFA children are like any other child, they learn the best through play!