Estimates show that at least 5 million adults in the United States live with an autism spectrum disorder. This developmental condition can affect a whole range of social skills.
However, not everyone living with autism receives a diagnosis. This can have a serious impact on your quality of life and mental health. Recognizing the signs of high functioning autism ensures that you get the help and support that you need.
So how might high functioning autism be affecting you? Read on to find out some common autism symptoms in adults and teenagers.
What is High Functioning Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder or ASD is a type of neurological, developmental condition. It can cause serious challenges for a person’s:
- – Social interactions
- – Speech and language development
- – Emotional and behavioral regulation
While some main symptoms of autism are to look out for, some people experience more severe symptoms than others.
Most ASD diagnoses in the USA are given to children, with the average age of diagnosis being 4 years and 4 months. However, if ASD is not identified during childhood, you can live with it for years before receiving a diagnosis. This can happen because:
- – A lot of people are not familiar with the symptoms of ASD
- – Not everyone has access to diagnostic facilities
- – Symptoms of ASD can present themselves very differently depending on the individual
- – Some children mask their symptoms of ASD very effectively
If you reach adulthood and are living with undiagnosed ASD, this is also known as high functioning autism. Essentially, this means that you are living with ASD but are trying to function in a neurotypical way. You may also be unaware that the way that you process things is different from other people.
Why Is It Important to Diagnose Autism in Adults and Teenagers?
Getting an autism diagnosis is key if you or your loved one will get the development support that they need. However, it is also essential for a person’s wellbeing.
Even if you have lived with undiagnosed high functioning autism for years, this can have a serious impact on you. Many people with high functioning autism often feel like something is “wrong” with them or like they should be able to cope. This is because they are trying to maintain a neurotypical processing pattern.
This can be exhausting for the individual and can have a serious impact on their mental health. People living with high functioning autism experience other conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and even suicidal ideation.
On top of this, you may struggle to build and maintain close social connections.
Getting an autism diagnosis even in later life can help you to understand the way that you function better. It also ensures that you get access to the support that you are entitled to.
To do this, you need to spot the symptoms of high functioning autism in adults and teenagers. Let’s take a closer look at some of these.
Difficulty Communicating and Awkward Communication
ASD can have a big impact on the development of your social skills. As a result, you may find some aspects of communication challenges.
Signs that someone is finding it difficult to communicate include:
- – Difficulty reading social cues and participating in conversations
- – Difficulty empathizing with other people’s thoughts and feelings
- – Struggling to read people’s body language or facial expressions
- – Using a flat, robotic, or monotone tone of voice that doesn’t communicate feelings accurately
- – Making up descriptive words or phrases
- – Difficulty understanding particular phrases or metaphors (because these are taken literally)
- – Difficulty making or maintaining eye contact
Often, if you have high-functioning autism, you will be able to hold a conversation about topics that you’re particularly interested in. However, you may find it difficult to switch topics suddenly or to keep up with spontaneous changes in conversation.
This can mean that you find it difficult to build and maintain friendships. That said, you may have some close long-term friendships that accommodate your communication needs. You will generally find it easier to communicate with people you have known for a long time and therefore understand better.
It is important to note that ASD can affect communication differently for each person living with it. If you have been living with it for a long time, you may have developed coping mechanisms and can hold a conversation well. In that case, the signs of communication difficulties will appear to be much more minor.
Difficulty Regulating Your Emotions or Behavior
Emotional regulation or ER is an important part of daily life. This enables us to react to situations, changes, or emotional disturbances in a controlled way. This is something that we do automatically.
However, studies show that people with ASD struggle with emotional regulation. This may be because their ER skills do not develop over time, as most people do.
This can result in sudden or intense mood swings and difficulty responding to emotional situations. As a result, you may have outbursts or meltdowns to small changes in routines. Often these will seem disproportionate to their trigger (although they might make total sense to you.)
Difficulty with ER can also mean that you struggle to regulate dangerous or impulsive behavior. This might mean that you lash out when feeling intense emotions. It also makes addictive behaviors common in people who are living with high functioning autism.
Difficulty emotionally regulating can have a huge impact on your mental health and can impact your social skills. This makes it one of the biggest challenges of high functioning autism.
Having Very Focused, Specific Interests
Struggling with ER doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life, though. In fact, if you have autism, you often develop intense interests in particular topics.
For example, when you develop an interest in an area of high, you need to know everything about that topic. Or you may spend a lot of time listening to the same song or watching your favorite movie on repeat.
This can be fine in small doses, and it can also help you excel in areas that you really care about. However, it is important to keep this balance between having enough energy to focus on daily tasks.
Intense Feelings About Certain Sensory Experiences
Another big challenge for people with autism is their sensory processing power. This means that some sensory experiences will be disturbing while others can be soothing. These experiences can include exposure to:
- – Taste
- – Smell
- – Sound
- – Color
- – Lighting
- – Textures
This can be very specific to the individual. For example, you might find some smells or textures very soothing, while another person would hate them.
However, managing sensory overload is a common theme. Too much sensory input can be disruptive for anyone with autism. For example, you might find it overwhelming being in a crowded station or at a music concert.
This can cause serious emotional distress or a full-blown meltdown. As a result, you may find that you avoid certain situations or find other ways to accommodate them. For example, you may listen to music or wear sunglasses to limit your sensory input.
Fear of sensory overload can also result in social anxiety. This may mean that you avoid social situations altogether.
A Desire for Control
Let’s clear one thing up quickly – this doesn’t mean that people with autism are generally controlling. Instead, they find it easier to understand patterns. As a result, they tend to find sticking to a routine crucial in daily life.
This might involve always taking the same route to work, planning a specific outfit for each day, or observing daily rituals. Generally, these things will be environmental factors that are within a person’s control.
This can often manifest itself as a need to control things so that they happen within the parameters of your understanding. This can be very rigid. You may find that minor changes irritate or upset you.
If you find it difficult to cope with changes in your routine, this could be a sign that you have high-functioning autism. You may also find that changes to a routine distract you and make it impossible to continue with your daily activities.
Get Support Managing Your Signs of High Functioning Autism Today
If you think that you or a loved one might be displaying signs of high functioning autism, it’s time to reach out for a diagnosis. This is the first step in getting the right support and will make a world of difference to your quality of life.
If your high-functioning autism affects your mental health, get in touch with our admissions team for support today. We’re here to help!