Traits of ASD Level 1 that Parents Must Know About

"We just discovered that our son has ASD [high functioning autism]. I wish we had a summary of the difficulties associated with this disorder so we could know what to expect (and what to work on)."

Sure! There are several areas of difficulty associated with ASD Level 1 or High-Functioning Autism that you will need to consider. Here's the summary:

Children with ASD display varying difficulties when interacting with others. Some children and adolescents have no desire to interact, while others simply do not know how. More specifically, they do not comprehend the give-and-take nature of social interactions. They may want to lecture you about the Titanic or they may leave the room in the midst of playing with another child.

They do not comprehend the verbal and nonverbal cues used to further our understanding in typical social interactions. These include eye contact, facial expressions, body language, conversational turn-taking, perspective taking, and matching conversational and nonverbal responses to the interaction.

Children with ASD have very specific problems with language, especially with pragmatic use of language, which is the social aspect. That is, they see language as a way to share facts and information (especially about special interests), not as a way to share thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The child will display difficulty in many areas of a conversation processing verbal information, initiation, maintenance, ending, topic appropriateness, sustaining attention, and turn taking.

The child's prosody (pitch, stress, rhythm, or melody of speech) can also be impaired. Conversations may often appear scripted or ritualistic. That is, it may be dialogue from a TV show or a movie. They may also have difficulty problem solving, analyzing or synthesizing information, and understanding language beyond the literal level.

Due to the child's anxiety, his interactions will be ruled by rigidity, obsessions, and perseverations (repetitious behaviors or language) transitions and changes can cause. Generally, he will have few interests, but those interests will often dominate. The need for structure and routine will be most important. He may develop his own rules to live by that barely coincide with the rest of society.

Many kids with autism have difficulty with both gross and fine motor skills. The difficulty is often not just the task itself, but the motor planning involved in completing the task. Typical difficulties include handwriting, riding a bike, and ball skills.

Mind-blindness, or the inability to make inferences about what another person is thinking, is a core disability for those on the autism spectrum. Because of this, they have difficulty empathizing with others, and will often say what they think without considering the other person's feelings. The child will often assume that everyone is thinking the same thing he is. For him, the world exists not in shades of gray, but only in black and white.

This rigidity in thought (lack of cognitive flexibility) interferes with problem solving, mental planning, impulse control, flexibility in thoughts and actions, and the ability to stay focused on a task until completion. The rigidity also makes it difficult for an ASD child to engage in imaginative play. His interest in play materials, themes, and choices will be narrow, and he will attempt to control the play situation.

Many of these children have sensory issues. These can occur in one or all of the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste). The degree of difficulty varies from one individual to another. Most frequently, the child will perceive ordinary sensations as quite intense or may even be under-reactive to a sensation. Often, the challenge in this area will be to determine if the child's response to a sensation is actually a sensory reaction or if it is a learned behavior, driven mainly by rigidity and anxiety.


•    Anonymous said... All true! I think HFA is difficult because people don't realize our son has a disability or they forget...for example, I get tired of hearing during IEP meetings that he has "control" issues and that they need to use a behavior plan related to this. When most likely he had anxiety over a new topic or a new transition. I wish schools would become more educated about the topic and teach their para-professionals.
•    Anonymous said... Awesone information !!!!!! Explains ny girl totally ...
•    Anonymous said... Brilliant summary
•    Anonymous said... Ditto
•    Anonymous said... For teens, Social Thinking has great books geared toward kids who struggle. Great workshops too.
•    Anonymous said... HFA and Asperger's are pretty much the same. Asperger's was just removed from the DSM in favour of Autism Spectrum Disorder to reflect all divisions with. It is truly a rainbow....
•    Anonymous said... how do you get your child diagnosed. What doctor to see? We are no longer in the public school system - we homeschool. my health issurance will allow me to bypass my pediatrician - I don't need a referral as long as I stay in my list. so I just need to know what type of doctor to call.
•    Anonymous said... I also make sure that she knows that people will see it as rude if she doesn't say "hi" but still give her the choice. Yes, it's harder for her to speak to strangers, but its a skill she'll need in the future. If I don't push her, she'll spend all her time in her comfort zone and never expand it.
•    Anonymous said... I suffer from people saying are you sure he's aspie? I have put a lot of hard work into him with facial expression training and getting him talking at all. Wish they were at my house for a melt down moment. I love the detail in this answer wish someone had told me this when I got diagnosis.
•    Anonymous said... It is funny how diverse the kids are within the same diagnosis, however, they mostly all share these same qualities. One of our biggest struggles is the constant meltdowns...
•    Anonymous said... Mine in a nutshell!
•    Anonymous said... Mine too.
•    Anonymous said... My aspergers child hated change, so we have a good set routine, and for warn him several times when we know there's a schedule change. He also doesn't socialize much , so we don't force the hellos to our friends or work associates- I try to work in as much of his thoughts and opinions
•    Anonymous said... My lil girl. It makes life interesting.
•    Anonymous said... My little girl is now blossoming into a young adult at age 13 and now she is showing many traits that are growing to a severe impairment at times. I finally had to put her on medication because the emotional rollercoaster that she was on started to take me along for the ride and started to affect my own behavior. Is there anyone who can help me to understand how to teach her how to comprehend how to use process elimination and empathy? Now that her hormones are heightened it has made it impossible to even understand what she is thinking or talking about and vise versa. I feel like we are complete strangers and if I try to approach her about anything(and I mean anything) we are the ones who make her miserable and there is no way to repair, fix or prevent any future instances or occurrences from happening. I am just afraid that she is going to be lost if we can't get her to understand, understanding.
•    Anonymous said... My son exactly!!
•    Anonymous said... My son has all of the above issues but was diagnosed AS as he had a lot of cross overs in the assessment. They found it really difficult as to what way they were going to go with the diagnosis.
•    Anonymous said... My son has HFA too he prepares to write Matric IEB later this year. He has much support and has come a long way at 18 years. He also prepares for his driving license later this year. He is strong and thriving in mainstream school in SA!
•    Anonymous said... my son is 5.5 years old. He made an exclamation of 'hubba hubba' one time in reference to surprise about something. Hubby and I both laughed and told him that hubba hubba is usually something a man will say to a pretty lady. He thinks about it and says "you don't look very pretty now though mommy." I cracked up! and he knew he had said something off so quickly corrected himself with "but I like your pants because they're red and red is one of my favorite colors." lol! but that's an example of #6.
•    Anonymous said... My son main challenge is rigidity of thought and logic. Once you win the logic argument, it is law. But he doesn't generalize each thing is new. However age and experience is helping, making getting along easier.
•    Anonymous said... Now that just sums up my little man xx
•    Anonymous said... so accurate -the toughest part is how other kids are turned -off cause the behavior can be annoying ...also my son tells jokes a lot
•    Anonymous said... sounds like us too, all these apply except #4.
•    Anonymous said... That also sums up my 15year old daughter especially number 6 xx
•    Anonymous said... That's my 13 year old daughter, in a perfect nutshell.
•    Anonymous said... The big one to remember (doesnt apply to all kids) is "inappropriate facial expressions". If your kid always smiles or smirks when being told off, chances are its involuntary. It's something my daughter with Aspergers does, and we ignore the smirk now. As does the school we moved her to. Her old school was punishing her for "smirking" and refusing to see that it wasnt a sign of defiance.
•    Anonymous said... This explains both of my kids...I have a daughter who is 11 is a HFA or PDD....and my son who is 9yrs old has Aspergers...but all of this applies to both..and we just got our offical dignoisis this I'm still learning too..Anyone have the weighted blankets for their kids?
•    Anonymous said... We find one if the hardest parts of HFA is that he often seems just like the other kids so his actions are often taken with the wrong assumptions about his motivation and needs. He is often skipped over for help because he "seems" ok and because he makes up for difficulties with intelligence.
•    Anonymous said... What is the difference between HFA and Asperger's?
•    Anonymous said... Yup. Pretty dead on for my buddy Max!
•    Anonymous said...  This is Harry!!
•    Anonymous said... A very good summary, the perfect description of my son too
•    Anonymous said... Great list and good information. Parents looking for answers should be aware that all kids with Aspergers are different and have some of these behaviors to varying degrees. We thrive on routine and social stories/discussions.
•    Anonymous said... I don't have any children with ASD but find posts like this very helpful and informative. Thank you.
•    Anonymous said... I have a teen who was diagnosed with this several years ago. It is very challenging. What might be some great protocols to help?
•    Anonymous said... It's not a typical speech impairment or delay. It's how they use language. Pragmatic language is a struggle for every kid with Aspergers that i know. It means they have trouble with language comprehension, telling stories, and participating in conversations. My oldest had speech therapy for years when he was younger working on all of those issues. He does much better now. It was subtle when he was very young. But as he got older and into school it became very clear that he needed help.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter has many of these in one way or another.
•    Anonymous said... My son, down to the letter.
•    Anonymous said... Pretty accurate for my so as well. The speech to clarify can become an issue as they sometimes speak very fast. Their minds think a whole lot faster than "normal" if we can call it that. But that is some of the issues I have with my Aspie. He knows more words than I do I think. Loves to read, but has low tolerance when others can't understand his train of thought.
•    Anonymous said... See I was told by the MD when my son got diagnosed that Aspergers child do not have speech issues/impairments in any way. So he got the autism diagnoses. Had he not had speech issues he would have gotten the Aspergers diagnoses. Not that it matters 6 months after his diagnosed they changed it in the books to ASD and decided to lump it all as ASD if they are on the spectrum.
•    Anonymous said... Sound like my little buddy
•    Anonymous said... That's my boy.
•    Anonymous said... That's my girl, in every way!
•    Anonymous said... This an be a daunting time but please be reassured that there is light at the end of the tunnel please feel free to add me and we can chat I have a 7 year old boy that was recently assessed as having aspergers and I find there is a lot of support for the child but not many parent groups with others that are dealing with the same issues I find the best thing that helps mr.7 is a lot of routine and visual aids
•    Anonymous said... This is a great breakdown! Concise and oh so accurate for my guy.
•    Anonymous said... This is explained well. Thanks
•    Anonymous said... This is our Hailey...
•    Anonymous said... Waiting for my daughter's diagnosis to be confirmed this sound's like her.
*   Anonymous said... Great list pf 14 yr. old grandson, who is a high functioning Aspie certainly exhibits most of these wonderful assets. Can't say that about all the "non aspie" children his age.
•    Anonymous said... I am coming to believe that #6 Sensory Issues is a significant contributor to all the others, or even the primary cause, because the typical self-filtering or coping method is withdrawal and the anxiety about things like riding a bike seems to be based on the fear of the pain of an imagined fall, because those bumps and bruises hurt ten times more. That's my evolving perspective as the father of a 7 year old Aspie Girl who was just diagnosed about 1 year ago.
•    Anonymous said... I found out this last spring that my 28 yr. old son has Aspergers. Since then I have researched and been reading and learning (there's so much info out there). He too is high functioning. Guess all I can say to all out there it doesn't matter or old or young just keep learning and stand by their side.
•    Anonymous said... I have aspergers. I had problems with sports, but I suspect it was mostly the social part I couldn't handle. My son has bad coordination and team-work is not for him, my daughter has poor endurance, but great muscle strength. My 2 children have aspergers, lying is something that gives them such bad feelings they do anything to avoid it. I on the other hand lied as a child, but it was from bad self esteem and fear of conflict. I was and still am very sensitive to other peoples feelings, so are my children. When they see starving children on tv they cry and can't sleep, they want to help these children, so compassion is huge, the same for me. I think aspies are misunderstood. There are many emotions there. Autism is called "spectrum" because the symptoms vary alot from case to case.
•    Anonymous said... I think executive functioning should be on the list. I suppose it fits in with cognitive functioning, but deserves a special mention.
•    Anonymous said... I wish I had of known this when our son was young.. I adapted as best I could without knowing he wasn't diagnosed until he was 12.. After many years of going to incompetent Dr, psychologist etc it wasn't till he tried ending it that we found CYMHS they r awesome..
•    Anonymous said... It's hard to know What to expect all children are different my son is high functioning just has relationship issues
•    Anonymous said... It's true, the sensory aspect really dictates everything they do. Very tricky to balance, but knowing their cues is imperative.
•    Anonymous said... My son thinks people are "mean or being rude" to him when they are just expressing their opinions.
•    Anonymous said... My son was diagnosed at 8 although school suspected autism at age 5. I didn't really know about Asperger's or high-functioning autism as it is know referred to. At times, with hfa you almost forget their difficulties until they have a tantrum.
•    Anonymous said... One thing that I have learned over the last couple years is just when you think you've got it figured out, something else pops up. It's a lot of ups and downs, but if you learn to celebrate the "ups" more than grieve the "downs" it helps!
•    Anonymous said... This article is spot on. My 7 yr old has just started junior school. His social problems are starting to become more obvious and he is starting to realise it is something he struggles with. He isnt officially dxd yet, but once he has it on paper the school offer great social groups. In the mean time this piece gives us some great advice that we can adapt for his age x
•    Anonymous said... Yes! What a great list, very accurate information.
•    Anonymous said… as the wife of an aspergers man and mother and grandmother to more aspergers loved ones,i find TONY ATTWOOD books so helpfull,also have joined 2 local groups,it all helps,i also run a group for other
•    Anonymous said… check out you tube video of Clay Marzo, soooo uplifting, it made the week I got the final dx so much easier to deal with, hhe has a more sever case of Aspergers but is one of the BEST surfers in the world, a love of surfing is not the point of enjoying the clip, but please look at it. I hope it takes a little bit off your stress, its so amazing
•    Anonymous said… I wish regular people had the capacity to stop thinking of AS as a disadvantage, it is the best gift anyone could ask for. Yes interaction with others is poos, yes showing emotion and feeling comes out wrong, yes we obsess about obsessing about some irrelevant thing but then that is what drives progress. Find a world changing idea or invention and you'll find somebody that spent half their life obsessing about it. I wouldn't swap AS for anything. Great things come from the thinly defined line between brilliance and madness. It is up to you AS people to define that line. You can choose but you have to want it, at times it will be freakin hard.
•    Anonymous said… look for a summary of the blessings, those are better to focus on, and plentiful!
•    Anonymous said… Read All Cats Have Aspergers! It's straightforward and simple! Great!
•    Anonymous said… So hard to summarize & explain to people. Even this condensed description is a lot to take in.
•    Anonymous said… Social skills, find a group as soon as possible. Their confidence in themselves is going to dictate their growth.
•    Anonymous said… The biggest problems are with other people, I bet this family has been getting on just fine and will continue to do so as long as they keep their own family life private - as everyone has the right to enjoy.

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