Search This Site

The #1 Symptom Exhibited by Children with High-Functioning Autism

"In your practice, what would you say is the most common symptom shared by children with high functioning autism?"

I would say the most commonly observed symptom in High Functioning Autism involves preoccupation with restricted patterns of interest. Children with High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) are not commonly reported to exhibit ALL of the typical symptoms associated with this disorder…

(e.g., encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus; failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level; inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals; lack of social or emotional reciprocity; lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people; marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction; persistent preoccupation with parts of objects; stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms)

…with the exception of the all-absorbing preoccupation with an unusual and restricted topic, about which vast amounts of factual knowledge are acquired and all too readily demonstrated at the first opportunity in social interaction. Although the actual topic may change from time to time (e.g., every year or so), it may dominate the content of social interchange as well as the activities of HFA and AS children, often immersing the whole family in the subject for long periods of time.

Even though this symptom may not be easily recognized in childhood (because strong interests in dinosaurs or fashionable fictional characters are so common among young kids), it may become more noticeable later on as interests shift to unusual and narrow topics. This behavior is odd in the sense that extraordinary amounts of factual information are learned about very limited topics (e.g., dinosaurs, maps, names of stars, railway schedules, snakes, etc.).

The good news is that the HFA or AS child’s special interest can be used as both a learning and a social skills training tool. More on the topic of “special interests” can be found here: Children and Their Special Interests: A Good or Bad Trait?
Your article is spot on with my 20 year old Aspergers son. He has an eidetic memory for numbers and has been obsessed with math and physics for years, to the point that he taught himself all the college level math courses during high school. He is now a graduate student in mathematics focusing on number theory, as well as majoring in computer engineering. He works as a TA. He spends the rest of his time studying or with his professors, who he idolizes. They seem to have filled the spot his family used to have in his life. I feel as though I am losing touch with him. We were always very close when he was at home. We did everything together and enjoyed each others company. Now he rarely calls. I am the one who initiates phone calls a couple of times a week, but he acts resentful as though I am a bother. He will tell me everything (in detail) about his studies, but never asks about other family members even though there have been a couple major life events. He never comes home unless it is a holiday when the dorms and dining halls will be closed. We have pre- arranged to visit him, making certain it iwas a good time for him, but it ended in disaster. He was sullen, angry, and non communicative the entire day. I feel as though we are no longer relevant in his life. He seems to dread being home because we no longer have anything to offer him that he values. When he is here on break he often avoids us and refuses to communicate. I am desperate for advice on how to maintain a good relationship with our son. I miss him and want to remain a part of his life. Sorry if this is a repeat comment. It seemed like my first one didn't go through. Nancy

Preparing for Summer School: How to Advise Your Aspergers Child's Teacher

If you have a child with Asperger's or high functioning autism, here's how you can prepare his or her teacher for dealing with Aspergers-related issues in the classroom: 

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Aspergers and HFA

Comment: Thank you for all the information that was provided and how important it is for the parents to be involved. Parents + teachers will equal a successful summer school for the student/ child.

Communication Issues in Children with Asperger's and HFA

Do kids with high functioning autism have communication problems, and are they similar to those with autistic disorder?

In contrast to Autism, there are no symptoms in this area of functioning in the definition of High Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS). Although significant abnormalities of speech are not typical of HFA and AS children, there are at least three aspects of communication skills which are of clinical interest:

1. One aspect typifying the communication patterns of AS and HFA children concerns the marked verbosity observed, which some researchers see as a prominent differential feature. The youngster may talk incessantly, usually about his favorite subject, often in complete disregard to whether the listener is interested, engaged, or attempting to interject a comment, or change the subject of conversation. Despite such long-winded monologues, the child may never come to a point or conclusion. Attempts by the listener to elaborate on issues of content or logic, or to shift the interchange to related topics, are often unsuccessful.

2. In AS and HFA children, speech may often be tangential and circumstantial, conveying a sense of looseness of associations and incoherence. The lack of coherence and reciprocity in speech is a result of failure to provide the background for comments, failure to clearly demarcate changes in topic, failure to suppress the vocal output accompanying internal thoughts, and the one-sided conversational style (e.g., unrelenting monologues about the names and classifications of dinosaurs).

3. Though inflection and intonation may not be as rigid and monotonic as in the speech of Autistic children, the speech of AS and HFA children may be marked by poor prosody (e.g., there may a constricted range of intonation patterns that is used with little regard to the communicative functioning of the speech).

Despite the possibility that these symptoms may be accounted for in terms of significant deficits in pragmatics skills, lack of insight, and lack of awareness of other's expectations, the challenge remains to understand this phenomenon developmentally as techniques for social adaptation.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content