New Jersey (888) 755-4657 | Georgia (470) 888-1650 | Indiana (317) 960-3400 | North Carolina (704) 461-3400

High-Functioning Autism Symptoms

Table of Contents

“Quirky, different, or socially awkward” are often the words used to describe the symptoms of children with high-functioning Autism (HFA).

Yet these “quirky, different, or socially awkward” children are often ostracized and bullied in school and outside. Never getting the proper diagnosis of high-functioning Autism to live whole and joyful lives. 

Since 2000, the prevalence of Autism has increased by 178%. 

The primary reason for the increase in the diagnosis is that many parents realize their children are more than late bloomers or socially awkward; they are exhibiting the signs of high-functioning Autism.

If you’re wondering if this is your child, learning about the symptoms and signs will help you decide to seek further evaluation and treatment.

Knowing where your child falls on the Autism spectrum is how Heartlinks can help. With locations throughout the United States, we have trained experts who can assist in an Autism diagnosis and create a unique therapy plan for your child. 

Let Heartlinks walk with you as you learn more about high-functioning Autism symptoms and therapy.

What is the Autism Spectrum?

Autism is defined as a developmental disability resulting from differences in the brain.

Generally, individuals with Autism have difficulties with social interaction and communication skills; they exhibit restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. They may also have unique ways of moving, paying attention, and learning.

Autism is known as a ‘spectrum disorder’ because people exhibit a wide range in the sort and severity of symptoms. 

What is High-Functioning Autism?

Autism ribbon in someone's hands

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is the Bible for medical diagnoses, there are different levels of Autism. 

High-functioning Autism is known as ASD 1, according to the DSM. Many therapists and people in the medical community use the term HFA to describe children who exhibit milder symptoms associated with Autism behavior.

Though it’s not an official diagnosis or medical term, HFA has become the informal term used to describe people with Autism who can read, write, speak, and have the basic life skills to function in society. 

The term HFA arose in the 1990s when milder forms of Autism were being diagnosed. 

The Difference Between Asperger’s and HFA

Often high-functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are used interchangeably. Though both disorders share many of the same symptoms, they are different.

The most significant difference involves language development. Children with Asperger’s syndrome generally do not have delayed language development.

Comparatively, one of the most pronounced high-functioning Autism symptoms is that children often experience considerable language impairment. 

The Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism 

Similarly to all children with ASD, those with high-functioning Autism exhibit similar symptoms, including the following:

Emotional Sensitivity

One of the most common symptoms of high-functioning Autism is sensitivity to emotions. Children with HFA function well in their day-to-day lives yet struggle to control their emotions. This is different from neurotypical children.

For example, a child with AFD has spilled their morning cereal milk. A neurotypical child may just react with disappointment and clean it up. A child with HFA may scream, cry, or throw things out of frustration. 

Even the slightest provocation, including loud noise, your use of language, or competition from their siblings, can completely ruin a child with HFA’s day.

Language Oddities

Children who are low on the Autism spectrum may have tremendous difficulty using language. 

Two siblings talking

However, on the other end, children with HFA have a greater capacity for language. They will have a tremendous understanding of language. Their friends might notice it is odd that their child is using formal language rather than everyday slang with kids of their age. Children with a high-functioning Autism diagnosis are often called “fluent in Autism,” possessing extensive vocabulary and demonstrating no difficulty in writing or speaking correctly. 


Another one of the signs of high-functioning Autism is being obsessed with a particular activity or subject. All children, regardless if they’re autistic, will go through phases where they’re entirely consumed by a topic such as dinosaurs, a sport such as soccer, or a famous personality. 

Sometimes that obsession can be a good thing because it can be a means of finding other children with the same interests.

Yet unlike neurotypical children, kids with HFA will remain obsessed with the item or subject to the detriment of the rest of their lives. They may choose not to see friends, overlook essential self-care, or refuse to eat. 

Sensory Difficulties

The majority of children with an Autism diagnosis have sensory difficulties. Whether their senses are overly or under-sensitive, the result is noises, crowds, textures, or strong smells will be challenging for your child to process. As a result, a child with HFA may find processing any type of sensory input frustrating. 

For example, something as straightforward as a hug may overstimulate your child. The result may be a meltdown or withdrawal from everyone around them.

Lack of Social Skills

Difficulty interacting with friends is one of the most common autistic traits, and children with HFA are no exception. Usually, kids or teens with high-performing Autism have a social circle though it is limited. They can work in groups but have difficulty completing their work and sharing with others. 

Children with HFA often need ABA therapy to help them acquire social skills and be able to pick up on the body language cues of others. Early intervention with a trained therapist from an organization such as Heartlinks can help a child with HFA learn the best ways to interact and develop their communication skills.

Heartlinks and High-Functioning Autism

Children with ASD 1 are often referred to as having high-functioning autism. Yet this title can be deceptive. It implies that young people with HFA don’t need support because their symptoms aren’t as pronounced as those with other types of autism.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The signs of high-functioning autism are wide-ranging. 

That’s why if you suspect your child may have HFA, the most effective thing you can do is have them evaluated at a center like Heartlinks. We have experts who can provide you with the proper diagnosis and subsequent treatment if that is what’s needed. 

We offer a range of in-home and community-based therapies depending on your child’s diagnosis. 

Contact us today, and let us help you navigate the road to an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Click here to sign up for more information on how Heartlinks can help.

Contact Us