I have been diagnosed with high functioning Autism. High functioning Autism or HFA is a form of Autism.
Autism is called a spectrum disorder because each person can be affected differently. I do not totally agree with this because people with HFA have a lot of challenges even though they are high functioning.
The symptoms of high functioning autism (HFA) according to http://www.webmd.com are
- A delay in motor skills
- A lack of skill in interacting with others
- Little understanding of the abstract use of language, such as humor or give-and-take in a conversation
- Obsessive interest in specific items or information
- Strong reactions to textures, smells, sounds, sights, or other stimuli that others might not even notice, such as flickering light
The problem is when you have HFA a lot of people think that you don’t have a lot of problems “Oh, you are only a little bit Autistic.” and “You are only a little bit on the spectrum.” The problem with this is that we DO have problems that are VERY REAL. As a person with HFA, I can tell you that living with HFA is NOT EASY.
So what are the challenges you ask? Well, I will tell you. Some of my challenges include
- Socializing skills
- Sensory issues (SPD-Sensory processing disorder)
- Eye contact
- Being able to cope with changes (changes in routine, changes in environment, etc.)
- Expressing emotions
For me, the hardest thing I struggle with is the sensory issues. I simply cannot ignore any noise, even being in a small party with family and friends can overwhelm my brain and I have to go to a quiet place. I only eat a limited amount of foods, I don’t get excited a lot, I have trouble with social skills, and I don’t understand jokes/sarcasm very well unless the person is using nonverbal facial language that I can read.
I get frustrated a lot. I get frustrated with myself because I want to have friends, fit in and have fun. I also get frustrated with others because they can’t understand what I go through, and sometimes another person will ignore/deny my sensory issues which hurts and is uncomfortable.
I cannot go into a lot of social gatherings because of my sensory issues. I usually end up sitting on the sidelines, watching people talk and have a good time. I also tend to talk about the same things sometimes, people don’t exactly like that. I sometimes struggle with eye contact. If somebody says “Make eye contact with me.” then I get very anxious and I find it very difficult to look up. Making eye contact can sometimes feel like somebody is looking into me, which I don’t like.
I have had meltdowns in the past, but I haven’t had one in a really long time. I have had plenty of moments of sensory overload, though. As well as hating change I have to have a routine. Routine helps me keep my anxiety levels down. If something is changed in my routine then I have to reconstruct the whole routine, which can be challenging.
To end this article I am going to say that I am thankful that I can talk, but I am also going to say that living with HFA is not easy. I believe that more services should be available to both children and adults with HFA. I also believe that there should be more understanding about sensory issues. When somebody with Autism is having a meltdown/shutdown/sensory overload there should be less judgment and more understanding. It’s not the Autistic individual’s fault, their brain is simply overwhelmed with information to the max.
This is why I don’t like the label “High functioning Autism”.