Press ESC to close

Symptoms of High-functioning Autism in Young Adults

High-functioning Autism is a condition that affects many individuals, presenting unique challenges in social interactions, repetitive behaviours, sensory sensitivities, and more. These symptoms may evolve in young adults, with improved social skills but continued difficulties in independent living.

This article explores the differences in symptoms of high-functioning Autism in young adults, the challenges they face, and the various ways they can be supported through therapy, social skills training, workplace accommodations, and support groups.

Let’s dive into understanding and addressing the needs of young adults with high-functioning Autism.

Key Takeaways:

Young adults with high-functioning Autism may have difficulty with social interactions, repetitive behaviours, sensory sensitivities, change, and intense interests. While some symptoms may improve in young adulthood, challenges with independent living and building relationships may persist for those with high-functioning Autism. Support for young adults with high-functioning Autism can come in the form of therapy, social skills training, workplace accommodations, and support groups.

What Is High-Functioning Autism?

High-functioning Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by challenges in social communication and interaction.

Individuals with high-functioning Autism often display repetitive behaviours and intense interest in specific topics. While they may have average to above-average intelligence, they may struggle with executive function skills, sensory sensitivities, and difficulties understanding social cues.

Diagnosing high-functioning Autism typically involves meeting specific criteria outlined in diagnostic manuals such as the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition). These criteria include deficits in social communication and interaction, restricted interests and repetitive behaviours.

The National Autistic Society and other autism support organisations play a crucial role in providing resources and guidance for individuals with high-functioning Autism and their families. With increased awareness and understanding, the prevalence of high-functioning Autism has been more recognised and addressed in recent years.

What Are the Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism?

The symptoms of high-functioning Autism encompass a range of behaviours, including difficulties in social interactions, repetitive behaviours or rituals, sensory sensitivities, and challenges with change or transitions.

Individuals with high-functioning Autism may exhibit traits such as intense focus on specific topics, a need for sameness in routines, and difficulties understanding non-verbal cues.

For instance, a teenager with Asperger’s Disorder may struggle with making eye contact during conversations and may prefer solitary activities over group settings.

In some cases of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, individuals may have heightened sensitivity to light, sound, or texture, leading to discomfort in specific environments.

Difficulty with Social Interactions

Individuals with high-functioning Autism often face challenges in social interactions, such as difficulty understanding social cues, maintaining eye contact, and engaging in reciprocal conversations.

These individuals may struggle with interpreting non-verbal communication, leading to misunderstandings in social contexts. For instance, they might not pick up on subtle facial expressions or body language cues that neurotypical individuals easily recognise as signs of interest, boredom, or frustration.

Empathy training programmes can help them develop these skills, enabling them to understand better and respond appropriately to others’ emotions.

Joining social skills groups can offer a supportive environment for practising social interactions and learning from peers who share similar challenges.

Organisations like the Autism Society National Helpline provide valuable resources and guidance for individuals with high-functioning Autism to navigate social situations with greater ease.

Repetitive Behaviours or Rituals

Repetitive behaviours and rituals are common symptoms of high-functioning Autism, manifesting as repetitive movements, adherence to strict routines, and resistance to change.

These behaviours play a significant role in the daily lives of individuals with high-functioning Autism, affecting their social interactions, academic performance, and overall quality of life. Repetitive behaviours can provide a sense of comfort and predictability in a world that may often feel overwhelming and chaotic for those on the autism spectrum. Understanding the underlying reasons behind these behaviours, such as sensory sensitivities, anxiety, or the need for structure, is crucial in developing effective interventions.

Sensory Sensitivities

Sensory sensitivities are a significant aspect of high-functioning Autism, with individuals often experiencing heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli such as lights, sounds, textures, or smells.

These sensory sensitivities can manifest in various ways, leading to challenges in everyday environments. For example, bright fluorescent lights in classrooms or loud noises in crowded spaces can trigger intense discomfort for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Autism Spectrum Australia highlights the importance of creating sensory-friendly environments to support those with sensory sensitivities. Strategies such as using noise-cancelling headphones, providing weighted blankets for calming pressure, or creating designated quiet spaces can help manage sensory overload and promote a more comfortable experience for individuals with high-functioning Autism.

Difficulty with Change or Transitions

Individuals with high-functioning Autism often struggle with changes in routine or transitions, leading to anxiety, meltdowns, or difficulty adapting to new environments.

Research conducted by institutions like Duke University School of Medicine has shed light on the challenges faced by individuals with high-functioning Autism when navigating transitions in their daily lives. These challenges can manifest in various ways, from increased stress levels to sensory overload. It is essential to understand that change can be particularly overwhelming for individuals on the autism spectrum, as they may rely heavily on predictability and structure for comfort and stability.

Narrow or Intense Interests

Individuals with high-functioning Autism often display narrow or intense interests, focusing intensely on specific topics, hobbies, or activities to the exclusion of others.

This intense interest phenomenon is commonly referred to as specialised interests or obsessions. For example, some individuals may become fixated on trains, memorising schedules and collecting model trains obsessively. Others may immerse themselves in topics like dinosaurs, knowing intricate details about various species.

These intense interests can significantly impact daily life, often consuming much time and attention. While these obsessions bring joy and fulfilment, they can also pose challenges in social interactions and relationships, as focusing on specific topics may make it difficult to engage in broader conversations.

How Do Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism Differ in Young Adults?

In young adults with high-functioning Autism, symptoms may vary compared to childhood, with improvements in social skills, better adaptation to change, continued sensory sensitivities, and challenges with independent living.

Research studies have shown that young adults with high-functioning Autism often exhibit a greater understanding of social cues and norms. However, they may still struggle with initiating and maintaining friendships. As individuals on the spectrum transition into adulthood, they tend to develop coping mechanisms to handle changes in routines and environments better. Sensory sensitivities such as aversions to certain textures or sounds often persist, impacting daily activities.

Improved Social Skills

Young adults with high-functioning Autism may demonstrate improved social skills compared to their childhood, including better peer interactions, communication abilities, and understanding of social norms.

These improvements in social skills often result from years of dedicated support and interventions aimed at helping individuals navigate social situations more effectively. As they mature, young adults with high-functioning Autism tend to develop strategies to initiate conversations, maintain eye contact, and interpret non-verbal cues more proficiently.

For those seeking to enhance their social interactions, tips include practising social scenarios through role-playing, joining social skills groups, and utilising visual supports to aid communication. Establishing routines and predictability can also help individuals with Autism feel more comfortable in social environments.

Organisations like the Autism Society provide valuable resources and support, including the National Helpline, where individuals can access information, referrals, and guidance on improving social skills and overall quality of life.

Better Adaptation to Change

Youth with high-functioning Autism may show enhanced abilities to adapt to changes in routine or environment, displaying increased flexibility and coping mechanisms.

Research conducted by institutions like the University of California, Irvine, has pointed towards the unique strengths of individuals with high-functioning Autism in adapting to new situations. These abilities can offer valuable insight into cultivating adaptability and resilience in this population.

  • Creating structured routines with room for flexibility
  • Teaching problem-solving skills
  • Providing clear instructions and expectations

can be effective strategies for supporting youth with high-functioning Autism in navigating transitions and coping with change.

Continued Sensory Sensitivities

Despite ageing into young adulthood, individuals with high-functioning Autism may continue to experience sensory sensitivities, requiring ongoing management strategies and accommodations.

These sensory sensitivities can impact various aspects of daily life, from social interaction challenges to difficulties maintaining focus at work or school. Implementing sensory-friendly environments can be beneficial, incorporating elements like soft lighting, noise-cancelling headphones, and designated quiet spaces. Sensory tools such as fidget toys, weighted blankets, or sensory bins can provide comfort and regulation. Professionals often use assessments like the AQ test to understand individuals’ sensory profiles and tailor interventions accordingly.

Difficulty with Independent Living

Youth with high-functioning Autism often face challenges in independent living skills, such as managing finances, organising tasks, and maintaining daily routines.

These individuals may struggle with transitioning from structured school environments to the more unstructured nature of adult life. They can find it overwhelming to juggle responsibilities like grocery shopping, cooking meals, and maintaining personal hygiene routines. Social interactions and communication can also be areas of difficulty, impacting their ability to build relationships and navigate social situations.

What Are the Challenges Faced by Young Adults with High-Functioning Autism?

Young adults with high-functioning Autism encounter various challenges, including finding and maintaining employment, building and sustaining relationships, and achieving independent living goals.

One of the primary challenges faced by young adults on the autism spectrum is navigating the complexities of the job market. Their unique strengths and skill sets may not always align with traditional workplace expectations, leading to difficulties securing and maintaining employment. For example, individuals with high-functioning Autism may struggle with social cues, sensory sensitivities, or rigid thinking patterns that can impact their performance in a work setting.

This is where organisations such as the American Psychiatric Association play a crucial role in providing resources and support for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. By offering guidance on workplace accommodations, social skills training, and advocacy for inclusive hiring practices, these organisations help bridge the gap between the capabilities of young adults with Autism and the demands of the workforce.

Finding and Maintaining Employment

One of the significant challenges for young adults with high-functioning Autism is finding and keeping employment due to difficulties in interviews, workplace interactions, and maintaining routines.

Individuals with high-functioning Autism often face hurdles during the job search process, as traditional interview settings may pose challenges in effectively showcasing their skills and qualifications. Coping with the demands of workplace interactions and the need for strict routines can also present ongoing obstacles to sustainable employment.

With the right strategies and support systems, these individuals can navigate the job market successfully. Building strong CVs, leveraging specialised job boards, and seeking guidance from organisations like the Autism Society National Helpline can provide valuable resources for career advancement.

Building and Maintaining Relationships

Establishing and sustaining relationships can be a struggle for young adults with high-functioning Autism, as they may face difficulties in understanding social cues, expressing emotions, and forming connections.

One of the critical challenges individuals with high-functioning Autism encounter in relationships is decoding non-verbal communication. This can lead to misunderstandings and feelings of isolation. Developing emotional intelligence through self-awareness exercises and empathy training can significantly improve their ability to connect with others on a deeper level. Practising active listening and communicating their feelings and needs can help bridge the gap in understanding between them and their partners.

Living Independently

Achieving independent living can be a daunting task for young adults with high-functioning Autism, as they may struggle with managing household responsibilities, personal care, and navigating community resources.

These individuals often face challenges with organising their living space, sticking to a routine, and understanding social cues crucial for daily interactions. The overwhelming nature of the outside world can make it difficult for them to advocate for themselves and access vital services.

It’s essential to remember that numerous strategies and resources are available to support them in cultivating their independence. Building a solid support network that includes family, friends, therapists, and community organisations can provide guidance and assistance.

How Can Young Adults with High-Functioning Autism Be Supported?

Youth with high-functioning Autism can benefit from various forms of support, including therapy and counselling, social skills training, workplace adjustments, and participation in support groups.

One critical aspect of support for individuals with high-functioning Autism is treatments and interventions. These can cover a range of approaches, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and sensory integration therapy. These interventions are customised to tackle specific challenges encountered by individuals on the autism spectrum, aiding them in developing coping strategies and enhancing communication skills.

Therapy and Counselling

Therapy and counselling play a crucial role in supporting young adults with high-functioning Autism, providing them with tools to manage anxiety, improve social skills, and cope with daily challenges.

Therapy offers a safe space for individuals to express their thoughts and feelings, helping them better understand themselves and their emotions.

Developing self-awareness through therapy can lead to enhanced self-esteem and a greater sense of control over one’s life.

Collaborating with a trained therapist enables young adults with high-functioning Autism to learn effective communication strategies and build healthier relationships.

By addressing specific challenges and setting achievable goals, therapy can give individuals the power to navigate the complexities of daily life confidently.

Social Skills Training

Social skills training programmes can enhance the interpersonal abilities of young adults with high-functioning Autism, enabling them to navigate social situations, build relationships, and communicate effectively.

This kind of specialised training is crucial for those with high-functioning Autism as it equips them with the necessary tools to thrive in social settings where they may otherwise struggle. By focusing on areas like nonverbal communication, emotional regulation, and perspective-taking, these programmes provide individuals with practical strategies to foster meaningful connections and improve their overall quality of life.

  1. Some highly recommended social skills training programmes for individuals with high-functioning Autism include the PEERS programme (Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills) and the Social Thinking programme developed by Michelle Garcia Winner.
  • For further guidance and support in social skills development, organisations like the Autism Society offer valuable resources, including the National Helpline, where individuals and families can access information, referrals, and assistance tailored to their needs.

Workplace Accommodations

Providing workplace accommodations is essential for supporting young adults with high-functioning Autism in their employment endeavours, ensuring a conducive work environment that aligns with their strengths and needs.

It is crucial to recognise that individuals with high-functioning Autism may have unique communication styles, sensory sensitivities, and organisational preferences that can impact their performance and overall well-being in the workplace. By implementing reasonable accommodations tailored to their specific requirements, employers can create an inclusive and supportive atmosphere where these individuals can thrive. Examples of accommodations include providing clear and structured task instructions, allowing for flexible work hours or breaks to manage sensory overload, and offering quiet or designated workspaces for increased focus.

Support Groups

Participation in support groups can offer young adults with high-functioning Autism a sense of community, peer support, and valuable resources for navigating challenges and sharing experiences.

These groups provide a safe space where individuals can connect with others facing similar obstacles, fostering a sense of belonging and understanding. Members can learn strategies to improve social skills, manage sensory issues, and enhance their overall well-being by engaging in discussions and activities.

  • Online forums such as WrongPlanet or Autism Speaks offer virtual platforms for interaction and information-sharing, allowing individuals to access support from anywhere at any time.
  • Local autism organisations often host regular support groups, allowing members to build lasting relationships and exchange practical advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common symptoms of High-functioning Autism in young adults?

Some common symptoms of High-functioning Autism in young adults include difficulties with social interactions and communication, narrow interests and routines, sensory sensitivities, and executive function challenges.

Can High-functioning Autism in young adults present differently than in children?

Yes, the symptoms of High-functioning Autism may present differently in young adults compared to children. For example, while children may struggle with fundamental social interactions, young adults may have difficulty understanding more complex social dynamics.

Are there any physical symptoms associated with High-functioning Autism in young adults?

High-functioning Autism is primarily a neurodevelopmental disorder, so there are typically no physical symptoms associated with it. However, some individuals may experience sensory sensitivities or motor coordination challenges.

Do all young adults with High-functioning Autism have the same symptoms?

No, the symptoms of High-functioning Autism can vary significantly from person to person. Each individual may have a unique combination and severity of symptoms.

How can I recognize if a young adult may have High-functioning Autism?

Some signs that a young adult may have High-functioning Autism include difficulties with social interactions and communication, repetitive behaviours and routines, and sensory sensitivities. However, a diagnosis should only be made by a qualified healthcare professional.

Can the symptoms of High-functioning Autism in young adults be managed or improved?

While there is currently no cure for High-functioning Autism, symptoms can be managed through various therapies and interventions. With the proper support and accommodations, young adults with High-functioning Autism can lead fulfilling and successful lives.

Rob Reed

I am a content creator and author with AUDHD (specifically Inattentive-type ADHD and ASD). I was diagnosed at 36 as an adult. Being diagnosed as an adult and not as a child, means that my experience of life has been impacted by Mental Health issues. I hope to use this website to share information that supports others on their personal journey with neurodiversity.

Homepage of dj rob t.