Whats high functioning autism

10 Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism

  • Emotional Sensitivity
  • Fixation on Particular Subjects or Ideas
  • Linguistic Oddities
  • Social Difficulties
  • Problems Processing Physical Sensations
  • Devotion to Routines
  • Development of Repetitive or Restrictive Habits
  • Dislike of Change
  • Focus on Self
  • Unusual Movement Patterns

What is High Functioning Autism?

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association published the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).  This edition of the DSM had some important changes to the way autism is diagnosed.  Previously, diagnoses like Asperger’s Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder were used to describe individuals at the extreme ends of the autism spectrum.  High-functioning autism and Asperger’s are not an official medical diagnosis, but rather unofficial terms used to describe individuals who have mild symptoms of autism.   Parents and providers in the field may still refer to these terms to indicate a level of support or degree of disability.

With the DSM-5, those diagnoses all fall under “Autism Spectrum Disorders.”  Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder now include a level of severity in their diagnosis.  What would have been known as high functioning autism or Asperger’s is now considered ASD Level 1.

Regardless of the terms used, early identification of autism spectrum disorders is crucial.  Diagnosis rates for autism continue to rise, especially as parents and professionals become more familiar with the symptoms of Level 1 ASD or high functioning autism.  Tools like the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) help psychologists and other therapists make an official diagnosis.

Many patients are getting the assistance they need to live full, productive lives because their unusual behaviors are no longer seen as simple social awkwardness or eccentricity. As more caring medical and mental health professionals learn to recognize the most common signs of high functioning autism, the number of interventions available to people with autism will rise.

See Also: What are the 10 Most Common Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Emotional Sensitivity

Although often overlooked, sensitivity to emotions is one of the most common symptoms of high functioning autism. These individuals can function in day-to-day life but struggle to control their emotions the same way that neurotypical, or non-autistic people, are able to do. For example, a frustrating morning experience like running out of milk or being cut off while driving can cause irritability and difficulty concentrating for the rest of the day. People with autism spectrum disorder may also have unusually intense emotional reactions compared to the rest of the population.

Fixation on Particular Subjects or Ideas

Continually discussing the same topics in conversation, obsessively playing the same song repeatedly, or reading every article written about a certain topic are signs of high-functioning autism in adults and adolescents. These interests can be negative if they take over the individual’s life or interfere with their relationships with others.

Of course, these obsessive tendencies can also be helpful; Dan Aykroyd, writer and star in the hit film Ghostbusters, was inspired by his focus on ghosts and the paranormal. Many other high-functioning autistic individuals have used their focus on mathematics, biology, or writing to inspire successful careers.

Linguistic Oddities

Children on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum usually struggle with:

  • learning to speak
  • building vocabulary
  • holding conversations with others

Individuals with signs of high-functioning autism may start talking much earlier than normal and often display an impressive vocabulary. They may find conversations with others boring or difficult to follow and may avoid speaking with their peers. An autistic person may simply seem eccentric during conversations as their diverse vocabularies, frequent interruptions or focus on particular topics seem like oddities rather than neurological symptoms.

Social Difficulties

Parents and teachers may notice that young autistics have problems interacting with their peers. These high-functioning autism symptoms in children and teenagers can include:

  • a limited social circle
  • problems sharing toys or materials
  • difficulty completing group work

Sometimes youth are considered shy, quirky or socially awkward when they are truly dealing with autism spectrum disorder.  These kids need counseling services to help them learn social rules, as the problems with interacting with others usually stem from a lack of understanding appropriate behavior with peers. They have a difficult time recognizing social cues and body language.  Early intervention from mental health professionals can help autistic youth learn the best ways to interact with their classmates and potential friends.

Problems Processing Physical Sensations

Many individuals with autism have sensory difficulties. They may have an intolerance to specific:

  • noises
  • tastes
  • smells
  • feelings

Noisy public places can lead to emotional distress, as can uncomfortable clothing or unwanted touches. These issues can be disruptive and stressful, but according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, autism symptoms can improve over time as children with mild autism learn to regulate their own behavior through work with professionals.

Many individuals on the autism spectrum can benefit from occupational therapy to manage sensory issues.  An occupational therapist can create goals and strategies for the individual to work on.  They might meet with the individual one day a week or a couple days, depending on the person’s needs.

Devotion to Routines

People with high-functioning autism are typically devoted to routines. They may stick with routines developed for them by others, such as reading for exactly 15 minutes before going to bed or brushing their teeth exactly five minutes after eating a meal. Any sort of deviation from the routine could cause frustration.  Examples include:

  • A parent needing to help a sick sibling at bedtime instead of reading a bedtime story
  • The school bus running late and missing first period
  • A snowstorm causing school to be cancelled

The person with high-functioning autism may devote an exorbitant amount of time to performing their routines to the detriment of:

  • self-care
  • sleep
  • exercise
  • homework
  • learning

Development of Repetitive or Restrictive Habits

Repetitive habits may also be symptoms of high-functioning autism in adults.  Those habits could interfere with the person’s ability to do what they need to do or what others want them to do. One type of repetitive habit might be related to movement. The individual might have to tie and untie their shoes multiple times before they are satisfied and are able to start walking or leave the house.

Some high functioning autistic people also develop restrictive habits that interfere with socially accepted living. For example, an individual might refuse to wear any other kind of shirt than a tee shirt. This could impact their health and well-being if they live in a place with cold weather.

Dislike of Change

One of the hallmark high functioning autism symptoms is a strong dislike of change. An individual might eat the same meal every day for breakfast, and they may eat it in the same quantity, on the same dish, and in the same place. Any disruption or change in the routine could cause an outburst in the individual. For example, if the usual brand of peanut butter has run out, and a different brand has been purchased instead, the person with high-functioning autism may have an outburst of anger or frustration. If someone has used their preferred dish, they may have a similar outpouring of volatility.

Focus on Self

People with high-functioning autism may have trouble developing deep social relationships with others. Part of this issue also includes an inordinate focus on self. A person with high-functioning autism may spend an excessive amount of time talking about themselves, not allowing another person to share a complete thought or response. This makes carrying on a conversation difficult. In the family or household setting, a person with high-functioning autism may only think of themselves when doing activities. For example, they might pour themselves a drink without asking if anyone else would also like a drink. They might take more than what others perceive as a fair share of a snack or treat, genuinely not thinking that others might also want some of the items.

Unusual Movement Patterns

A person with high-functioning autism may have unusual movement patterns. Toe walking is a common movement disorder. The person may walk on their toes or the ball and the toes of the feet without putting much bodyweight on the other parts of the foot. This can result in foot pain in the ball, hammertoe, or bunion from the excessive pressure. The shoes and socks may wear out in the forefoot area much faster than in the heel area. People who walk on their toes may experience more foot injuries, such as blisters, calluses, and corns on their footpads and toes. Toe walking is more common in young children and people with musculoskeletal, explains the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Related Resource: Top 20 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Programs

Not all individuals with autism exhibit physical tics or an inability to maintain social ties. High functioning autistic individuals usually present symptoms not originally associated with autism. Helping professionals must continue to push for recognition of the range of behaviors associated with the autism spectrum. Familiarity with these ten symptoms of high-functioning autism helps providers, parents, teachers and others coordinate the early treatment of a person with this condition.  Resources like Autism Speaks can also provide parents and professionals with support and helpful ideas.


  • 20 Autism Charities Worthy of Your Donations
  • 30 Great Jobs for People on the Autism Spectrum
  • How Can Speech Improve in Nonverbal Children with Autism?
  • What are Distress Tolerance Skills?

30 Great Jobs for People on the Autism Spectrum

As more and more individuals with autism enter the workforce, it is becoming clear that finding just the right job presents a bit of a challenge. That’s why we began researching 30 ideal jobs for people on the autism spectrum. Because each person is unique, and no one’s experience with autism is the same, we included on our list a variety of jobs, from janitor to veterinarian. While some will be most suitable for those who may be non-verbal or who have additional challenges, others will be most appropriate for those with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s. However, all of our listed jobs were recommended to us by those on the autism spectrum. We’ve even included the average salary for each job, according to PayScale. Keep scrolling for 30 ideal jobs for people on the autism spectrum!


Average Salary: $51,024
For the high-functioning person with autism who enjoys crunching numbers, the job of accountant is ideal. Accountants usually work for companies, but sometimes work for themselves. Tasks include:

  • managing budgets
  • filing taxes
  • keeping balance sheets
  • creating sales and cash flow reports, to name a few.


Average Salary: $90,264
Actuaries are analysts for insurance companies. They use statistical analysis to determine how insurance companies can stay financially healthy, how likely an accident is to occur, and what types of policies should cost more than others. People who become actuaries typically work in office environments, have a good head for numbers and large amounts of data, and enjoy statistics.


Average Salary: $66,120
Those who enjoy building and designing are sure to like the idea of becoming an architect. An architect designs and develops structures like houses and buildings. An architect must be organized enough to work on multiple projects at once, skilled enough to communicate with a team, and disciplined enough to ensure accurate designs.


Average Salary: $56,244
If you like mathematics and are skilled enough with numbers to catch errors, then the job of auditor might be ideal. Many auditors are self-employed, while others work for companies and the government. Auditors are responsible for checking the accuracy of:

  • business records
  • municipal records
  • financial records.

Automotive Technician

Average Salary: $49,902
Love cars? Good with your hands? Then how about a job as an automotive technician? Automotive technicians perform routine repairs and maintenance on vehicles. They may work at an auto repair shop, a car dealership, or have their own business. While some interaction with customers may be necessary, most of the job is working alone on the car or truck.


Average Salary: $48,372
The carpentry profession is great for anyone who enjoys building, working with their hands, and spending time outdoors. Carpenters create the wooden products that are used to build structures, doors, window frames, and furniture, among other things. Required skills include:

  • working with tools
  • basic math proficiency
  • the ability to read blueprints.


Average Salary: $22,500
A cashier at a retail store or a grocery store is one of the most popular jobs for people on the autism spectrum. Though it involves interaction with customers, the job also follows a routine, and varies very little. The happiest cashiers are those who find jobs at their favorite places.


Average Salary: $36,787
There are lots of people on the autism spectrum who enjoy cooking. Baking, which requires strict adherence to a recipe, is especially popular among those with ASD. For someone who would like to make a career out of this interest, then the role of caterer is a great option. Caterers must work with customers to develop and create a menu for:

  • wedding receptions
  • baby showers
  • business conferences
  • other special events.

If catering interests you, but you’re intimidated by customer service, consider applying for jobs in a bakery or at a restaurant.

Computer Programmer

Average Salary: $62,841
Best for those with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, being a Computer Programmer is ideal for anyone who enjoys:

  • coding
  • designing software
  • playing with computers

Computer programmers typically work in office settings, where they code or write computer software, then troubleshoot and debug that software.

Data Analyst

Average Salary: $60,123
Data analysts look at large amounts of data on a particular topic, then use that data to form conclusions and create charts or reports. Mathematical skills are necessary, as is being comfortable with programs like Excel, SharePoint, and SQL databases. Though data analysts must be able to work with clients and managers, a good portion of their work is done on their own.

Data Entry Clerk

Average Salary: $33,402
The job of data entry clerk is common common among those on the autism spectrum. People with ASD appreciate that this job rarely requires anything more than a high school diploma. Plus, the work is solitary and does not vary much from day to day, meaning it’s easy to stick to a comfortable routine. Data entry clerks are employed by companies, and tasks include:

  • entering information into a computer database
  • transcribing information from recordings
  • keeping data rosters up to date.

Dog Trainer

Average Salary: $35,722
A dog trainer is a great job choice for any person with autism who loves to spend time with animals. While most dog trainers work with private clients to train puppies and adult dogs in basic manners, others work with dogs who need to overcome fear or bad habits. Others train dogs for movies and television.

Financial Analyst

Average Salary: $60,526
Another ideal job for a person who’s skilled in mathematics is that of financial analyst. Financial analysts study marketplace trends and demographics, and help their employer make smart investments. Organization and attention to detail are important skills for a financial analyst to have, as tasks include:

  • creating budgets
  • reports
  • doing analysis.

Forensic Science Technician

Average Salary: $49,490
If the thought of blood, gore, and bodies doesn’t bother you, then consider pursuing a job as a forensic science technician. Forensic science technicians work for police departments. They work with forensic scientists to gather and analyze crime scenes. A forensic science technician is responsible for:

  • observing evidence
  • preparing diagrams
  • writing reports.


Average Salary: $36,248
A job as a gardener is an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys spending time outside and working with their hands to create natural beauty. Most gardeners are self-employed, or work for small landscaping companies. Others are employed by schools, businesses, or a city’s Parks and Recreation department. Tasks include:

  • mowing
  • planting flowers
  • weeding
  • trimming hedges.


Average Salary: $28,989
Janitors are an integral addition to any school or office setting. They are responsible for:

  • cleaning floors
  • removing garbage
  • maintaining restrooms and kitchens
  • making minor repairs

Many people are drawn to the role of janitor because it involves working by one’s self, and does not usually require anything more than a high school diploma.


Average Salary: $40,390
For those with an interest in current events and a good grasp of the English language there is journalism. Journalists can work for:

  • websites
  • news organizations
  • newspapers

Though researching and writing articles is typically done on one’s own, the job often includes interviewing a variety of people.


Average Salary: $50,167
A librarian may be the perfect job for the book lover with autism! Librarians may work at:

  • a public library
  • a government library
  • a school or university library

Librarians are typically responsible for maintaining the library’s collections, organizing documents, and checking books in and out.

Mechanical Engineer

Average Salary: $70,427
To be a mechanical engineer, a person must be skilled in the use of software and have good problem-solving skills. We think this describes a lot of people on the autism spectrum! Mechanical engineers help plan and manufacture new types of products. So they must also work well on, and communicate with, a team. For this reason, the job of mechanical engineer may be best suited for those with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s.

Medical Lab Technician

Average Salary: $55,298
To be medical lab technician, one must be interested in anatomy and medical science, have good organizational skills, and be unafraid of things like blood and urine. Lab techs work with people of all ages and backgrounds, and collect samples that need to be tested. Then, they use microscopes and other tools to test those samples.


Average Salary: $55,129
While most people think of the weather person on their local news station when they see “meteorologist,” the vast majority of meteorologists do not present their findings to a live television audience. Rather, they make observations and predictions about the weather, study historical data, and create weather-related graphs. Then, they present their findings to:

  • television meteorologists
  • newspapers
  • farmers
  • other groups.


Average Salary: $48,132
Paralegals research all sorts of legal, business, and regulatory information for the lawyers they work for. Other tasks include filing documents, and accompanying lawyers to client meetings and court as a sort of assistant. Paralegals must be very organized, have an excellent command of reading and writing, and be comfortable asking a series of questions to potential clients.


Average Salary: $46,179
Those on the autism spectrum who enjoy being creative and taking photographs may do very well as a photographer. Most photographers work for themselves, so their hours, clients, and work load are entirely up to them. While some photographers photograph nature or places for magazines, stock photo websites, or websites, others take photos of:

  • weddings
  • families
  • new babies
  • graduations.


Average Salary: $53,208
Everyone needs a plumber at some point! Though it requires some talking with clients, most of what a plumber does is done in solitude — ideal for the plumber with ASD who would prefer less interaction. Plumbers install and maintain water systems in homes and other buildings. Common tasks include:

  • installing new systems
  • cutting new pipes
  • fixing toilets and appliances.

Software Engineer

Average Salary: $85,009
Those who enjoy computers, codes, and working [mostly] alone might really like the idea of being a software engineer. Software engineers are typically the people who help to develop different software functions as created by the software design team. Working with programmers and coders is a must, though software engineers are bound to have lots of time building and testing functions on their own.

Software Tester

Average Salary: $56,170

Software testers are the ones responsible for testing new software programs before they are sent to clients or made available to the public. The job typically consists of running automated and manual test to ensure the software is free of bugs. For this reason, an interest in computers and programming is vital.

Technical Writer

Average Salary: $57,757
Technical writers are the people responsible for writing instruction manuals and other documents that communicate technical information. They often work in office settings and are employed by companies. Other times, they work from home. Successful technical writers must be organized and have a good command of language.

Veterinarian or Veterinary Technician

Average Salary: $80,396 (veterinarian), $33,699 (Veterinary Technician)
Because many people on the autism spectrum love and feel comfortable around animals, the jobs of veterinarian and veterinary technician were recommended to us over and over again as great jobs for people with autism. While a veterinarian is the main doctor for animals big and small, a veterinary technician meets each animal first and charts its weight, symptoms, and any concerns its owner may have.

Video Game Designer

Average Salary: $64,482
Because lots of people — including many on the autism spectrum! — enjoy playing video games, the job of video game designer is an intriguing one. Video game designers use computers and gaming systems to create playable games for others. Usually, the job involves:

  • coming up with an idea
  • assisting in its design
  • testing it to be sure it’s free of all bugs before release.


Average Salary: $49,533
Anyone who has a good grasp of the English language can find a way to make a living as a writer. While most people think of writers as those who write books, that’s not always the case. Many writers make their living as freelancers — that is, those who write articles, web content, and other pieces for:

  • websites
  • magazines
  • newspapers
  • businesses
  • anyone else who needs something written.

Why is it so hard to live with "high functioning" autism?


ASD expert on the myths and challenges of high functioning autism

Author: Lisa Jo Rudy


The spectrum of autism is very wide. If you think of it as a rainbow (or bell curve), you will notice that a significant proportion of the people on the spectrum do not belong to one side or the other - they are somewhere in the middle. Of course, at this point in history we don't have evidence that MOST people on the autism spectrum are "somewhere in between," but it's clear that the media tends to focus on only the two extremes of autism - the most severely disabled and the most highly functioning people.

If you look at autism through the eyes of journalists, high-functioning autism is a bunch of eccentric geniuses. Often mentioned are Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, as well as actors Dan Ackroyd and Daryl Hannah. In other words, we are talking about people who simply stand out from the background of others. However, in real life, the concept of "high-functioning autistic" rarely coexists with such epithets as "genius", "business tycoon" and "Hollywood star".

In fact, people with high-functioning autism may be no more intelligent than their typical peers. And they may completely lack the motivation to achieve public recognition, which at one time forced Bill Gates to look for investors, and Einstein to publish an article.

They may also experience significant difficulties in daily activities, employment or personal life, and this often leads to low self-esteem. These problems are greatly exacerbated by the fact that others constantly react to them with bewilderment or indignation. The reason is that in many situations people with high-functioning autism "pass for normal" and are not expected to behave or respond in an unusual way.

Also, people with more severe autism are not usually required to "just pull themselves together and act normal" in difficult situations for them, but people on the higher end of the spectrum are often expected to do just that.

Finally, people with high-functioning autism tend to be very aware of their own difficulties and may be very distressed by the negative reactions of others.

Here are just a few common problems people with high functioning autism (including those diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome) often get in the way of their success and happiness:

Severe sensory impairment. People with high functioning autism, like everyone on this spectrum, are susceptible to sensory processing disorders. This can include mild to severe hypersensitivity to noise, crowds, bright lights, certain tastes, strong smells, and touch. In practice, this means that even a very gifted and eloquent person may be completely unable to enter a crowded restaurant, go to a movie, or endure going to a supermarket, a stadium, or other public places.

Social blindness. What is the difference between a polite greeting and a light flirt? How do you know if you're talking too loudly? When is it okay to talk about personal problems or interests, and when is it best to refrain from doing so? When is it important to stop doing what you enjoy and focus on the needs of the other person? Most people have trouble answering these questions, but if you have high-functioning autism, they can become insurmountable barriers to communication, employment, and romance.

Anxiety and depression. Anxiety disorders, depression, and other emotional disturbances are much more common in people with high-functioning autism than in the general population. We don't know if autism leads to these disorders, or if it's just a natural consequence of frequent failure and social rejection. But whatever the cause, emotional disturbances can be disabling in and of themselves.

Lack of skills in planning one's actions. The skills we use to organize and plan our lives are called executive functions. They allow NT adults to plan ahead for their daily routine, notice when they run out of shampoo and buy more on the way home, or plan work on a complex long-term project. Most people with high-functioning autism have very severe executive dysfunction. As a result, it is extremely difficult for them to cope with household chores, the slightest change in their usual routine can be a disaster for them, and so on.

Problems of emotional regulation. Contrary to popular belief, people with autism do not suffer from lack of emotion. Moreover, people with autism can become overly emotional in inappropriate situations. Imagine a teenager crying over a change in plans, or a grown woman having a tantrum because her car wouldn't start. These are examples of typical problems for people with high functioning autism that can be very successful, but ONLY in predictable situations without unexpected obstacles.

Problems with changes and transitions. Many neurotypicals find it difficult to adapt to change, but for people with high-functioning autism, this is a problem on a completely different level. Once a familiar and comfortable routine has been established, people with autism generally want to keep that routine forever. An autistic adult can go out with friends every Wednesday for nachos without any problems, but the idea of ​​going out on Thursdays for chicken wings instead can cause a panic attack and even anger.

Difficulties with oral speech perception. A person with high-functioning autism may be ready to do a task given to him brilliantly, but if the instructions were given to him orally, then there is a risk that he simply will not be able to follow them. For example, if a police officer says "stay in the car and hand me your papers," a person with autism might only make out "stay in the car" or only "hand over the papers." The same may apply to instruction in the classroom, in the doctor's office, or in the workplace. As you might guess, this often leads to all sorts of difficulties, ranging from problems with the police to unintentional mistakes at work.

As you can see, the term "highly functional" means just that. However, this does not mean that high-functioning autism is an “easy” diagnosis. It is important for loved ones, employers, teachers, or others who interact with people on the high end of the autism spectrum to remember that autism is autism.

We hope that the information on our website will be useful or interesting for you. You can support people with autism in Russia and contribute to the work of the Foundation by clicking on the "Help" button.

Autism in Adults, Research

5 Reasons Why Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism May Not be Noticed • Autism is

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be diagnosed at 1-3 years of age, but often overlooked or misunderstood by professionals and parents interpret his symptoms. The more high-functioning, milder form of autism (Asperger's syndrome) is especially often overlooked. In this case, the diagnosis is usually not made until school age, and it is not uncommon for such autism to be diagnosed only in adolescence or adulthood.

Even if the diagnosis was made late, this does not mean that the symptoms of autism appeared at this age, they were present from early childhood. Moreover, it is an official and mandatory criterion for diagnosing autism - symptoms must be present from early preschool age. Listed below are several factors that contribute to the fact that the symptoms of high-functioning autism can be ignored for a long time.

1. Camouflage, masking symptoms

People with high functioning autism (Asperger's syndrome) do not have intellectual difficulties, some of them even have unusually high intelligence. This may lead them to learn to camouflage, that is, whether consciously or not, to mask or hide the manifestations of autism.

This child may have behavioral problems and unusual features. But at the same time, his or her ability to understand academic subjects well, high IQ test scores, and a large vocabulary can lead educators and parents to start looking for other, incorrect explanations for these problems. Even doctors often miss the manifestations of autism if a child can use spoken language well.

Often these children's strengths help them cope more or less normally in kindergarten or elementary school, where they have only minor problems. But in middle school, learning tasks become more abstract, require more advanced speech skills, and social interaction becomes more and more multifaceted. At this age, the initial symptoms of autism begin to get more attention as the child has more problems as demands increase.

Also, many people with high-functioning autism develop skills in how to hide, compensate for, or temporarily suppress the manifestations of autism. If they are often told to “look in the eyes”, “don’t sway” or “don’t shake your hands”, don’t talk too much on the same topic, they may begin to hide these symptoms in the presence of strangers, and also begin to withhold information that may indicate autism.

If there are no obvious external symptoms of autism, then this makes diagnosis much more difficult.

2. Misdiagnosis in early childhood

It is not uncommon for children with high-functioning autism to be misdiagnosed, or to be correctly diagnosed with a co-morbid disorder but the associated autism not noticed. As a result, all the child's problems begin to be attributed to this other diagnosis. Children with high-functioning autism are often diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social phobia, and other developmental or mental health problems.

If a child has a different diagnosis, they may not be diagnosed with autism until adulthood.

According to one 2019 study, 10.3% of adults with autism were misdiagnosed with ADHD as children, while 12.1% of children diagnosed with ADHD were subsequently diagnosed with autism. These data are not surprising when one considers that one in three autistic children have serious attention deficits.

3. Age

For adults, the explanation may simply be that, in their childhood, diagnostic criteria did not yet include more high-functioning forms of autism.

Asperger's Syndrome only appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1994, even though there were many children with symptoms of high-functioning autism prior to that year. In 2013, the fifth version of the guidelines was published, in which Asperger's syndrome disappeared as a diagnosis, and it was replaced by level 1 autism spectrum disorder.

Usually these people received other diagnoses, as autism was considered too extreme a diagnosis for a person with a normal level of intelligence and well-developed speech. Often these people did not seek diagnosis in adulthood, so now more and more autism is being diagnosed in middle-aged and even older people.

4. Female

Some studies have shown that girls and women are particularly likely to miss high-functioning autism. Overall, autism is four times more likely to be diagnosed in boys and men than in women and girls, although the reasons for this are unclear.

Are girls less likely to be autistic? There is evidence that their behavior (discomfort in social situations, problems with motor coordination, avoidance of large groups of people) can be considered feminine, and therefore less likely to be seen as a problem.

On the other hand, there is evidence that girls with high-functioning autism may behave differently than autistic boys: they are less aggressive, more likely to imitate other people, and make more efforts to fit in with their peers.

One 2015 study found that women may have more genetic immunity to some manifestations of autism (this theory is called the female protective effect). According to this theory, the symptoms of autism manifest differently in women and girls, and therefore they may have more functional social behavior than autistic boys.

While more research is needed to understand the causes, it is now clear that female gender in autism greatly reduces the likelihood of a correct diagnosis.

5. Family income and ethnicity

Statistically, children from poor families and/or ethnic minorities are much less likely to be diagnosed with autism. This is due to two main reasons.

Firstly, it is obvious that if people have little money, they do not have the opportunity to take their child to paid consultations with specialists, go to another region or city for diagnostics, or find additional classes for early help.

Learn more