High-functioning autism

High-functioning autism (HFA) is an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and can appear to be very similar to Asperger’s syndrome.

Children with HFA present with the spectrum difficulties associated with ASD. Those are: social interaction, social communication and rigid thinking.

Asperger’s syndrome and HFA can appear to be very similar because one key diagnostic requirement for Asperger’s is the lack of a cognitive impairment. As children with HFA tend to have higher than average cognitive abilities, they can appear to be very similar to children with Asperger’s. However, there are key differences:

  • Children with Asperger’s do not have a language delay whereas children with HFA often present with significant language difficulties.
  • Children with Asperger’s tend to have difficulties with fine motor control. This presentation is far less common among children with HFA.

There is no clear dividing line between Asperger’s and HFA. In practice, the key issue is how the condition affects your child and what support is necessary.

The impact of HFA can vary significantly. In our experience, in all cases HFA causes special educational needs (SEN). Some children with HFA may be adequately supported at SEN additional support whereas others, who require significant levels of speech and language therapy input and high levels of differentiation to access education and communicate their abilities will require an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

HFA is a complex condition and often special educational needs advice is needed.


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