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Your Opinion Requested: Is There Such a Thing As "Mild Autism?"

By November 27, 2007

Not long ago, an organization called "Model Me Kids" produced a short video featuring an autism class at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute in Baltimore. It’s called “Children with Autism: One Teacher’s Experience.” It's a lovely little film; the children, all high functioning, are articulate and bright, and the teacher is positive and loving. At the end of the video, though, the teacher makes it clear that these bright, articulate kids are always "on the outside looking in."

These are the kids that people talk about when they refer to kids with "mild autism." These kids are verbal. They're learning. They may make it to and through college. Yet, with all that, their ability to "pass" as typical is small to nil. Their problems - ranging from severe anxiety and social phobia to serious sensory issues to behavior problems, flapping, and more - will never disappear. And to make it worse, every one of these young teens is keenly aware and able to articulate the fact that they are autistic.

I used to believe in "mild autism." I was one of those parents who scorned the parents of kids with Asperger syndrome for insisting on specialized programs and special needs gym. After all - they looked just like everyone else. Why push them into "special" settings at all.

Then I noticed that it was these very "mildly autistic" kids who were most likely to get bullied in typical settings. They were the same kids who burst into tears at the smallest provocations, eliciting even more teasing. They were the ones with the social anxiety, the anger management issues, and the overwhelming sensory issues.

Far from being "mildly" affected by autism, these kids with Asperger syndrome seemed to be suffering much more than those deemed "low functioning." In fact, their symptoms were anything but mild.

What's your take? Is there a "mild" form of autism? Or do the symptoms just look different when the person with autism is verbally articulate? Oh - and while you're thinking about this topic - another question. Are the symptoms of Asperger syndrome only relevant when there are "neurotypical" people around to point out their differences? In other words, when autistic people are alone or among truly supportive friends and family, are their symptoms truly symptoms at all?

Comments
November 27, 2007 at 8:16 pm
(1) Carole Rutherford says:

If I could stop the use of one word in association with autism it would be the word ‘mild’ here in the UK it is used as a cop out for service provision and also as a sugar coated pill for parents to make them think that things could be much worse.

The reality is that some young children with ‘mild’ autism do appear to be progressing in much the same way as their peer group. But as they become older they often realise that they are different but are clueless as to how they can get it right and fit in.

I know a family where their child is gifted and talented as well as being autistic and yet his ‘mild’ autism impacts on his daily functioning to a frightening degree. With intelligence comes a level of understanding that you are different, and young people with ‘mild’ autism have to then juggle with not only their ‘mild’ autism but also the knowledge that while they are academically able they may never posses the skills they will need to actually use neither the knowledge they have gained nor the qualifications. Not to mention that fact that many find it impossible to make friends and have a relationship with another person.

I think that ‘mild’ autism is possibly the cruelest colour on the autistic spectrum.

November 27, 2007 at 9:19 pm
(2) Harold L Doherty says:

Far from being “mildly” affected by autism, these kids with Asperger syndrome seemed to be suffering much more than those deemed “low functioning.”

That is an unfortunate statement.

I have worked with “mildly autistic” or “high functioning” autistic youths (whichever term, if any, is politically correct today)in the legal system and have no doubt that they suffer.

But to say that they suffer MORE than severely autistic children? Have you never had any exposure to, or heard of, severely autistic children biting themselves, banging their heads until they suffer serious injury, running into auto traffic oblivious of the danger or starving themselves?

May 18, 2011 at 10:27 am
(3) kristi says:

um… yeah.. there IS a difference… my son has ‘mild’/high functioning autism.. he does ‘run out into traffic’ despite me telling him all his 4 yrs of life that it is not ok and very dangerous and now he refuses to hold my hand so i am in fear to take him near any road/parkinglot etc.. he has ‘meltdowns’ but he is very smart and is learning.. i think he is maybe 1 year behind peers… im trying to find an appropriate ‘preschool’ so he can b socialized.. but i call and when i tell them.. ‘owell we only have 1 teacher’ for the class or something like that.. so im waiting till fall when i guess he will b in a ‘autistic’ classroom with a bunch of kids who beat their heads against walls and then im scared he will ‘learn’ this undesirable behavior and think it s ok?… so u tell me do i just keep my son home his whole life or let him see all this ‘crazy’ behavior.. or just try to fit him into a ‘normal’ preschool/school and have him bullied ??? what the hell am i supposed to do.. he has an IEP and gets help from the school system.. but im scared to death i get no help from my x husband (his father) im all alone.. i cant bear the thought of anyone ever being mean to him cause he is the sweetest child ever.. i love him more than life itself u tell me what to do with a ‘high functioning autistic 4 yr old’ u tell me JERK who doesnt have a clue cus theres ‘no such thing’ as high functioning autistic.. come here and observe my child.. see what i go thru everyday and then come and write ur crap again!!!!!!!

May 31, 2011 at 4:49 pm
(4) SMW says:

Hi, Kristi-My 10yr old son has Aspergers or high functioning autism, I don’t think any way you word it, it doesn’t change the daily life of us or our children. Starting school can be very difficult with all the choices that you have to make. If you can don’t put him in a Self contained Class, Skills, spec. ed room, he can learn in a gen. ed class and receive speech, behavioral therapy, occupational therapy (whatever he may need ) and have him attend a resource room for his academics math and language art subjects. This way he isn’t likely to pick up quirks or behavior traits of children with other disabilities or severe cases of such. I have lots of helpful information….I’m an army wife and have had to make most of the descisions for my son by myself. I wish you all the best of luck.

November 27, 2007 at 9:22 pm
(5) Marla Comm says:

I think the term “high functioning” also creates a lot of problems. I am considered a high functioning autistic because I have a normal IQ, am fully verbal despite my speech delay and am semi-autonomous. Having a normal or higher IQ and use of language don’t equate to a successful life adjustment or self-sufficiency. In order to function in the community you need several diffent types of skills. Each autistic has his own mixture of weaknesses and strengths. He can be “low functioning” in some areas but “high functioning in others. Co-morbid conditions can also keep an autistic person from functioning as well as one would expect him to given his level of intelligence. Living environment and support or lack thereof can also play a role.

Given the right kind of working environment and support, I can hold on to a part time clerical job like medical records assistant. When weather permits biking, I can do all my own shopping and errands. Although I have no interest in conforming to norms for appearance, I keep up with personal hygiene. On days when conditions are favorable and my routines go as planned, I can behave well and co-exist with society as a quiet loner.

Unfortunately, my weak areas outnumber my strong ones. Despite my apparent intelligence, I can’t cope with change at all, get severe meltdowns when my routines are disrupted, have severe coordination and organization problems that make it impossible to keep house properly, have a low frustration tolerance that makes it impossible to do any of the tasks I find difficult without exploding, suffer from severe sensory integration disorder that turns me into an irritable wreck, suffer overload when I’m overstimulated or try to do more than I can handle and have cognitive and other issues that make it impossible for me to use humor and other stress relievers to soothe my nerves. I have trouble with all tasks that require dealing with all but the most accommodating poeple.

In addition to autism I have Tourette’s Syndrome, personality disorder and attention deficit symptoms. These additional conditions compound my behavior problems.

I also happen to be stuck in a living environment that is a poor match for my level of ability. I live in Montreal, which is a rough big city with a climate that keeps me housebound most days and is crowded with abrasive, nervous and intolerant people. My job, which once suited me, turned into a high pressure position that is wearing my nerves thin. Austere working conditions, intolerant staff and frequent disruptions make it even harder to cope. I functioned well when I had a work advocate, but things fell apart when she left. My personal life is also in a state of chaos because I have no support system. Montreal has no services for adults like me and I lack the personality and social skills needed to build an informal support network. All I get for my efforts to get the services and support I need are shrug-offs and lip service. People think I’m lazy because they assume that anyone with my intelligence has the ability to be fully independent.

Marla Comm
Montreal, Camada

May 9, 2011 at 12:53 am
(6) Dawn-Rene Martin says:

You are amazing Marla! I pray to God that you now have the support you were lacking when you wrote this.

May 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm
(7) Rhonda Taylor says:

Marla you are a pure inspiration to people with autism.
I really hope you got the support you needed.
Please let us know how your life has progressed over the years

May 29, 2011 at 2:31 am
(8) MEEE says:

Hi wow i didint know there were other fellow aspies here. i know exactly how you feel contact me :)

November 27, 2007 at 10:53 pm
(9) Jim Grossmann says:

Precision matters, even when we are looking people and their disabilities from a very personal perspective.

We need to distinguish three things: the severity of the disability, the suffering that the disability causes, and other peoples’ responses–some good, some not–to the disability.

Are some forms of autism less severe than others? Of course. When one autistic person can write bestsellers and another cannot use language at all, it makes sense to say that one has a milder form of autism than the other. It’s ridiculous to assert otherwise.

Some lazy thinkers might think that “milder” means “less suffering,” but this is often untrue, not only with respect to autism but with respect to many other disabilities. For instance, people with global aphasia–who can’t use language at all–may suffer less than people with mild aphasia, who can speak, but who live tantalized and frustrated by forever having the word they want to say on the tips of their tongues.

Finally–and this is MOST important–the bullying that some Asperger’s kids receive does not make their disorder as severe as non-verbal forms of autism–nor is the bullying a type of suffering that is directly consequent to the disorder.

Bullying is a social problem, and the people who have this problem are the bullies, not the Asperger’s kids.

It is *perverse and disgusting* to view bullying as an index of the severity of a bullied child’s disorder.

We can teach most children that, just as some kids have trouble seeing or walking, some kids have trouble with social skills. We can teach children that it is unacceptable to bully people with disabilities, including social ones. We can treat bullying as a disciplinary problem that normies have, and not as a problem that naturally comes with a disability like Asperger’s.

Jim G.

November 28, 2007 at 2:22 am
(10) Kassiane says:

I reject functioning levels utterly. They don’t make sense.

To service agencies theyre a way of saying “No services because you can ask for them”

To Mr Doherty theyre a way of saying “You don’t count because you have an opinion and can express it” no matter what you are actually like.

To the DSM it just means you can get over 70 on an IQ test.

It has no practical application. BOXES do not work.

November 28, 2007 at 7:37 am
(11) Elissa says:

My son has an ASD – and yes, he is at the higher functioning end of the spectrum.
But simply because he has good language skills does not make him less autistic, or less in need of services and assistance.
We don’t want sympathy, but we do want support and understanding. Autism is autism, no matter which way you look at it.

November 28, 2007 at 10:36 am
(12) Julie says:

One of the best commentaries I’ve read about this is called “The High Cost of ‘High Function,” written in October 2006 on the Mom, Not Otherwise Specified blog: http://www.momnos.blogspot.com.

She talks about too young men both entering college. One has clear, visible challenges and people make accommodations. The other one “passes” and he thinks he’s doing great, but is unable to generalize and gets in trouble right away with neighbors and the Resident Director of his living unit.

I sometimes think my son is fortunate that his autism manifests itself in physical ways that appear as mild cerebral-palsy, because we can get a “pass” once in a while in public. Then again, there are always those jerks who think special needs people should not be in public if they “can’t handle it.”

My son is labeled “high-functioning” because, I suppose, he can talk. It’s a label that’s WAY off. How high functioning is a 10-year-old who runs into the street without looking? I recently figured out that when I was telling him to “watch out for cars,” he thought I meant for him to identify all the cars we see as we walk and drive around! He was driving me crazy asking me, “what kind is that car?” It was my own silly fault for not being literal!

November 28, 2007 at 10:09 pm
(13) Diane says:

Doesn’t even the generally accepted definition of autism include the wording “severe developmental disorder”? So, even mild is still severe when compared to neuro-typical. Concerning the reference to asperger’s and whether the symptoms are apparent only when compared to neuro-typical vs. when surrounded by supporters of their symptoms–I have to say this: “Severe” is by it’s definition (again) a relative term. So of course, the symptoms are most relevant when “compared” to neuro-typical. The part brought up about “symptoms being truly symptoms at all” doesn’t make sense. A symptom is a symptom no matter who’s around. A stim is a stim no matter if the other people in the room also stim or not. Autism and asperger behaviors ARE different, thus your column.

November 28, 2007 at 10:22 pm
(14) Jo-Jo says:

To Jim M:

Actually, there are certain types of individuals (with disabilities or not) who do indeed, whether anybody likes it or not, present themselves as an easy or easier target for bullying. This has been well-documented and is neither perverse or disgusting(?)

I like your referal to those “lazy thinking” folk. Geez I hope I’m not of THEM!

November 28, 2007 at 10:36 pm
(15) janice says:

As the mother of a 31 year old Aspie (who has made it to the PhD level) I have to say that, even though his intellectual abilities are far above average, his social and anxiety problems and the resulting depression have become increasingly problematic. Typical, he is not. What was really hard was that there was no diagnostic criteria in this country when he was young. He was treated for STNR when young, although he was not determined to be ADD, dyslexic, or ADHD, treated with diet and supplements, and so forth. Nothing worked for the social “disability”, extreme “focus, routines”,”preoccupations”, “literal interpretations” in social and business situations, and so forth, from which he suffered and still suffers. Plus, there are few available TRUE “social skills” classes/groups for adults. Everything seems to be geared towards the newly diagnosed young person. Yes, this IS serious, the individual who has AS is NOT neuro-typical, the behavior IS different. The thought processes ARE different. Sometimes, “passing” may be possible, especially in the proverbial ivory tower. But, sooner or later, it becomes noticeable. This disability cannot hide forever. Talk to any parent of an AS individual, and you will find very quickly that, even though often highly “functional” intellectually, to be on the “outside looking in” for these individuals is disabling. It does not get any easier, although they may be able to learn to use certain “coping” mechanisms–some of them harmful. My son works very hard at coping, but still does not feel able to “fit in”. Indeed, he is just now coming to terms with what he feels is a “label”. This is NOT JUST a “social skills” problem–this is serious business, and a serious problem. It is VERY REAL, and I refuse to listen to those who feel it is “mild”. We try very hard to respect his desire to be independent. But, without resources, it is frightening–both for him, and for his family.

November 29, 2007 at 1:03 am
(16) J Kilts says:

My husband and I have had custody of our 14-year-old grandson since birth. He had a hearing loss for about 2 years which caused language delays and professionals felt that was the reason for his odd behaviors. I always knew there was something more, but his Asperger’s Syndrome wasn’t diagnosed until he was about 9 years old. I kept him in school through his elementary years but it was a constant struggle; his behaviors were treated as disciplinary problems and the bullying he endured wasn’t taken seriously. He qualified for Special Ed for several years due to language delays but then the school said he no longer qualified because he wasn’t failing academically. I knew middle school wouldn’t work so have been home-schooling for the past 4 years. Professional counseling was a failure because he is extremely literal and concrete and the counselor focused solely on feelings and “talk therapy”. He gave my grandson written “homework” after each session in which he was to keep detailed records of his frustrations and feelings. When my grandson coudn’t do it the counselor was critical, so I terminated counseling. My grandson is a math whiz and loves the computer and computer games. He also enjoys history. I understand that both are typical for AS kids. I worry about his future; my husband and I won’t be around forever to be his safety net. What’s going to happen to him? Incidentally, I have BA degrees in Psychology and Sociology and a Master’s degree in Counseling, but none of my studies or professional experiences prepared me for dealing with the intensity and complesity of my grandson’s situation.So, is AS “mild”? No, It’s a very real, very serious problem. Thanks for letting me ventilate some of my frustration and worry. JK

November 29, 2007 at 4:56 am
(17) AZ says:

We have a son who has been diagnosed with a specific learning disability but the Los Angeles school system couldn’t exactly say what.Their reasoning was it didn’t matter he qualified for the services anyway without knowing exactly what “label” to put on him.We moved to the French countryside and while the move was a huge change he prefers school in France to what he had in LA,except the people in France want to find a “label” and classify him.They reason it’s to be able to help him better. I myself have seen parents in LA whose children were identified as autistic now being told their kids are not autistic after all. Could it be some people not easily definable and if so how to help each person’s situation?

November 29, 2007 at 8:10 am
(18) autism says:

As regards the question “are symptoms of AS really symptoms when there’s no one around to judge them” – I still feel it’s a legitimate question (though I suspect that if I were a doctor I might have a different perspective!)

Yes, stims are still stims and sensory issues are still sensory issues. But stims are not (in my opinion) a “symptom” so much as they are a physical quirk. And sensory issues are only AT issue when there’s too much or too little sensory input in the environment.

In the right environment – say, in a relatively quiet place with supportive folks around – people with AS are not overwhelmed by sensory input. And while they may pace, rub their hands, or otherwise “stim” – so does everyone else to a greater or lesser degree.

My point was – the more I hear from and meet adults with AS (and parents of/kids with kids with AS), the more I wonder whether simply changing the environment and/or expectations might be more useful than many available treatments.

After all, if a person can function comfortably and effectively in a particular setting but not in another – why should they be forced to function in an uncomfortable situation?

In my mind, it’s like telling an NT – “I know you hate loud noise and find it tough to handle irate people in an intense situation, and you’re really a terrific book keeper. But until you can manage this retail outlet during the Christmas rush, I’m afraid I can’t allow you to balance the books!”

How silly would that be?

Lisa
Autism Guide

November 29, 2007 at 1:14 pm
(19) Michelle says:

Well I have a child who is HF. I have him in a regular school. He is 6 and is doing great. He plays with his peers and can do most of the work given to him. He gets lots of support and therapy in school.

I’m scared to death about his teen years. “Normal” children get picked on in High School, what will happen to my son?

I remember in our high school we had the Resource Room. And those kids would join the “regular population” during gym and lunch. They were separated most of the time. Protected and kept away from the rotten kids who would make fun of them, hurt them and ruin their spirits and all the hard work people put into them. At least they were protected unlike my son may be. He will be left with the general population and their intolerance for differences. Because that is how their parents raised them. I thankfully wasn’t raised like that. We need to education our “normal” children so they can help Mild or Severely disabled children. If we did this we wouldn’t have to worry about titles and separating children because they are different.

November 30, 2007 at 12:57 pm
(20) Bob King says:

I find it interesting that autism and quite a few other “disorders” are more or less overtly defined in terms of the impact the “disorder” has on “normal people” who are unwilling to cope with the person that is, as opposed to the expression of personality that they believe they have a right to expect.

Never has this been more clear than in the clash between the “Autism Speaks” people versus those (such as myself) who consider that what is normal for us deserves as much respect as more common normalcies.

I saw fragments of an “autism speaks” panic piece on television, where a parent, clearly panicked out of his mind about his son’s prospects, was pointing toward his son’s stimming behavior and saying “he can’t be allowed to do that; it’s not socially acceptable.”

And yet his stimming was not intrusive – you had to look to notice, and then you had to choose to be disturbed by it.

Now, had I a child, it would seem normal to me to place the expressed needs of my child above any consideration whatsoever of “what people might think.”

But then, I’m a crazy autistic person, and I have NO idea how society “really works.”

Actually, on the contrary; this “alien anthropologist” has a rather good idea as to how society works, and the price paid by those who “succeed” on it’s terms. Being unable to play baseball doesn’t mean you can’t watch the game and figure out the rules, folks.

And, just like not stimming in public is a price it seems to many to be reasonable to expect, it is expected that many people express an interest in sports they do not actually have in order to create a credential to belong to various social networks.

And this is the sort of things that, left to their own devices, Neurotypicals would think of as being an essential social skill – social masking and deceptions, the hiding of needs, agendas and interests that would conflict or unduly contrast with the norms of that group.

I know, I’m not saying it in a nice way, so please take it as a given that you-all feel as you do about the ultimate necessity of creating as wide a social network as possible.

But amusingly enough, you are blind to the fact that your children do not need those networks, and are clearly savaged by the “pack” every time they try to belong.

Why do they try to belong? Because everything in society tells them that they can’t be real people if they don’t “fit in.”

Well, fitting in is not something your child probably needs, unless it’s with people comfortable to them. And that’s probably going to be somewhere between one and five people total, at any given time, that they are capable of having a relationship with at all in any sense they would term “relationship.”

This is a fact, to the extent that it’s possible to establish it; something that if not absolutely true of every autie and aspie I’ve met, is something that would be exceptional if not the case.

For most of us, social interaction sucks energy out of us. We don’t find it rewarding for it’s own sake, it’s something that if done, is done for a reason, like any other sort of hard work.

And, when I’m with people who think like that, (whether or not their wetware pretty much forces it, or because they are task oriented people), I don’t HAVE social difficulties, because I do have social skills appropriate to that, developed in those contexts.

But if you think an autistic should be able to handle any possible social situation that an NT could, and for no better reason than NT’s do it, you are desperately wrong. We cannot easily conform, cannot usually conform successfully, and certainly not in the long term, and aside from that, are generally of the least social utility when doing as society expects.

I became empowered when I realized that “fitting in” was a inappropriate goal for me, and that every time I tried, it was at an insupportable price.

Moreover, I’ve also seen what happens to productive, goal oriented enterprises where the “social” people take over, unwilling to do anything or achieve anything that doesn’t involve their incomprehensible dances of status and domination.

This is not a game that aspies or auties need to learn to play – because there is not a single thing we could win that we could use if we won.

What we do need to learn are a variety of ways to say, more or less politely as conditions warrant, “no thanks.”

I like t-shirts. :P



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December 1, 2007 at 11:31 pm
(21) Susan says:

I have an 11 year old son with PDD-NOS which is also in the autistic spectrum. He was diagnosed when he was 4 years old. The most frustrating thing about having a child who is mildly autistic is, to everyone else, they appear as very bright, articulate, well-adjusted children. This is not so though. My son does not function without his meds…at all. He attends a private school for children with social and behavoral problems (a theraputic setting is needed) because, he can’t function in a regular public school in a special ed class.

My poor baby has always tried to fit in and it gets more frustrating for him as well as others. He deals with constant ridicule and it upsets me so much.

I have had such a hard time dealing with this over the years. First the denial, then the acceptance and still dealing or trying to deal with it. I often wonder if he will be able to follow his dreams and grow up to lead a full life. Not a day goes by that I don’t beat myself up because, I could have done more.

Even now as I sit here writing about this, tears are coming to my eyes. What really stinks is I have no one to talk to about this.

December 4, 2007 at 9:24 am
(22) janice says:

Susan,
Yes, that is the difficult part, being alone as a parent and watching your child go through these difficulties. And, yes, it is best, as Bob states, that they learn to not need or require the networks that “normal” society expects, but that usually comes only with experience and maturity. For most children, this is not so–schools, teachers, administrators, day-care providers, and peers all expect certain behaviors from the child. They do get picked on–my son’s high school had a zero tolerance policy–if a fight was started, both the recipient and the instigator were expelled. Because he was the “class nerd”, and a top student (all g/t and honors), some bullies would try to start something to get him kicked out of school. Those are just part of the incidences. Because his gross motor skills were also deficient, his PE teacher chose to give him a C–which moved him from first in his class to 7th, and is the only C he ever earned. He struggled on, but my heart, and the heart of his grandmother, ached for him. It does not get easier, I am sorry to say. Even now, after he has gone through 15 years of higher education, including Harvard, it is extremely difficult. There are parent support groups in most metropolitan areas, but if you live in an outlying area and/or have a full time job, they are hard to attend. Try not to beat yourself up–I struggled for years before realizing that it was something that was given to him, and to me, to suffer–and an opportunity to grow. You will shed many tears, but you sound like the kind of parent who will stop at nothing to make sure her child has a chance to lead a relatively “normal” life. When my son was growing up and problems were first noticeable, there was no diagnosis available, no special programs, no support systems–so I understand your feeling of being alone and the frustration that comes along with it. My thoughts are with you. I always try to remember that “difference is not deficit”–I can’t remember who coined the phrase, but it is apt. May I suggest a couple of contacts? There are quite a few online groups that I have found to be helpful and participation can be as you desire. Also, even though it is specifically designed for ADD or ADHD individuals, a program in Indianapolis, Indiana (of which my son was a pilot case) was very helpful-The Bender Institute’s web site may give you some ideas about whether particular therapy could be useful. My husband’s nephew was just diagnosed at age 4 in Florida, and his parents are going to an alternative practitioner–a gluten-free, preservative-free, ect. diet has really helped in their case, two years later, as it did in my son’s (I was into the “natural” movement, anyway, even then). Your son’s biggest supporter for the next years will be you, and you and his family will be his most important network for many years to come. My thoughts are with you.

December 6, 2007 at 1:42 am
(23) Cynthia says:

I don’t agree that high-functioning usually suffer more. My son is low-functioning and he is very upset that he can’t talk like other people, can’t play video games, etc. He gets so frustrated with his simple 2-word sentence speech. He struggles to talk more– he really wants to, struggles to be more articulate. He is also upst that he can’t play video games like his brother and other kids. I’ve seen this with other low functioning kids also. Please don’t assume that because they are low functioning they are not aware of — and distressed by — their deficits.

December 6, 2007 at 7:41 am
(24) autism says:

cynthia – your comment is very interesting to me. I didn’t realize to what degree frustration for low functioning kids would result from comparing themselves to others.

I’d say that Tom definitely falls into the “higher functioning” category, yet he seems almost unaware of any differences, and completely unfrustrated by them. I finally asked him point blank whether he sees any differences because of his autism, and he said – “yes, because when I laugh at things that are funny in my imagination people don’t know why I’m laughing and they think I’m weird.” I asked if that bothered him, and he just kinda shrugged… and said “I won’t laugh at my imagination as much.” I think he said it just to get me off his back, though!

Lisa

December 6, 2007 at 4:03 pm
(25) janice says:

Perhaps it is time to stop referring to places on the spectrum as “high” or “low” functioning–it is relative to each individual and circumstance, and all on the spectrum suffer.

December 20, 2007 at 2:02 pm
(26) Michelle says:

I have never had a single experience with a Autistic child, that I’m aware of, until this year. I deeply appreciate all of the comments that have been left. Its been EYE OPENING to say the least!
My 11 year old daughter and some friends were approached by the school councilor about 2 weeks ago. She asked them to help her out with one of their classmates who had recently been diagnosed with Mild Autism. This classmate has many times in the past been “the joke” or “bullied” by many of the students. The counselor did try to educate these girls on just what Mild Autism is. (I apologize if I’m not accurately articulating the proper name of this disorder). The goals had been set to have these few girls rotate having lunch with her. Helping her to be a better communicator and assist her with social skills. Again this was originally a “Lunchtime” task.

The task over the past two weeks, has been carried over to the recess time. It appears to have caught on, as there are now several other kids involved who weren’t initially. Some parents are very concerned this could in-fact backfire on not just our kids, but also on this little girl. Rumors and Gossip has started a few arguements between kids that had never had problems before. They all seem to be revolving around the one needing the help.
My concern is.. are we helping her or hurting her? Is all of the positive attention going to prepare her for how cold the rest of the world is.. or when these kids who are being supportive today, decide they don’t want to be any longer, is she going to be in a worse place then she is today, without all the attention.
So called “normal children” at this age, don’t understand the affects their bullying and teasing can have on a kid, long into their mature years. It molds who they are, and ruins so many of the dreams they may have, due to doubt and insecurities. So I can understand this philosophy of having these kids set good examples and helping to mold a positive self confident adult. However.. is it too much for 11 year olds’ to handle. Will it turn ugly?

January 11, 2008 at 5:56 pm
(27) sarah says:

i enjoyed the articles immensely. i have a daughter who is now nineteen years and was diagnosed with a mild form of autism. its very difficult for her to come to terms with the diagnosis and we dont even use it anymore for our lives because it didnt bring us any real help practically or otherwise. i agree with the person who spoke about the demands placed on the individual by our culture to narrowly prescribed acceptable behaviour. which really in the large opart isnt natural anyway. we live very complex and complicated lives and there is much insincerity to socialising which has baffled and disturbed my daughter. i love and apprecciate her clear sightedness. she has clear perspective on people and is able to se through the facade od social behaviour. it is such a shame that gifts have to be pathologised and that we make a problem out of difference rather than locating the problem in the rightful place with those who are small minded and intolerant of individuality. this is not to say that i have not found parenting my daughter challenging. a large part of that difficulty has definiately been other peoples stupidity.

September 7, 2008 at 4:36 am
(28) sansu13 says:

NO. THERE SHOULD NOT BE. I HOPE doctors will just use another name for it. AUTISM should just be for severe cases…if ther are mild cases,as they call it, these kids should not be put in the same label. There is no wrong thing about autism ONLY for the people who know about the syndrome. But most of the people dont know autism, if they hear the word autism, they always think negative. so if its a mild case, or high functioning, i hope doctors will just use another term but not autism.

October 31, 2008 at 1:01 am
(29) spunkykitty says:

i hv worked with autistic children as an arts therapis, and i myself am straddling the vague ephemeral no-man’s space between mild-autism / asperger’s…

i hv heard many ppls now say how beautiful autistic children are… and i am heartened & glad… but guess what, we grow up into adults some day, as i did… and the condemnation begins doesn’t it, no matter how sheltered the childhood… then what? we are labeled “neurotic, insane, impossible, difficult, ridiculous, insecure (because we ask so many ‘me’ questions)… etc etc ad nauseum… and for those of us who do manage to love, and try to express this love, the added burden of rejection … how do we cope? where do we find pple who will recognise our uniqueness as positive and not negative additions to their lives? we can be so much more than ‘normal’ or non-autistic pple… but sadly, not many would give us half a chance…

more about autistic kids is great… keep them coming, but i would also like to hear from more adults who r actually aware… and who hv or are going thru the crazy scary path of ‘love’ and relationships…

November 24, 2008 at 11:40 am
(30) Tonya says:

On Oct. 29, 2008. My 2 1/2 yr old son was diagnosed with mild autism. And yes he is high fuctioning to an extent,But he doesnt speak as much as he did when he was 1yrs old. I use to hear him all day call mommy, now I am lucky to hear it once a day. He tries very hard and gets very frustrated. Communication skills are slim to none. He has break downs,due to this. But he is very smart. He is very loving,but he plays around you not with unless he is interested. He gets very frightened of many things that most children his age would love to play with. I would love to see my child look me in the eyes and say I love you mommy. Bullies are out there though and it kills me to hear people say he is just lazy and these are adults. I have friends who have serverly low functioning autistic children and we are a support group for one another. ASD is highley on the rise and I am trying to do all the research I can not just for me but for my child. I can not stand the “R” word. Society looks at all special children and adults diffrently because they do not understand. I know that I am rambelling, But I am on this journey and it is time to pull together and be more understanding,not trying to figure out who has it worse or who barely has it. These children and adults are in this for life. Regardless of there state socoety is going to label them and it is our given right to protect those less fortunate than us . We are all Gods creation. My son is the perfect lil man he can be and even though he cant say it or express it the way others might he does in his own lil way.

January 1, 2009 at 8:03 pm
(31) nicole says:

My son was diagnosed with mild autism 4 day’s after his 2nd birthday. And I must say to answer the question that someone asked, with the symptoms my son has, he will do in front of any of my friend’s and or family. The only people he will not do it in front of is the doctor that is seeing him. My son acted out in front of the Neurologist and I was VERY surprised because my son won’t act out in front of people he does not know.

January 7, 2009 at 2:58 pm
(32) Kate says:

It is hard to seperate the two ends of the spectrum when kids are young because you don’t know where you will end up. So, how do you have two different names? When my son was 3 he was “on the autism spectrum”. When he was 7 he was labelled Asperger’s; at 11 a psychiatrist labelled him as “Asperger’s with distinct autistic characteristics”. So, I don’t know, we say he is an Aspie, but many nt people don’t know what that is, so out comes the “mildly autistic” label. I would love it if our culture was more accepting of people who are different, and specifically worked with all of our kids to reject teasing and bullying. The world would be better for it (for everyone.)

January 30, 2009 at 3:00 am
(33) rikeweeno says:

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February 23, 2009 at 4:51 am
(34) valerie says:

I have a 2 year old son that has recently been diagnosed with mild autism. I am still learning about autism and the behaviors that come with it. My daughter is 4 years old and so far, has no problems. I can already tell that you that I will not feel comfortable sending my boy to a public school because I don’t think he will fit in. I have seen other children who have severe autism and you can physically see that there is something wrong with them. There are others that look just fine, but speak differently than other children their age. I have read that patience on the parents part is a big must. I also read that when teaching a child like this, repeating what you are teaching them is a must. Constantly repeating. For each child is different in the way they learn, so it will take time to figure out the best way for your child. I am hopeful and nervous at the same time for my sons future. This is new territory for me and I personally feel like I’m trying to walk across the freeway blind.

January 6, 2010 at 10:16 pm
(35) Rachel says:

To answer the last paragraph, I must say that the symptoms of anxiety would not appear while around friends and family. They shouldn’t be very anxious there.

As a child, I had an anxiety disorder called Selective Mutism. I may even be “mildly autistic”. With Selective Mutism, I would not talk to adults I did not know. The only adults I talked to were my mom and dad. I didn’t talk to even aunts, uncles, grandparents, or older cousins. The anxiety made it so that I could not speak. I could, however, talk to my parents and friends because I was not anxious around them.

January 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm
(36) Zoe says:

Yes i think there’s defently such thing as Mild autistim but i dunno for sure. im 16 now and i assume im have autism and if i dont then i assume i have autistic traits. personally i dont think i meet the criteria as an autistic would. My doctor says i doubt you’ve got it but i sure will refer you to a specialise. so i got to go there sometime. it’s annoying for girls their the ones that usually go misdiagnosed alot of the time i think they have less traits than boys. anyway i think it is possible that someone can have it midly . :) x

December 12, 2010 at 5:46 pm
(37) Kate says:

At 60 I’ve been diagnosed as High Functioning Autistic. As a child in the 60′s I had speech therapy and other evaluations that found higher than average IQ but that’s as far as things went for me. I was told to learn how to conform to social cues just like everyone else was doing. My efforts often made me look more bizarre or left me emotionally eruptive with frustration.
I ran away from home at 14 because of increasing hostility from family members who took advantage of me and were bullying or otherwise cruel. Thankfully I went to San Francisco and met unconventional people who taught me that conformity is not necessary to freedom and justice. Nonconformity is natural for me. I understand laws and the spirit of the law does not escape me as it does normies who take advantage of the goodness these laws are meant to inspire.
The Flower People taught me that mind games are played on people and how to avoid them. They taught me that God created everything for a purpose and to follow my heart. Of course that has gotten me into much trouble from “the establishment” because I don’t have a need to be a consumer or socially or politically “correct”. My mind does not comprehend that some people are more important than other people so I don’t worship people. I’m not led around by what is popular, nor do I have a need to keep up with fashion. Besides that, large stores and malls make me nauseous and I can hardly wait to get outdoors.
I truly think that this country as well as Canada and the UK have over civilized society and those of us who CANNOT conform stick out because “normal” is not REAL, it is forced.

January 23, 2011 at 8:52 am
(38) Theresa Fanasch says:

I have a 4 year old girl. Her twin brother is on the autism spectrum and considerably affected. My little girl was diagnosed with autism and at the time it wasn’t certain because she displayed mainly a speech delay and some “bad behaviors” and obsessive behaviors. i.e right sock first then left. with some special therapy her speech has dramatically improved along with her behaviors. She is very social, has lots of friends and the obsessive behaviors are almost gone. Her doctor has since changed her dx to speech delay and global developmental delay and says because of her social behaviors and typical play, she no longer qualfies for an autism dx. It is hard for us to say if she truly no longer has autism or only mild autism. Some of the therapists that visit her twin and are around her seem to imply that she is still someone “on the spectrum” and only time will tell. This is very difficult to deal with, but we are ecstatic that she has made such great improvements, but I feel she may really be a classic case of a mildly autistic child.

February 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm
(39) Carly says:

My daughter is 7 and we were told by a dev ped that she could have mild autism.
If you met her, you would not know at all. She is personable, funny, makes eye contact, speaks and plays with other kids one-on-one or in small groups. She even has a BFF. But since she was 3 we have been struggling with bizarre behavior: severe temper tantrums over small things (less often now but still happen 1-2x a month); persistent uncooperative behavior; difficult potty training and odd behavior with feces (touching, hiding, smearing); won’t join group activities like a gymnastics class or participate at a birthday party; you can’t touch her with wet hands; she has rituals that must be followed for morning and bedtime; she has immature social skills but uses humor to make up for it, so most of the time kids don’t notice (not yet anyway); she is struggling to learn in all areas but mostly reading and writing. Her IQ is low average.
The dr said she is a complicated case because she doesn’t have a lot of the typical symptoms. She was classified for special ed under OHI for ADHD and learning issues. She’s in a regular classroom and gets pulled out for resource room, but we feel she needs more help. Her teacher is somewhat understanding but feels she is not applying herself enough and “chooses not to” ask for help.
We are so confused as to whether to test and try to get a diagnosis of pdd/autism, or to not have her tested and not give her this label for life. We are very concerned about bullying and how she will feel about herself later on. Also will the interventions significantly change if we get a diagnosis, or can we get her the help she needs without one?
I bet there are a lot of people out there dealing with similar situations. I do believe there are MANY degrees of this developmental disorder, and that we will see many more iterations in the years ahead. Many kids like ours probably just fall through the cracks.

April 10, 2011 at 8:25 am
(40) Tina says:

I have a 14 year old son who was diagnosed with ASD only a couple of months ago. He had been struggling with school for years. At 2 and a half I was told that he had severe dyspraxia. I feel very angry that he has struggled with something for so long that he could have gotten help with earlier. Dyspraxia is not considered a bad enough condition to get help through the education department with. Now that he has ASD, he is getting help but it breaks my heart to know that it is to late for him, for it to be of any major difference.

May 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm
(41) Happy says:

There are varying degrees of severity on the spectrum. I think the difference in saying that someone is mildly affected by autism isn’t really meant that it’s mild. I think it is more referring to the functional level of that person. Some people who are mildly affected are able to live independent lives and can be very successful. I take care of patients that are autistic including my own son. My husband has Asperger syndrome. I see the difference in the severity levels in these children. Some children and families struggles are much greater than others. That doesn’t mean it’s a easy road for any of them. My husband and child are able to function and live a happy independent life. It’s heartbreaking to see the varying outcomes with this disorder. Have you heard the saying, ” If you’ve seen ONE child with autism, you’ve seen One autistic child.” This is very true! No child can be molded into a category. There all going to have different outcomes and different struggles. So maybe, we should just call it autism. It’s not going to change the outcome of each individual child.

July 5, 2011 at 5:17 am
(42) Anne says:

I was diagnosed with Mild Autism when I started school (about seven). Most people do not realise how disabling Autism can be; while it is true that mildly autistic people benefit from having speech and normal intelligence, they still have similar problems that are experienced by classically Autistic people. I found school difficult because of teasing and rejection, the emotional effects from bullying are still with me today. I have trouble with sensory processing and become overloaded often, I simply tune off. I think the hardest thing about having Autism is not being able to fully communicate your needs or explain what you are feeling to others, even with speech this can be hard. With Low Functioning Autism, they obviously are disabled and people are more likely to exhibit empathy. With High Functioning Autism, they are expected to socially conform to to the standards of non-Autistic people and as a result are labelled as being rude, obnoxious and strange.

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