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The Symptoms of High Functioning Autism in Adults

written by: Debbie Roome • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/27/2011

High functioning autism in adults is characterized by a number of specific symptoms. While some adults with the disorder find employment and marry, their behavior patterns will reveal their autism in daily life. Find out more with this look at the symptoms of high functioning autism in adults.

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    Verbal Symptoms of High Functioning Autism in Adults

    The symptoms of high functioning autism in adults vary from individual to individual. Many adults have a good grasp and understanding of language but the way they speak sets them apart as different. Typical signs include the following:

    • Formal style of speech that does not suit the occasion.
    • The prosody or melody of speech is unusual and this is reflected through its pitch, stress and rhythm. The meaning of speech is communicated through accents, flow and volume and an autistic person does not use these in the ways that other people do.
    • Figures of speech and sarcasm are not understood by autistic adults and expressions such as "has the cat got your tongue?" may be taken literally.
    • Conversational skills are weak and the adult may avoid conversing or often launches into a monologue about a personal interest.
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    Behavioral Symptoms of High Functioning Autism in Adults

    A group of symptoms of high functioning autism in adults concern behavior patterns. These commonly include the following:

    • Preoccupation with a special interest. This is more than just a hobby as the intensity or focus given to it is abnormal, to the point of being an obsession. The adult may spend hours studying a topic such as trains, aircraft or computers and talk about it incessantly.
    • The interest may concern parts of objects and the adult may be seen intently studying the inner workings of a clock or staring into the cab of a locomotive.
    • Inflexible routines are common in adults with high functioning autism. They like to have their day planned and if something happens to upset it, they become distressed and disagreeable.
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    Social Symptoms of High Functioning Autism in Adults

    An adult with high functioning autism may desire friendship and even marriage but a number of social weaknesses make relationships difficult. Social problems include the following:

    • The high functioning autistic adult has difficulties interacting with peers. Although he or she may attempt to join a conversation, they often end up being ostracized because of their behavior.
    • Inappropriate body language is a large part of an autistic adult’s problem. Outward actions may convey boredom and a lack of interest although this is not the case.
    • Facial expressions are not understood by adults with high functioning autism. They look at a person's face and are unable to read emotions such as joy, sorrow, boredom or anger.
    • Conversations may fail, especially if the adult launches into a monologue about their special interest.

    Symptoms of high functioning autism in adults are diverse and affect each person in different ways. Most signs are related to speech, behavior patterns and social skills, and weaknesses in these areas can point towards a diagnosis of autism. While some people are only diagnosed as adults, there is help available for them to improve.

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    The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007