But He Should Know That! : Misconceptions of High Functioning Autism from the Outside

I watched a very moving lecture on YouTube this morning from the University of California, “High Functioning Children with Autism.” I’ve now spent the day pondering concepts discussed, such as High Functioning Autistic (HFA) child’ ability to use executive functions of the brain including their working memory and how social attention (the ability to process information all around them) is difficult for them.

The speaker on more than one occasion admitted, after announcing that as of this summer the diagnosis of Aspergers will no longer exist, that they really don’t fully understand HFA or how to diagnosis these children.

Well, I can certainly attest that statement. I have stated before, that now after 8 years of life, our son still has never received a clear diagnosis. We have gone through the rounds of ODD, Aspergers, High Functioning Autism with ADHD tendencies and more. Through it all, I have just had to focus on our son and forget a specific label.

Here is where it gets hard though. Like my son, many HFA children present themselves with adequate social interaction and high to extremely high IQ’s. At first glance, they come off as highly intelligent and capable little people leaving those standing on the outside to question when their abilities in certain facets of functioning or life are severely lacking or non-existent.

The general response is that they SHOULD KNOW THAT!

For us the staunch looks and squinted eyes come when someone discovers that our son cannot recite a simple nursery rhyme, his address or phone number or tie his shoes. These deficits fall right into line with the fact that his spelling, comprehension and math skills fall behind what is considered “normal” for his age. Why, well it all ties into the memory, the executive functions and the social attention.

These are things that he simply can NOT do at this time, but it does not mean that we will not continue to work at them for as long as it takes. Searching for the loop hole in his memory and reasoning abilities that he will someday be able to manipulate to perform these task.

What I find truly interesting about our lack of diagnosis was the speaker’s comparison of children with HFA who present with signs of ODD, ADHD and such. Is it the combination of all the separate diagnosis that present with the illusion of the HFA or does the HFA instead merely mimic the other diagnosis. They do not know, and clearly, I may never really know exactly what is going on in my child’s head.

Additionally, studies show that executive function seems to be impaired in those with Dyslexia and ADHD. So then again, I ask myself the question, does he really have HFA or is his memory just impaired by these smaller diagnoses?

I do know I am climbing a mountain with my son while the world is 50 feet of ahead of him and looking down wondering why he is falling back when he looks so much stronger. I will continue to guide him up that mountain, carving out his own path and someday he will make it to the top and he will KNOW THAT.