High Functioning and Unique


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~ Autism ~




Highly Functioning” Doesn’t Mean “Abnormal

First of all, I really dislike the use of the word “normal”, because everyone’s “normal” is going to be a little different. So, normal is ever-changing, and not really a concrete thing. But general society has a basic idea of what “normal” should be. When people don’t fit into that category, those people frequently get looked down upon. They’re treated with impatience, bullied, and are not widely accepted.

They are mistreated mainly, I think, because these “abnormal” (I say special or unique) people make others  feel uncomfortable. Most people don’t like to feel uncomfortable. So, they react in a negative fashion towards whatever is making them feel out of place.

This behavior is done without any consideration for anyone else other than themselves. Because they want the awkward feeling to stop and if they are making someone else feel bad, then that person can’t be making them uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter if the other person wasn’t doing it to them on purpose.

For the “abnormal” person, their reality is normal. For the “normal” person, their reality is normal. This is why the word “normal” is not a good way to describe someone. Nor is it a good reason to mistreat someone.

On the Autism spectrum, there are different levels. One of these is referred to as “high functioning”. In my experience, this is usually applied to children/people of extremely high intelligence. These people can function in society, but have difficulties doing so. Mostly due to their high intelligence and the accompanying “side effects”.

For example, people with high IQs have much different thought processes from people with a more average IQ. Their brains simply work differently because they use more of it. It is how they were created. Because of this, when faced with a problem, they will often come up with very off-the-wall solutions that many people would not have thought of. To them, their solutions appear easy while to the average person, the solution is complicated.

This creates a frustrating tension between the two people. Because the autistic person doesn’t understand what is so hard about their solution, and the other person doesn’t understand why they want to do something so complicated. Especially if there’s an easier solution or when they could just do something different altogether.

Another example is the autistic person will do something that appears to have no reasoning behind it whatsoever. This behavior leaves the other person confused as to why they did what they did, and upset with them for acting inappropriately. Many times, the other person will not take the time ask the autistic person why they did whatever it was that they did, or genuinely try to understand their reasoning. They just get upset and impatient with them.

This causes confusion and stress for the autistic person who usually doesn’t understand why their behavior caused this reaction. Because, in their mind, they had a reason for doing what they did. Their reason may not make sense to the other person, but it made sense to them. A simple conversation between the two people about what happened, why they did it, why it made sense to the one person and not to the other, and whether or not the action was acceptable, goes a long way towards helping both people.

You may have to find ways to word your questions differently in order to get better answers. This may seem difficult or inconvenient, but if you try, it is both doable and worth it. This increased communication helps the autistic person evolve their social abilities and train their behavior to more socially acceptable standards. It also helps the other person understand better how the autistic person thinks and why they do what they do.

Understanding one’s behavior and thought processes means that they won’t be as quick to get upset the next time the other one does something out of the ordinary. They’ll be more likely to genuinely ask why they did it, knowing that the other person likely had a reason for it.

I have learned these things and more, because not only am I on the spectrum myself with Asperger’s Syndrome, but my daughter is high functioning autistic. She is extremely smart, and she has had to deal with a variety of people being impatient and frustrated with her over the years. Usually because they wouldn’t take the time to understand her or her behavior.

All they saw was a little girl who wasn’t behaving the way they thought she should. A little girl who got so lost in her own head all the time that they would have to call her name repeatedly in order to get a response from her. So they assumed she was ignoring them, even though most of the time she simply hadn’t registered the fact that they were talking to her. They saw a little girl who had trouble controlling her emotions. So lectures and discipline were their answer (which, of course, didn’t work). When instead, they should have been: sitting down and talking to her, trying to find out what she was thinking,  helping her understand why her unique way of thinking was not always the best way, and teaching her how to adjust her behavior so her actions were more positive.

I chose to sit down and talk to her, to see what was in her mind, see what her thoughts were, see how she was feeling.  To ask her what her reasons were for doing different things, why she did something, what she was thinking when she did it. I chose to make gentle, physical contact with her, like a hand on her shoulder, when she was lost in thought. Or to find a trigger word for her when she was in her own little world. So when her brain heard that word, she would pause what she was doing and refocus on me. Things that would have helped me as a child if we had known, I did for her so she wouldn’t struggle so bad. It helped her so much!

My daughter’s behavior improved tremendously and she has better control of her emotions now. She is much more open with me about how she feels, but she usually does it politely. A “mom” look corrects her if she gets a bit disrespectful. But more than that, she feels less stressed, and she feels listened to. She is much happier now. She runs up and hugs me all the time and cuddles. She sings all the time, she isn’t depressed and angry at the world like she used to be. It is so wonderful to see my little girl so much happier now that she knows she has someone who listens to her, who doesn’t get angry with her all the time, and takes the time to truly understand her. 

Having someone listen to them means the world to any kid, especially one with autism. She still has occasional behavior problems, most kids do.  But she is a lot better now than she used to be, because she is listened to, she is accepted the way she is, and she’s not expected to be “normal” . She is encouraged to be unique, to stand out, and be herself.

My daughter and I both have very high IQ levels. We see the world so differently from the average person. Our thought processes are very different. When a problem comes up, our solutions are not always ones that most people would have thought of. When we go places or see things, we can’t just simply enjoy it. Our minds take off on a mental quest for more information about whatever it is we’re looking at. Question after question piles into our heads. It feels like you’re looking at life through a magnifying glass to understand it better.

I don’t know anyone else personally like us, but I would imagine there are others out there that experience the same thing. It’s both fun and exhausting at the same time to always be thinking about things, but we can’t take our minds off to relax LOL!

The bottom line is: Don’t treat high functioning autistic kids as if they are your version or society’s version of “normal”.  Just because they don’t have a visible disability or because they behave in a “normal” way under some circumstances, does not mean they fit the average mold. Their brain does not work the way most people’s does. Literally, their brains are constantly thinking of things you wouldn’t believe. It is almost impossible for an autistic person to see something and simply enjoy it without their brains running in fifteen million directions. I know, because my mind does it to me.

For you to expect them to behave the way the average person does, and then punish them when they don’t, is not only wrong, but it’s selfish. It is also confusing and hurtful for them. Just because you get frustrated with them or struggle to handle their uniqueness, does not mean it’s ok to try and make them be something they’re not. You can damage your child by trying to force them to fit inside the same mold everyone else fits into. They weren’t designed to fit in that mold, they were made to be special. They need to be loved and accepted for the individual that they are, not punished for being different from everyone else.

So, find your child’s talents, see what makes them unique. When they behave in a way that most people don’t understand, take the time to find out why. I’ve learned a lot from my daughter.  I think many people could learn from their kids, both on and off the spectrum. But only if they took the time to focus on the child instead of their behavior or perceived mistakes.


Note: I am not a doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, or any other medically trained professional. The opinions and views expressed in this post are simply my opinion based off my own personal experiences.








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