Why ‘High Functioning’ Autism Is So Challenging

 At this point in history, there is disagreement about how many people on the autism spectrum are on the high or low end of the spectrum (or whether most people with autism are “somewhere in the middle”). It is clear, however, that the lion’s share of media attention goes to folks at the high and the low ends of the spectrum—that is, the profoundly disabled and the very high functioning.

The fact is that life with severe autism is extraordinarily difficult. Logic would suggest that people on the high end of the spectrum have it easy—as do their families and teachers. After all, people with high functioning autism are often very bright and may have impressive talents. But the reality is quite different.

Myth: People High Functioning Autism Are Unusually Intelligent and Successful

If the media is to believed, the high end of the autism spectrum is peopled largely by eccentric geniuses—Bill Gates and Albert Einstein are often mentioned, along with Dan Aykroyd and Daryl Hannah—who by and large do very well indeed, though they march to the beat of their own drummer. The reality, however, is that “high functioning autistic” and “genius,” “business tycoon,” and “Hollywood star” rarely go together. In fact:

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