Little do people know who are not around children with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome that there is a hidden disability associated with these two labels

As a therapist, I often refer to High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome as “Hidden Disabilities”. Many myths exist about people who have High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome. People will often refer to them as “Rain Man”, or make comments to them such as, “Wow, that is so cool, can he or she count cards.” This can leave parents in a place of frustration…frustration over the hidden challenges associated with High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome.

Little do people know who are not around children with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome that there is a hidden disability associated with these two labels. Many challenges exist with High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome, challenges that are “hidden” to most people on the street.

Children who have High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome look like typical kids. Looking back, we can probably all identify with somebody from our school years that possibly has High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome. They were probably in our regular classrooms because they typically have average or above average IQ, however, they were the children who had always appeared somewhat “quirky”.

Kids with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome have many areas of strengths such as ability to remember things, ability to pay attention to details, and ability to follow rules. Even though they have many positive strengths, they also deal with issues that are not always apparent to others they are around. They struggle with social skills, they get bullied, and they have a difficult time clearly communicating their desires. So, they will often get tagged in school as “quirky” or “defiant”.

Another struggle that parents face is that diagnosing High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome is challenging. The symptoms are very subtle and can sometimes only be seen by people who are around them a lot or by a good clinician who has had a lot of experience with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome. These two labels are typically diagnosed later in life (over age 5), so parents struggle before then in identifying with the challenges their children are facing.

Also, parents have difficulty explaining these two diagnoses to others. If you have not been around children with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome, it is difficult to pick up on the subtle differences. However, these subtle differences can present mountains of challenges for some families.

Lastly, families who have children with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome do not get the support they need, financially or emotionally. Many state programs do not cover services for these children because they do not have “mental retardation”. Many people do not know how to emotionally support families with these children because it is such a “hidden disability”.

In summary, High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome are “hidden disabilities”. Families need more support and understanding from state programs, school programs, and community programs.