How can I explain what it means to be a high functioning autistic to those who do not have autism?

Well, first, I’ll give you the Wikipedia definition:

Highfunctioning autism (HFA) is a term applied to people with autism who are deemed to be cognitively “higher functioning” (with an IQ of 70 or greater) than other people with autism.

Asperger Syndrome and HFA are often referred to as the same diagnosis. While they currently exist as two separate diagnoses, there is an ongoing debate about whether that is necessary. It is possible that, in the future, they may be combined into one category. In my opinion, I wouldn’t mind one bit if they were combined.

There is disagreement about how many people on the autism spectrum are on the high or low end of the spectrum. I tend to agree with the view that most people with autism are “somewhere in the middle”. That’s how I see myself anyway. Unfortunately, what media attention there is to autism goes to folks at the high and the low ends of the spectrum. Those who are unable to take care of themselves and the high functioning geniuses.

From working with special education students, some of whom have severe autism, I have seen first hand how it is extraordinarily difficult living on the lower end of the spectrum. Logic would suggest that people on the high end of the spectrum have it easy. After all, many of those with HFA are bright and may have impressive talents. But the reality is quite different.

For example, it wasn’t uncommon for my name to be on the honor roll. I graduated with honors. However, if I had been graded on social interaction, I would have flunked more than passed. I could count on one hand how many friends I had and I didn’t need all the five fingers to count. I wanted to be in the circle but yet I didn’t know how. It was easier to be the loner, doing the self-talk, and entertaining myself in my imaginary world. It still is and I just turned 60-years-old.

Here are just a few of the issues that get between people on the high end of the autism spectrum:

Those on the higher end have sensory dysfunctions as people in the middle or lower. An example a mild, moderate, or extreme sensitivity to noise, crowds, bright lights, strong tastes, smells, and touch. This is why I won’t walk into a crowded store unless I am needing to buy something really BAD! I mean really BAD! It partly explains why I avoid movie theatres. I don’t like crowds and it’s hard for me to sit still through a movie at home let alone in a public place. The other reason I avoid movie theatres is the movie prices.

What’s the difference between a simple greeting from someone from the opposite sex and a signal of romantic interest? How loud is too loud? When is okay to talk about your personal issues or interests? When is it important to stop doing what you enjoy in order to attend to another person’s needs? These are tough questions for anyone, but for those of us on the spectrum, it’s is overwhelming! I am a never-married woman who can’t even claim to having been a bridesmaid. Since learning I was on the spectrum two years ago, I have come to embrace my singleness now that I have an explanation as to why I am socially disabled.

Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders are more common among people with HFA than they are among the general population. It isn’t known whether autism causes mood disorders, or whether the disorders are the result of social rejection and frustration—but whatever their causes, mood disorders can be disabling in themselves. I know this all too well. Since being put on antidepressant medication, I am doing much better. The medication isn’t a cure, but I have experienced relief in my mood swings.

Take it from someone who lives on the spectrum, people with autism have plenty of emotions. In fact, I can be far too emotional in the wrong situations. I am like a cat with its tail caught because of a change in plans. I react like  a robot up in arms going in circles screaming “panic alert” when my electric scooter’s tire goes flat. I can do a good many things that don’t come easy to others but ONLY when the situation is predictable.

Then, there is the awesome task of following verbal instructions. I deal with this at home and school. A teacher once asked me, “Get the phone.” I went to her landline phone even though I was scratching my head since I hadn’t heard it ring. Actually, she wanted me to get her cell phone and hand it to her. As you can imagine, this can cause any number of issues, ranging from serious problems with the police to inadvertent mistakes at work.

HFA is what it says. It is not an easy or simple thing to live with. For those caring for, employing, teaching, or working with people on the higher end of the spectrum, it’s important to remember that autism is autism.

Living My Faith

Verse of the Day

August 22

James 2:17

17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 

Faith is a hard word to miss when reading the Bible.  I did a Google search wanting to know how many times the word “faith” appears in the Bible.  One can learn just about anything on Google or other web browsers.  Google’s answer was 366 times in the King James version of the Bible.  I’ll just say I took Google’s word for it.

I have heard more than one interpretation of James 2:17.  What this verse says to me is simple:  my faith is dead if it’s all talk and no walk.  It’s one thing to believe the Lord has my back; it’s another to act on that belief.  If shortly after my “SOS” prayer, I am worried about my “SOS”, I am not backing up my faith with action.  Even worse if I panic and take matters into my own hands.  I know from painful personal experience that just increases my “SOS” stress level.  I made the hole I was languishing in just wider and deeper.

Some of my prayers’ answers came quickly and some take a long time in coming.  Waiting upon the Lord is an ACTION!  It may sound simple but it is NOT!  I’m reminded of that every time I go to the doctor’s office.  First, there’s the wait in the lobby.  I learned not to get excited if I am called in with little waiting time.  Why?  Because usually I’m waiting far longer in the cold examining room sitting on an uncomfy examining table for the doctor to make a brief appearance.

I’d rather do the long wait and have the right answer than to have an immediate answer that would only make me wish I had waited upon the Lord.  I want out of the hole I’m in instead of falling into another.  It is a continual lesson that the Lord knows not only what’s best, but the when, where, and how of it.

As one who is addicted to modern technology, one of my gadgets is an illustration to me of putting faith in action.  When I bought my first Toyota Prius, I had my first encounter with GPS navigation tool.  Since gadgets are one of my autistic obsessions/special interests, it was right up my alley.

I recall a long drive where one of the cities on my path was Nashville.  I was relying on my GPS big time since Nashville was unknown territory.  Suddenly my GPS said to take an exit off the interstate highway.  I said, “Are you sure about this?”  I wasn’t expecting GPS to answer but I talk to my car and myself all the time.  I had my misgivings but I exited off the interstate.   My GPS was then leading me through neighborhood streets, the library, schools, etc.  My anxiety was rising with each intersection.  Then, low and behold, Nashville’s skyline was staring right ahead of me.  I thought I was supposed to be going around Nashville, not in the thick of it.  Just in the nick of time, my GPS spoke up and said take a right turn.  It didn’t have to tell me twice!  To my utter relief, it led me up an entrance ramp where I rejoined the interstate.

My GPS is like the Lord’s spirit speaking to my heart.  If I don’t listen and follow the conviction on my heart, His guidance won’t do me any good.  It will be just like not listening to my GPS’s instructions.  I believe the Lord works in my life, but if I shun His guidance, I’ll be as lost as I would be if I turned off my GPS.

There are plenty of Bible characters who have a story of putting their faith in action.  Noah built an ark because God told him to do so and not because what the sky was telling him.  Daniel disobeyed the King’s orders by continuing to pray to God only knowing it meant the death penalty of a lion’s den.  Daniel did his part and God protected Daniel from the lions’ mouths.  God told Abraham He had a promised land for him and his descendants.  Abraham didn’t just only believe God in his heart.  He took action by packing up him and his family, servants, and possessions without knowing where in the world he was going.  If he had just stayed where he was, there might not be a country named Israel on the world map.