Researchers: Don't Use Term 'High Functioning Autism'

Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - 5:15pm

You’ve probably heard the term, “high functioning autism,” a term used for people with autism spectrum disorder, who don’t have a cognitive impairment.  But a recent study suggests that term should not be used at all. 

Researchers said the term “high functioning autism” is a misnomer and should not be used to describe individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

The study, which appeared in the journal Autism, looked at IQ and a person’s adaptive functioning, which refers to the age-appropriate skills a person needs to take care of themselves.  

Christopher Smith is the vice president and director of research at the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, or SARRC, in Phoenix

"The conclusion was the study was exactly that. That high functioning autism is an inaccurate clinical descriptor when based solely on intelligence because the term functioning in general encompasses a much wider range of abilities," Smith said. 

Smith said that term "high functioning" is rarely used at SARRC. The study looked at more than 2,000 participants between ages 1 and 18.

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