Center for Access and Assistive Technology

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
High Functioning Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that typically appears in the first three years of life. Autism is referred to as a “spectrum disorder,” meaning that the symptoms and characteristics can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. People with autism experience tremendous difficulty interacting appropriately with their environment.

College campuses are seeing a number of students who are diagnosed along the high end of the autism spectrum. They can generally be distinguished from people with other forms of autism by two areas of relative strength: more normal language function and higher cognitive abilities. These individuals may be affected in their ability to understand and respond to the thoughts and feelings of others. They also may react strongly to loud noises, blinking lights and large crowds, as assaults on their senses.

Symptoms of High End ASD


  • Impaired use of nonverbal behaviors to regulate social interaction (such as gestures and facial expressions). Individuals with ASD have difficulty understanding gestures, facial expressions and body language in general.
  • Failure to develop peer relationships.
  • Lack of social or emotional reciprocity. Language
  • Peculiar voice quality and speech patterns. Individuals with ASD often have robotic or monotone speech patterns.
  • Impaired comprehension, including misinterpretation of implied meanings and figurative speech.


  • Preoccupation with one or more restricted pattern(s) of interest.
  • Inflexible adherence to specific nonfunctional routines or rituals.
  • Stereotyped or repetitive motor mannerisms.
  • Prone to sensory overload. Academic Concerns
  • Academic ability is similar to the general student population, however, the following are some issues that may rise within the academic setting:
  • An uneven profile of skills, attention deficits and cognitive disorganization.
  • Language comprehension problems an arise as language becomes more abstract in the post-secondary setting.
  • Obsessive compulsive tendencies, which may prevent timely completion of tasks.
  • The student may be easily overwhelmed.

Suggestions for Faculty

  • Provide a detailed course syllabus and adhere to it as closely as possible.
  • Use visual supports – graphs, charts, lists and pictures – to enhance your lectures.
  • Arrange seating away from windows or other sources of distraction.
  • Be very concise and direct in your instructions.
  • Encourage the student to ask for clarification – rephrase instructions as needed.
  • When asking questions in class, allow extra wait time before expecting a response from the student.
  • If there are areas of concern, consult with the Center for Access and Assistive Technology immediately.

Please note that no two students with ASD are alike in terms of how they are affected. Below are some examples of what may be seen. The social behavior of persons with ASD tends to be naive and peculiar. Many of these individuals expect all people to be good, and it is a rude awakening for them to learn that some people may try to exploit them. They may not understand jokes, irony and metaphors. Because of an intense interest in one or two topics, these individuals may talk “at” rather than “to” people, disregarding the listener’s interest. They may talk too loud, stand too close and maintain poor eye contact.

The individual with high end ASD usually does not accurately convey the intensity of his or her emotions until they are full blown, such that the reaction may appear to be far more intense than the situation warrants. Although the individual may crave social interaction, his or her unusual manner may rebuff others, leaving the person with ASD feeling misunderstood and isolated. Clinical depression and social anxiety are not uncommon because of these problems with social interaction.

Contact Numbers
Appointments may be made by calling (518) 629-7154, TDD (518) 629-7596 or by fax at (518) 629-4831.