High Functioning Autism
Autism is a developmental disorder that typically
appears in the first three years of life.
Although it is not known what causes this
syndrome, current research links it to biological
or neurological differences in the brain.
There appears to be a genetic basis for this
disorder. Normal brain development in the
area of reasoning, social interaction and
communication skills seems to be impacted
most often. 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, with the diagnosis
of Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning
autism. 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.
Asperger’s Web Sites
Online Asperger Syndrome
Information & Support
Understanding Asperger Syndrome: A Professor's Guide
- Impaired use of nonverbal behaviors to
regulate social interaction (such as gestures
and facial expressions). Individuals with
Asperger’s have difficulty understanding
gestures, facial expressions and body
language in general.
- Failure to develop peer relationships.
- Lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
- Peculiar voice quality and speech patterns.
Individuals with Asperger’s 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
- Prone to sensory overload.
- Academic ability is similar to the general
student population, however, the following
are some issues that may rise within the
- 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
- Encourage the student to ask for
clarification – rephrase instructions
- 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
Please note that no two students with
Asperger’s are alike in terms of how they are
affected. Below are some examples of what
may be seen. The social behavior of persons
with Asperger’s 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 Asperger’s 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
Asperger’s feeling misunderstood and isolated.
Clinical depression and social anxiety are
not uncommon because of these problems
with social interaction.
Appointments may be made by calling
(518) 629-7154, TDD (518) 629-7596
or by fax at (518) 629-4831.