Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

2013 Edition
| Editors: Fred R. Volkmar

High-Functioning Autism (HFA)

  • Joshua Diehl
  • Karen Tang
  • Brynn Thomas
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1698-3_344


High-functioning autism is a term used to refer to a subset of individuals on the autism spectrum who have cognitive and/or linguistic abilities that are in the average to above average range for their age. It is common for the acronym “HFA” to be used in place of the full term to describe individuals in this range of functioning.

Historical Background

In the first characterizations of the disorder, both Kanner and Asperger noted the average to above average intellectual capabilities in the individuals they observed, despite the significant social deficits that they displayed. Kanner argued explicitly in several papers that the deficits he saw were separable from intellectual disability, and that most of the children he encountered were of average to above average intelligence. Interestingly, Asperger used the “special gifts” of the children he observed to advocate for their protection from the Nazi eugenics movement (Feinstein, 2010).

Historically, testing IQ in children...

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References and Readings

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.The Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Laboratory, Laboratory for Understanding NeurodevelopmentNorthwestern University, and the University of Notre DameChicagoUSA