High-functioning autism is often missed or misunderstood, not least because those with it so often overcompensate for their traits. The term has also been phased out in "official" quarters and yet it still applies to just so many people, not least those who have reached midlife undiagnosed (and especially women). Tackling this controversial topic on behalf of those of us who still fall between the cracks, with a link to some useful resources to help you find your way.

Full spectrum

Being on the spectrum doesn’t mean one person lives at a high functioning end and some other autistic person lives somewhere in the middle or at the bottom. It means we are all a range, within ourselves, and some of those highs can mask the lows (a primary reason for missed diagnosis). One trait alone can overcompensate for several shortfalls and mean adults are so blinded by your ability they don’t accommodate or even see your considerable struggles. You then exhaust yourself by overcompensating for, or masking, your own struggles for years, burning yourself out by having to work twice as hard as everyone else just to get by or meet high expectations set by others which you took on at face value. Suddenly, you are hit between the eyes by the pathos of this…you were never really that person they thought you were, which you took on at face value, but rather this other person with such a wide mixture of gifts and challenges they almost seem to cancel you out.

Could you be a “twice-exceptional” adult?

Twice-exceptionality is such fertile territory to explore for anyone who may have even an inkling it applies to them (assumng they can get over the sticking point of using that much stigmatised word “gifted” for long enough to even consider it). The effect of being gifted in some areas and yet held back in others can make a person seem as though they are coping when they really aren’t, and it can also deprive them of the help, understanding and accommodations they desperately need for their deficit areas, as well as the recognition they deserve for their exceptionality. The outcome can be a lifetime of lost potential, fallen through the cracks, or even total burnout...until both the giftedness and challenges can be seen side by side and looked at in a whole new way.

High-functioning autism and the creative, self-teaching maverick

The propensity to teach ourselves new skills and prefer to do things our own way from the outset is, I suspect, a trait of high-functioning autism. It makes us into mavericks, it sometimes increases what looks like our failure or non-completion rate and it frustrates the hell out of partners when we prefer to construct things "out of the box" without first consulting the instruction leaflet. However, it also makes us movers and shakers when it comes to making paradigm leaps...a much needed skillset at this point in time.