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.

A world of my own

What many people don’t realise is that, to someone born with autism, this is their version of normal and to come to identify and accept your own inherent traits is to “come home”, whatever that may look like to an outside observer. Its as though all the deep enthusiasm you’ve been feigning about your successes pretending to be neurotypical all your life, which by now many of us have got very good at doing (if we haven’t already burned out from the gigantean effort), is finally reclaimed and then unleashed as all this genuine enthusiasm for realising THIS is how you really are. It finally feels authentic and well-fitting, like slipping on a suit of clothing that is tailored to you when all the other ones had been slightly over-tight, twisted, scratchy and, in so many ways, deeply ill-fitting and uncomfortable.