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High-Functioning Adult Autism: Treatment Options for Improved Life

Adults with high-functioning autism , also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with low support needs or level 1 autism, often have milder symptoms that may not get diagnosed until later in life. While these adults have learned to cope with their challenges over the years, research shows that treatment can still help them manage symptoms, achieve goals, and improve their overall quality of life.

High-Functioning Adult Autism Treatment Options for Improved Life
High-Functioning Adult Autism Treatment Options for Improved Life

Understanding High-Functioning Autism in Adults

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describes three levels of autism based on the amount of support a person needs. High-functioning autism falls under level 1, meaning adults with this diagnosis need the least amount of support in daily living.

Some common traits of high-functioning autism in adults include:

  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Sensory sensitivity to sights, sounds, textures, etc.
  • Preference for routine and consistency
  • Specialized interests
  • Trouble relating to others outside of interests

While high-functioning adults have learned to adapt over the years, these traits can still impact relationships, work performance, mental health, and overall wellbeing. Treatment provides tools and therapies to better manage symptoms that affect day-to-day life.

Goals of Autism Treatment in Adults

Treatment does not aim to “cure” autism, as it is a lifelong developmental condition. The goals of treatment are to:

  • Build self-awareness of strengths and challenges
  • Learn healthy coping strategies
  • Improve communication and social skills
  • Increase flexibility and self-regulation
  • Identify triggers and reduce anxiety
  • Achieve greater independence

Treatment also connects adults to professionals and support communities. It can improve family relationships through education. Overall, the aim is to help adults function optimally, reach goals, and enhance quality of life.

Evidence-Based Treatment Options for Adults

Several therapies and interventions can help high-functioning adults manage autism symptoms:

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

  • Uses positive reinforcement to increase desired behaviors
  • Common goals include conversational skills, social appropriateness, organization, emotional regulation
  • Rewards verbal praise, completion of steps in structured lessons

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Identifies thought and behavior patterns that impact functioning
  • Develops strategies to change thought and behavior patterns
  • Improves emotional regulation, anxiety management, social skills

Social Skills Training

  • Teaches social cues, body language, conversation skills, relationship building
  • Uses role play, feedback, and positive reinforcement
  • Improves interpersonal skills and connections

Sensory Integration Therapy

  • Identifies sensory sensitivities and triggers
  • Develops coping strategies for managing sensory input
  • May use weighted blankets, noise-canceling headphones, therapy brushes


  • Antidepressants may improve repetitive behaviors, emotions, anxiety
  • Stimulants can reduce hyperactivity and improve focus
  • Anti-anxiety medications help manage anxiety disorders

Support Groups and Resources

  • Connect with others who understand the autism experience
  • Learn new insights and strategies from autistic adults
  • Find services, job resources, community support

Treatment should be personalized to each individual’s needs and goals. A combination of therapies, lifestyle changes, and support can help high-functioning adults continue to thrive.

Seeking Treatment for High-Functioning Adult Autism

If you feel your autism symptoms are impacting your life, consider seeking an evaluation. Clinicians can assess your needs and challenges and recommend treatment options.

Some signs it may be time to seek help include:

  • Problems maintaining relationships and friendships
  • Difficulties succeeding in your career
  • Inability to manage emotions, anxiety, depression
  • Sensory sensitivities disrupting daily activities
  • Trouble caring for yourself independently

Early intervention can help prevent symptoms from worsening over time. But it’s never too late to learn tools to better manage high-functioning autism.

Improving Quality of Life Through ABA Therapy

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is considered one of the most effective autism treatments. It can help high-functioning adults build skills for success in all areas of life.

How ABA Works

  • Breaks down skills into small, teachable steps
  • Uses positive reinforcement to increase desired behaviors
  • Prompts, models, guides behaviors in real-world situations
  • Focuses on learning through motivation, not punishment

Benefits of ABA Include:

  • Improved communication and social skills
  • Increased independence with daily living skills
  • Healthier emotional regulation and coping skills
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Higher achievement in school or career
  • More meaningful relationships

Consider In-Home ABA Therapy

The Jade ABA Therapy center provides customized in-home ABA therapy in Maryland tailored to each client’s needs. Their experienced therapists deliver life-changing ABA treatment right in the comfort of your home.

Get started with world-class, in-home ABA therapy in Maryland to help your child or young adult thrive. Their team provides outstanding service with proven results. Call Jade ABA Therapy today at (410) 616-0901 to learn more!


While high-functioning autism is considered mild, treatment can still make a big difference in helping adults reach their full potential. From ABA and social skills training to anxiety management and sensory support, various evidence-based options are available. Seeking help not only improves symptoms, but empowers adults with tools to keep succeeding throughout life. With the right treatment plan, high-functioning adults can continue to overcome challenges, achieve independence, and enhance quality of life.


[1] Volkmar, Fred R., et al. Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. John Wiley & Sons, 2014.

[2] Linstead, Erik, et al. “An Evaluation of the Effects of Intensity and Duration on Outcomes Across Treatment Domains for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Translational Psychiatry, vol. 7, no. 9, 2017, doi:10.1038/tp.2017.207.

[3] Cuncic, Arlin. “How Is High-Functioning Autism Treated in Adults?” Verywell Health, 28 Feb. 2020, https://www.verywellhealth.com/treatments-for-adults-with-asperger-syndrome-259901.

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