Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)


Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Robert Oswalt

Second Advisor

Karen Kelly


This paper considers major issues in high-functioning autism (HFA), including problems with diagnosis, sensory processing, social behavior and communication problems. Along with discussions of historical developments and recent research, the personal experiences of individuals with autism and their families are described, including those of the author’s.

Diagnostic issues include changes in diagnostic criteria, confusion with schizophrenia, and unclear boundaries between HFA and other disorders.

Individuals with autism experience difficulty processing sensory information. Usually all the sensory systems are affected: tactile, vestibular, proprioceptive, oral auditory, visual, and olfactory.

Social and communication difficulties constitute the primary impairments of autism which last throughout the autistic person’s life. Professionals debate whether these impairments are primarily affective or cognitive.

This paper concludes with a description of some of the strengths which autistic people develop as a result of their disabilities, including their spirituality.

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Psychology Commons