Could Autistics Just be Hyperfunctional?

hyperfunctional autism

It is commonly believed in the medical community that autism is connected with limited social behaviors. But what if instead of being inept, autistic brains are wired to actually perceive more details about the outside world? 

In 2007, three researchers developed an alternative theory called, “Intense World Syndrome” that explains what autism is. Instead of it being referred to as a mental deficit, Kamila Markram, Henry Markram, and Tania Rinaldi say that the autistic brain is actually hyperfunctional and super charged. Because of this, stimuli can be overwhelming and cause individuals with autism to withdraw in social and emotional situations as a way to self-protect.

Recently a similar study suggests the same concept, along with the idea that if treated early in life with a predictable environment, the symptoms can be reduced. The study, which is being carried out at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), compares rats with model autism (exposed to valproate, VPA) in three different environments: standard, predictable enriched, and unpredictable enriched.

So far, the study has found that rats living in predictable environments didn’t develop the same emotions, such as fear and anxiety, which the rats living in unpredictable or standard environments developed. Because of this, the researchers have come to the conclusion that rats living in a very predictable enriched environment are not as likely to develop symptoms of autism.

Kamila Markram says that she thinks these findings will affect the way that children with autism are treated. She hopes that future therapies include structure and predictability as core values. Markran also says that it is necessary for people to change the way that they view the disorder. She wants to change the idea that autism is a deficit, replacing that assumption with the belief that children with autism are hyperfunctional and just trying to cope with an environment they can’t handle.

Originally sourced from this Time article

Written By Sejal Sheth