Individuals with High Functioning Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Nonverbal Learning Disorder

Asperger Syndrome photoRecommended For:

  • Children, teens or adults who have been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism (HFA), Asperger Syndrome or Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD).
  • Children or teens who demonstrate a broad array of average or above-average skills, juxtaposed with specific difficulties or deficits in functioning. People may typically find it hard to understand how these variations of strengths and weaknesses can be present in the same person. 
  • Children or teens who have obvious and significant difficulties in understanding emotions in others and themselves, as well as difficulty understanding how other people think and feel.  

The Diagnoses of Asperger’s, High Functioning Autism and Nonverbal Learning Disorder

There are some controversies surrounding these diagnoses, centering on whether Asperger Syndrome overlaps or differs from the more informal category of “high functioning autism” (HFA) and whether “nonverbal learning disorder”(NLD)  is a separate condition from Asperger’s or HFA. These arguments can cause confusion and unnecessary diagnostic hair-splitting. We believe that the most important question is not “What is your child’s diagnosis?” but “What is happening with your child?”

High Functioning Autism photoChildren who receive the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, HFA or NLD are often misunderstood. The differences between people who share these diagnoses can be far greater than the commonalities.  And yet well-meaning teachers, relatives and friends tend to search the internet to learn about the syndrome or read about other people with these diagnoses, rather than attempting to fully understand what is true for the particular child.

This becomes problematic when the child learns explanations about him or herself that are based on the experiences or opinions of others. These explanations can influence the child’s thoughts, feelings and attitudes in ways that are limiting, unhelpful or simply not true. Part of our work with children with these diagnoses often involves sorting through the beliefs that they have acquired about themselves, helping them to get past the learned answers and to develop more insight about themselves as individuals.


Some people who share the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome refer to themselves as “Aspie.” On one hand, it is highly important to both accept and value people with differences and to not regard a diagnosis as an enemy. At the same time, the title “Aspie” is beginning to raise unreasonable expectations of special abilities and to create possible stereotyping. Our programs prioritizes helping each person to understand him or herself as an individual, apart from all the controversies and discussions, and then to take their insights back into the broader conversation, if they wish to do so. 

Our Approach to Asperger’s, High Functioning Autism and Nonverbal Learning Disorder

Because people with HFA, Asperger’s or NLD can vary widely, a treatment that is highly effective for one individual may be completely unnecessary and ineffective for another. This makes it essential to begin by obtaining a thorough and accurate assessment of the individual’s particular strengths and difficulties. The Growing Minds team is highly experienced and particularly effective at the kind of assessment that can be most useful for people with these conditions. Some particular areas of concern which we consider include: 

  • Often these individuals have unique strengths and deficits existing side by side. 
  • Sometimes the child’s difficulties are hidden by well-developed coping mechanisms and no one recognizes how hard he or she is working to function.
  • Hidden or well-compensated difficulties in functioning can cause episodes of extreme frustration to appear, seemingly out of the blue, with no apparent cause.
  • Often sensory difficulties, motor difficulties, executive function problems and visual behavior difficulties have not been identified or addressed because the focus is on academic skills, language anomalies and obvious social difficulties.
  • Well-meaning parents, teachers and professionals often make assumptions about the thoughts and feelings of children described as “high functioning.” These assumptions may have interfered with the accuracy of previous assessments.  

Nonverbal Learning Disorder photoAs determined by the assessment, we identify the targets necessary for the child to improve social, communication, cognitive or academic skills, with the aim of closing any developmental gaps that exist. We design the methods to reach these goals and train parents to implement them.  We often recommend that school attendance be supplemented with help from an extremely effective, part-time home program.

The programs may consist of some focused teaching sessions as well as making use of the child’s daily activities, interactions with family members and play time with peers, to help the child meet any developmental targets that need to be addressed as well as improving social and communication skills and reducing unwanted behavior. We are available to oversee the child’s progress and continue to modify the program to keep up with the child’s growth.

One particular area of specialty in our programs with “higher functioning” children is an emphasis on developing self-confidence, self-esteem and the ability to manage strong feelings. We have developed special ways to teach about emotions that help people with Asperger’s, HFA and NLD to be more emotionally resilient, while also helping them to become more aware and understanding of the emotions of others and themselves.

Getting Started

We offer a 4-session, distance Consultation Series (by internet and phone) for parents interested in experiencing our services to decide if we are a good fit for your needs.

Our in-person programs begin with training (typically 4 days) for parents, their child and any support people the parents may wish to include. They continue with 6 months of distance follow up and training by phone and video conferencing. While there are strong advantages to conducting the initial in-person training at our Broomfield, Colorado offices, we have limited openings for families whose circumstances make it necessary to hold the training in your home.

We also offer training entirely at a distance (Internet and phone) for situations in which the family’s needs can be sufficiently addressed without in-person services. This tends to work best when the parents have already had previous training and experience in working with their child at home.

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