Skip links

Living with High-Functioning Autism: By Elaine Markley, Head of Business Intelligence

I believe I have been a High Functioning Autistic person all my life, but never understood what that really meant for me. I feel that I sit on the outside of everything that goes on around me, looking in and forming judgements.

The definition of High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is as follows: “High-functioning autism (HFA) is an autism classification where a person exhibits no intellectual disability, but may exhibit deficits in communication, emotion recognition and expression, and social interaction.” (Wikipedia)

HFA can hold me back, but it has also made me who I am. The biggest problem I have experienced throughout my career is communication difficulties. What I see as efficient others see as blunt and rude. I don’t find it easy to mask my emotions and therefore when dealing with others I can be very facially expressive. Poor communication leads to conflict and conflict leads to further anxiety. I’m not very good at it, but masking is a well-known mechanism to help fit in and become socially accepted.

The career path I have chosen to follow has come from my need for order, routine, and structure. OCD is often closely linked with the condition; some people see it as negative, but it helps me every day by keeping my world organised and efficient.

Working with HealthNet has been an eye opener to me – I never thought I could be part of a Senior Leadership Team. On the contrary, being the Head of my department has given me the freedom to work with the company, rather than for the company and it is a breath of fresh air. Rather than having to follow other people’s visions, the Directors support and welcome input.

Here’s my 3 top-tips on living with HFA and things that make my life easier:

  1. Have a key support person in the workplace that recognises triggers and can help keep you grounded.
  2. Find something day-to-day that gives you satisfaction and in moments when you are struggling – bring yourself back to that activity.
  3. Don’t regularly bring work home with you. Home is a safe place – keep it that way.

Finally, I believe people getting to know me and understanding that everything I do is always with the best intent makes for much better working relationships. It’s not just the Autistic person that needs to put the effort in to be like others, but equally for others to understand our limitations.

Elaine Markley

Head of Business Intelligence