Spotting the signs of autism in adults can be challenging. Here’s a complete resource guide to help you get started.
When most people think of autism and getting the initial diagnosis for the condition, they picture a child. However, as per estimates by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), close to 5.4 million adults, or 2% of the population aged 18 and above, live with an autism spectrum disorder.
When it comes to the mainstream understanding of autism in adults, there’s basically minimal to non-existent research and awareness around the topic. Most research into autism has focused on children. It has undoubtedly helped improve diagnosis, understanding, and treatment options for children. However, research often overlooks that these children grow up and continue needing support through their adult years.
Adults with autism struggle with various transition periods in life – when switching from college to work, entering a new workplace, living independently, maintaining social and romantic relationships, and much more.
While most neurotypical (those without autism) face similar challenges, adults with autism struggle on a different level altogether. The symptoms of autism in adults, like lack of social interaction or communication skills, sensory overload, and much more, can exacerbate the difficulties affected individuals face.
This is why understanding the signs of autism in adults and getting the required professional help is important. Spotting the risk signs of autism in adults is the first step in this process. In this blog post, we will look into the signs and symptoms of adult autism and discuss the various treatment options available.
But before we get started, here’s something important.
Mental and neurological health are diverse and complex. They exist on a spectrum, and every individual has their own experiences. Therefore, don’t start diagnosing yourself with the knowledge you get by reading a few articles on the Internet (though we are incredibly grateful to you for stopping by to enhance your understanding of an important topic). If you find this article helpful or resonate with the symptoms explained in it, consider this as the beginning of your journey of getting the right help.
That’s it. Let’s dive in!
The Tell-Tale Symptoms And Signs Of Autism In Adults
1. Social Difficulties
Most adults with autism find it difficult to communicate their feelings or interact with people socially. The signs of autism in adults are visible in how they communicate, interact with people, and maintain social relationships. These signs include:
- Not making eye contact during conversations
- Having trouble listening and concentrating while others speak
- Have difficulty expressing emotions through facial expressions
- Low levels of empathy
- Having difficulty creating and maintaining relationships
- Having a flat and non-emotional tone while speaking
- Cannot respond to social and emotional cues
- Feeling lonely
- Finding it difficult to participate in conversations
2. Restricted And Repetitive Behaviors
Autism in adults usually manifests in restrictive and repetitive behaviors. These symptoms of autism in adults typically affect people’s physical movements, daily activities, vocational skills, and interests. These signs of ASD in adults include:
- Repeating phrases or words (also known as echolalia)
- Having difficulty in shifting their focus from one activity to another
- Having limited or narrow interests
- Not being able to adjust to routine changes
- Getting upset if your things are moved or rearranged
- Having repetitive rituals and routines
3. Sensory Issues
Sensory sensitivities are symptoms of autism in adults. Sensory issues occur on a spectrum. They affect the way people with adult autism react to the world around them. These symptoms include the following:
- A higher level of pain tolerance
- Being hypersensitive to sensory stimulation like strong smells, lights, noises, etc.
- Sensitivity to heat or cold
- Eating only a certain type of foods
- Being unable to function during sensory overload
4. Executive Functioning Issues
Executive functioning symptoms are signs of acute autism in adults. They are also present at more debilitating levels in some individuals. These signs of ASD in adults include:
- Forgetting things quite often
- Finding it hard to finish tasks
- Having difficulty organizing things
- Not being able to build and maintain habits
- Having difficulty maintaining a routine
Another one of the signs of ASD in adults is camouflaging. People with adult autism usually feel discriminated against due to their symptoms. And therefore, they spend a considerable amount of their time and energy trying to hide their condition from others. For this, they deliberately mask their symptoms and try to appear as neurotypical individuals.
Why Do Some People Fail To Get An Autism Diagnosis?
An adult autism diagnosis is lesser known as most people are usually diagnosed in childhood. However, people might fail to get a timely diagnosis of their condition due to the following reasons:
1. Not Having Enough Behavioral Signs
Many people might not get a timely autism diagnosis because their symptoms might not be evident enough until adulthood.
For instance, some people might be unable to process communication cues or emotions properly. However, these signs of autism might not be recognizable until much later.
2. Autism in female patients is often undetected.
The criteria for ASD diagnosis in males and females are the same. However, these criteria for diagnosis have been created using male traits and, therefore, present a skewed picture of the condition.
However, there are subtle differences between male and female symptoms of autism. These include:
- Less physical and externalizing behaviors
- Greater capacity for maintaining social relationships
- Lower levels of repetitive behaviors
- Better at understanding and indulging in non-verbal communication
How Is An ASD Diagnosis In Adults Done?
There are currently no medical criteria for an ASD diagnosis in adults. However, the current Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM-V) criteria can be used for any age.
Autism spectrum disorder in adults is usually diagnosed after in-person observations. If you believe you have any signs of adult autism, it’s essential to reach out to your primary healthcare provider. They will scan you for any physical health issues before referring you to a specialist.
A psychologist or psychiatrist is generally the specialist who gives an adult autism diagnosis. They will usually interview you to understand your symptoms and make notes on how you behave. They will also ask you questions about your communication patterns and sensory behaviors to fit your adult autism symptoms into a diagnosis.
Several adult autism diagnosis tools are used to streamline this assessment. These include the following:
- Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2)
- Monteiro Interview Guidelines for Diagnosing the Autism Spectrum, Second Edition (MIGDAS-2)
Your healthcare provider might also interview your family members to get a deeper insight into your life and childhood experiences.
While the decision to get an adult autism diagnosis depends solely on you, it could mean getting a greater understanding of who you are. It can help you manage your symptoms and get treatment to help yourself.
Getting an adult autism diagnosis will also give you a much-needed perspective on your childhood experiences. It will allow those around you to understand what you are dealing with.
How Is Autism In Adults Treated?
There’s no standard treatment line for autism in adults. However, a variety of treatment options are available to help you manage your symptoms better.
Not just that, adults with autism also require varying levels of support. While some adults with the condition can function independently with minimum challenges, others might require full-time support and caregivers.
Treatment for autism is generally directed toward helping people manage symptoms that significantly affect their lives. Therapy is one of the most effective forms of treatment for autism in adults. It includes:
- Speech-language therapy: This form of therapy helps individuals with their verbal, vocational, and non-verbal communication skills.
- Occupational therapy: It helps adults with autism learn the basic skills required for their daily life.
- Social skills training: This form of autism therapy is used for developing conversational and social skills.
- Sensory integration therapy: It helps deal with the sensory input and overload among adults with autism.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This therapy allows individuals to regulate emotions and understand social situations.
Additionally, medications are also used to help with symptoms that significantly interfere with a person’s life. Healthcare providers also suggest lifestyle modifications to deal with autism in adults. This includes:
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet.
- Exercising regularly
- Get adequate rest and sleep.
- Indulge in weighted blankets, stress toys, and relaxation exercises to make yourself feel better.
Support For Adults With Autism
If you have received an adult autism diagnosis, you might feel that you have lost out on crucial years of your life. Therefore, community support and the company of individuals dealing with problems similar to yours might be immensely helpful. Here are some organizations that individuals with autism run for those dealing with the condition:
While research and conversations around autism are usually centered during childhood, they often miss the fact that these children grow up and live a life dominated by autism. This is why understanding the signs of autism in adults is important. It allows people to understand a perspective of the condition that’s usually ignored.
Living with adult autism can be significantly difficult. It can make transition periods difficult. It also makes it harder to navigate and maintain relationships. Therefore, getting an adult autism diagnosis and seeking treatment for your condition is integral.
We hope this blog post on autism in adults will serve as a valuable source of information for you.
Apart from autism, ADHD is also a condition that can continue well into adulthood. To learn more about adult ADHD, click here.
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