What Is Aspergers Syndrome
Aspergers syndrome is a diagnosis that was once given to those who had trouble with social interactions. People diagnosed with Aspergers also had obsessive interests and enjoyed repetitive activities.
Since 2013, people who were once considered to have Aspergers have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Doctors now understand behaviors that were once believed to be associated with Aspergers as caused by mild autism.
Many people have been diagnosed with Aspergers or autism in childhood. However, some people with mild symptoms do not receive a diagnosis of autism until adulthood.
How Does The Assessment Process Work For An Adult
The way the assessment process works for adults can vary across different professionals.Currently in Ireland, an adult autism diagnosis needs to come from a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist. In depth interviews and gathering of information about your life and how you view the world would be similar across who you may see. You will likely meet with the psychologist/psychiatrist for one or more interviews to discuss your experiences. Sometimes adults seeking a diagnosis arent showing very obvious signs that they are autistic as they have learned to mask them over the years.
A good psychologist or psychiatrist with a modern understanding of autism and a neurodiversity affirmative position will be able to still see autism. Meetings with your psychologist would involve talking about your life, your background and why you think you might be autistic. You will discuss information from your past that you think is relevant and try your best to describe how you experience the world.
Some psychologists will insist that a parent or other family member is involved in your assessment . But not all psychologists insist on this, and many will put your voice at the centre of the assessment. If you do not wish for a family member to be involved, you can look for a psychologist who does not require this.
Four practitioners who do provide adult assessment and diagnosis of autism are:
Caroline Winstanley, Online practice providing child and adult autism assessments. Queries email
Work With A Professional
Several websites offer self-diagnosis tests or quizzes for autism, but these are not definitive or even approved by medical practitioners who understand autism spectrum disorder. Reading information about autism, and the experiences of people who were diagnosed as adults, can be more helpful. This information can guide you into a discussion with your doctor, so you can get therapeutic support.
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Conducting An Adult Autism Evaluation
Because of these limitations, the evaluation of an adult has to lean heavily on direct observation. This will be in the context of a discussion between the clinician and the patient about current challenges in the areas of social interaction and communication, sensory issues and restricted interests or repetitive behaviors.
However, some higher functioning adults on the autism spectrum become very resourceful in developing strategies to compensate for their disabilities. Clearly, this makes a diagnosis based on observation much more difficult.
But diagnosis remains important even when for those who have learned to hide their symptoms because they may still struggle in their everyday lives and interactions.
In these cases, its important to explore the lifelong presence of related developmental issues. In particular, its critical to get detailed information about early childhood. Sometimes this clearly reveals an early development that fits with a diagnosis of ASD.
While our diagnostic checklists are designed for children, I find that they can be useful as we explore an adults childhood development. In particular, I sometimes interview older relatives such as parents who can recall the patients early childhood in some detail. Often they can answer questions from diagnostic checklists and, so, inform a possible diagnosis. Clearly, this is not possible when there isnt an older relative available for a reliable report.
Symptoms Of Mild Autism And How To Deal With It
What are typical symptoms of mild autism in children and adults? Forty years ago, autism was a relatively unknown syndrome used to describe children who couldnt interact with others and exhibited repetitive behaviors that seemed to display they were in distress.
Today, however, theres a broader view of autism, which includes mild autism and mild Asperger Syndrome and there is more knowledge of identifying the symptoms of mild autism.
This may account for some of the increase in the number of cases from less than three cases per 10,000 children in the 1970s to one case of autism per 88 children in 2011.
Regardless of the cause of the increase, identifying the problem early can aid children and bring stress relief to adults by helping them cope with the condition.
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Autism And Understanding The Emotions Of Other People
An autistic person may find it hard to understand the emotions of other people. Emotions are interpreted by subtle messages sent by facial expression, eye contact and body language. These are often missed or misinterpreted by an autistic person. Because of this, autistic people might be mistakenly perceived as being rude or unfeeling. Autistic people may find it difficult to understand how others perceive their behaviour.
How Could I Reach Adulthood Without Realizing Im Autistic
Due to financial factors, long waiting lists, misdiagnosis or even outdated ideas relating to gender, there are large numbers of autistic adults who never received a formal diagnosis. Without a full understanding of themselves, these individuals likely have grown up with a lot of anxiety due to sensory overload or the stress of masking.
Some autistic adults may even have spent time in to psychiatric units when autistic burnout is mistaken for a nervous breakdown. This can lead to being misdiagnosed with a personality disorder or even being given incorrect medication. These combined issues also mean that difficulty entering and keeping long term employment is frequent problem. Since there is no public route for pursuing an adult diagnosis, they may be forced to go private, which may be too expensive for them to access.
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Symptoms Of Autism Spectrum Disorder
High-functioning adults with undiagnosed ASD often develop compensatory social skills so they can behave more typically in public. But when pushed into situations where they cant navigate, when they are under extreme stress and their abilities are overtaxed by environmental demands such as a new job, getting a divorce or being fired, eccentricities may come forward that indicate hidden ASD, Solomon says.
Those behaviors could include:
- Inability to see others perspectives
- Sensory issues with sounds, smells or being touched
- Physical tics
- Intensely focused interests
Neurologist Dr. David Beversdorf recalls a couple in their mid-60s who met with him after the husband retired and the wife noticed some odd behavior patterns. I told them I thought he likely was a high-functioning individual with ASD, and I recommended counseling so the wife could better understand her husbands situation, Beversdorf says.
He teaches at the University of Missouris Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Columbia, Mo., where his research focuses on autism, dementia and the cognitive effects of stress. Beversdorf is affiliated with Autism Speaks, an advocacy group that offers a tool kit to help adults determine whether to make a doctors appointment for an assessment.
Articles On Autism Diagnosis
Autism spectrum disorder is usually diagnosed in young children. But what if you think you may be on the spectrum, and it never got diagnosed?
Parents of very young children are on the lookout for classic symptoms like lack of eye contact, repetitive movements, and sensory issues. And all kids are screened for these signs at their 18- and 24-month pediatrician well-child visits, so most cases of autism spectrum disorder are diagnosed by age 2.
That wasnât always the case. Not too long ago, some kids who would be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder today might have been labeled as âdifficultâ or âlearning disabled,â and may not have gotten the help they needed.
Now, those children are adults and they or their family members may wonder if they might have ASD.
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Diagnosed As An Adult
For some adults who are diagnosed later in life, it is likely they have already found ways to cope and be resilient in the face of discrimination and stereotyping.
But this is not always the case. Some adults with autism still face daily and lifelong battles to cope in their day-to-day lives. They may also find things like getting a job, meeting new people and having personal relationships really difficult.
The NHS website highlights that it might be a positive step to be diagnosed with autism as an adult presumably because you may receive support, care and benefits. To what extent a person will actually receive this additional help is another issue. And given the increasing rates with which children and young people are being diagnosed with autism, it is likely that adults who are diagnosed later on, are going to struggle to access the support they really need.
Living With Adult Autism Tip : Improve Communication And Relationships
If other people have a hard time reading and understanding youand you themyoull likely have difficulty with relationships. But you can still find ways to nurture a healthy social life.
Consider disclosing your diagnosis. Talking about your diagnosis can be difficult and the social stigma attached to ASD may make you shy away from doing so. While disclosure is entirely up to you and your comfort level, it may help improve some relationships. Letting close friends and family know about your diagnosis can help them understand why you have a hard time interpreting their sarcastic comments, for example, or why youre distressed by sounds that seem normal to everyone else.
Note when youre experiencing sensory overload. Perhaps you find it difficult to keep up with everything thats going on in an intense group conversation. Or maybe something as simple as loud traffic or a barking dog is bothering you. Do what you can to minimize distractions. This might involve switching rooms or leaving a larger group for a one-on-one chat.
Look for common ground with the person youre talking to. Establishing commonalities can lead to more relaxed and enjoyable conversations. If you have similar hobbies, thats, of course, great news. Otherwise, you can look for other things you both like or dislike. This could be anything from a shared interest in cars to a shared dislike for loud noises.
Support groups for adults with autism
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The Triad Of Impairments: How To Find Out If You May Be Autistic
An article published by the National Autistic Society tells adults exactly what to do if they suspect that they may be autistic:
The first step is to ascertain if you have one symptom in each of the triad of impairments. All autistic individuals must have at least one symptom in each of the three categories of the triad.
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Why Might I Think About Being Evaluated For A Formal Diagnosis
Getting a diagnosis as an adult has been helpful to many people, though it can sometimes be a mixed or negative experience. Not everyone may need a formal diagnosis. Many things that are helpful to people with a formal diagnosis, like the information in this toolkit, are also available to people who are self-diagnosed. Also, being evaluated for a diagnosis does not mean you will get one.
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I Have Been Diagnosed With Autism What Next
If you are diagnosed with autism following your assessment you may have a lot of questions. Chances are you will want to learn more about autism, want to know how to access services and support, and perhaps join a support group for autism.
Post-diagnostic support is important. Your assessor, or the organisation that you were assessed in, may be able to offer follow-up services after your diagnosis and might be able to answer your questions and point you towards support services.
For example, you may be able to access:
- A post diagnostic meeting providing information about what autism is, supports and services and strategies and interventions.
- Training and workshops to learn more about autism.
- Services such as counselling, a psychologist or other professionals.
- An online support group or social group for adults diagnosed with autism.
- Vocational support for issues around employment.
You can learn more about support and services available to you in our Support for adults with autism page.
My Child Has Not Been Diagnosed With Autism What Should I Do Now
You might feel relieved after having gone through the assessment process that your child has not been diagnosed as having autism, but at the same time this might be accompanied by some confusion and frustration as to what you should do next.
The report you receive from our Diagnostic Team will explain the reasons for the outcome of your childs assessment. They might also be able to provide you with additional information about other types of assessment that may be helpful, or make suggestions as to other supports and services you may be able to access.
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Ners Of Autistic People
Some autistic people will successfully maintain relationships. However, like most relationships, there are challenges.
An adults diagnosis of autism often follows their childs diagnosis of autism or that of another relative. This double whammy can be extremely distressing to the partner who has to cope simultaneously with both diagnoses. Counselling, or joining a support group where they can talk with other people who face the same challenges, can be helpful.
An autistic partner, like any partner, will have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to relationships. A non-autistic partner may find that there are communication breakdowns, such as misunderstandings or finding that your partner is not able to predict your feelings. An autistic partner may need routine, order and time to pursue their hobbies.
Relationship counselling with a counsellor or psychologist experienced at working with autistic people can assist couples to develop strategies and to communicate more effectively with each other.
Tip : Manage Anxiety And Depression
Some people find that anxiety and depression go hand in hand with symptoms of ASD. For example, difficulty relating to others can lead to feelings of anxiety. Increased anxiety can, in turn, make it even harder to communicate. You might even feel so flustered that you cant form sentences.
Feelings of isolation can also trigger depression. But there are steps you can take to manage your mood and improve how you feel.
Stay active. Exercise is good for the mind and eases stress. Some studies show that vigorous exercise can be especially useful for helping adults with ASD manage aggression. Find an aerobic exercise that fits neatly into your routine and wont potentially throw your schedule into chaos. It may be something as simple as going for daily walks or runs. Make sure its something you enjoy, so youre more likely to stick to it.
Rely on close friends. Socializing can also be good for your mood, as long as the people youre with dont stress you out. Find people who share your interests. Thanks to the Internet, its easy to find people in your local area who share your interests. If possible, look for conventions or other gatherings where people who share your hobby come together and interact in person.
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Not Just For Children
There are currently about 700,000 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with autism, in some form or another. But of course, there may well be many more who meet the criteria of autism but have not been diagnosed.
For these people, they will not have received the care, benefits, support or advice that people with a diagnosis are given. Instead, the judgements made about their behaviour may well have led to marginalisation, anxiety and insecurity and self doubt about who they are and how they fit into society.
Mental illness can also be more common for people on the autism spectrum with higher rates of anxiety disorders and depression. These issues may well have developed from experiences of bullying, at home or the workplace, and from being seen as being a bit odd.
Then there is also the issue that since 2013, definitions of autism have changed. Now, Aspergers Syndrome one of several previously separate sub-types of autism is no longer diagnosed separately, but amalgamated into Autism Spectrum Disorders. This may make some adults feel alienated and unsure about what their diagnosis actually means as well as what support they may receive.
Fixation On Particular Subjects Or Ideas
Continually discussing the same topics in conversation, obsessively playing the same song repeatedly, or reading every article written about a certain topic are some ways that autistic fixations can manifest. These interests can be negative if they take over the individuals life or interfere with their relationships with others. Of course, these obsessive tendencies can also be helpful Dan Aykroyd, writer and star in the hit film Ghostbusters, was inspired by his focus on ghosts and the paranormal. Many other high-functioning autistic individuals have used their focus on mathematics, biology, or writing to inspire successful careers.
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Evaluation Of An Adult For Autism
There is no standard diagnostic criteria for adults who are suspected to have autism.
But because of the increased awareness and advancement of technology, more and more adults are now being diagnosed.
Clinicians primarily diagnose adults with autism through observations and interactions in-person.
The person also states their symptoms if they are experiencing any.
The first step to take in this evaluation is to consult your family doctor.
Your family doctor will evaluate you to rule out any other underlying physical illness that may be causing the behaviors.
If they find anything relating to autism, they will refer you to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to conduct an in-depth assessment.
The clinician will be asking the adult about their communication, behavioral patterns, interests, emotions, routines and more.
They will also ask the patient about their childhood and experiences. The clinician will also talk to the parents and other family members to get a clearer idea of the behaviors.
It could be a challenge to find a professional who will diagnose adults since most diagnoses are made in children.
However, there are resources you can access if you suspect that you may be on the autism spectrum, like going to an autism center in your area.