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.
Do I Need An Autism Diagnosis
Some adults may question whether they need a diagnosis later in life. Some people self-identify as autistic without receiving an official diagnosis. Its a personal decision. What can be helpful in receiving the label is access to supports and services that may not be available without a diagnosis, i.e. an income support program that provides additional income if mental health issues prevent being able to work full time. Maybe you need a job coach, a support person to look in on you a couple of times a week, specialized mental health services, or supports in the workplace. A diagnosis can also provide peace of mind and validation that indeed, you do have ASD.
Self-diagnosis in the adult autism community is widely accepted. You can join a support group or get together with other ASD adults without a formal diagnosis. Pursuing a diagnosis can be expensive as most health plans wont cover the cost and it can be difficult to find a professional who is adept at providing an adult diagnosis.
Classifying Autism In Adults
Adults with mild autism are defined as high-functioning and those with severe autism are considered low-functioning. Low-functioning adults with severe autism need constant care from their families or within a facility that can address their needs around the clock .
In contrast, adults with mild autism can lead relatively normal lives- with the right amount of support. Thats not to say that an individual with so-called severe autism cannot.
However, these terms and labels can also be incredibly misleading. But, lets keep them in mind for purposes of this post.
They can live on their own and work, support and care for themselves. This doesnt mean that they dont have challenges. In fact, many high functioning autistic adults see their biggest problem as the way others perceive them and the reactions of other people to their bizarre behaviors is often troubling.
How well an autistic adult is able to take care of him/herself is often directly correlated with the quality of education they received as children and how early that education began. If they have been properly taught social responses and accepted behaviors, autistic adults can function as contributing members of society.
They can have families, careers, and social lives.
Even so, the majority of even high-functioning autistic adults live at home or in residential facilities.
Other times, special services may be required to help independent autistic adults stay independent.
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How To Recognize Anxiety Disorders In Adults With Autism
Recognizing the presence of anxiety in patients with ASD is challenging because of overlapping symptomology and altered presentations of symptoms. For example, minimally verbal patients may not be able to express their internal states and instead demonstrate anxiety through disruptive behaviors. Other patients might be verbally fluent but struggle to understand and express their own emotions.
For these reasons and others, the questionnaires typically used to diagnose anxiety may not work for individuals with ASD. Medical providers should instead look for physical signs of anxiety, such as tremors, restlessness, sweating, body aches, and sleep problems.3 Family members can also be asked questions to see if they notice signs of anxiety.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America4 explains how anxiety disorders may present differently depending on the patient and demands from their environment:
Benefits Of Receiving An Adult Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis
While hearing you have ASD can be disconcerting, there are many benefits to receiving an official diagnosis. For starters, a documented diagnosis ensures you have access to all of the services and support available to you by law. These include state or federal financial assistance, vocational therapy, tutors, and low-cost mental health services, among others.
An ASD diagnosis can also help you pinpoint your unique strengths and use them to overcome your challenges. You may gain a new perspective on your relationships with other people and strengthen ties with family and friends. Sharing your diagnosis with others can also help them understand your circumstances and empathize with your struggles.
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Tips For Working With Adults On The Autism Spectrum
Adults on the autism spectrum have specific qualities which make life especially challenging for them. Knowing ways to work with these individuals helps to ensure they get the best treatment possible. Autistic individuals need extra patience and compassion from those around them. Below is a list of tips for working with adults on the autism spectrum.
Finding The Program Best Suited To My Childs Needs
Each person with ASD is unique and has different needs. Their intervention program should:
- build upon strengths and abilities
- be used at home, school and in the community
- bring together different therapies and interventions that work for that person
- reduce or eliminate behaviours that get in the way of learning and adjustment
A personalized program should also include the familys needs. The chances for success rise when families and caregivers are part of the intervention.
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Complementary And Alternative Medicine Treatments
To relieve the symptoms of ASD, some parents and healthcare professionals use treatments that are outside of what is typically recommended by pediatricians. These treatments are known as complementary and alternative medicine treatments. CAM treatments refer to products or services that are used in addition to or instead of traditional medicine. They might include special diets, dietary supplementsexternal icon, chelation , biologicals , or mind-body medicine .
Many of these treatments have not been studied for effectiveness moreover, a review of studies on chelation found some evidence of harm and no evidence to indicate it is effective in treating children with ASD . Current research shows that as many as one-third of parents of children with ASD may have tried CAM treatments, and up to 10% may be using a potentially dangerous treatment . Before starting such a treatment, talk to your childs doctor.
To learn more about CAM therapies for ASD, go to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines Autismexternal icon webpage. The FDA has information about potentially dangerous treatments hereexternal icon.
Evaluation Based On Observation
Parents, family members or other caregivers of children on the autism spectrum are often the first to notice delays in the usual childhood developmental milestones such as speech, eye contact, play with other children or social interactions.
Sometimes autism goes unnoticed or undiagnosed in both children and adults, especially when symptoms are mild or when the person has other disabilities or health problems. In some cases, other medical conditions such as are present, making autism difficult to recognize. As a result, ASDs may go undetected for years and may only be diagnosed during an educational impasse or a life crisis which puts a person in contact with professionals able to recognize the disorder.
Medical professionals use the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to evaluate autism spectrum disorder and the related social communication disorder . ASDs are diagnosed based on a combination of specific behaviours, communication delays and/or developmental disabilities.
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Ways To Support A Person With Autism
Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder, and according to the latest Center for Disease Control research, 1 in 59 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism. Autism is also four times more common in boys than girls. It’s challenging to acquire exact statistics about autism in children because many adults not diagnosed with autism in early childhood go undiagnosed into adulthood. It’s estimated that there are about 3.5 million Americans living with a type of autism, but all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups worldwide are impacted.
Given these statistics, there’s a high likelihood that you know someone that has autism or a family that is caring for someone with autism. Autism is a complex condition with a variety of signs, symptoms, and severity levels. Currently, there is no blood test or cure for autism, so early detection and intervention with treatment and services are key to improve a persons development and functionality for a lifetime. Given the prevalence and complexity of autism, it’s important to be aware of ways you can support people that dealing with the condition.
People With Milder Forms Of Autism Struggle As Adults
by Deborah Rudacille / 8 September 2011
Contrary to popular assumption, people diagnosed with so-called mild forms of autism dont fare any better in life than those with severe forms of the disorder. Thats the conclusion of a new study that suggests that even individuals with normal intelligence and language abilities struggle to fit into society because of their social and communication problems.
In fact, people diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified are no more likely to marry or have a job than those with more disabling forms of autism, according to a Norwegian study published online in June in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders1.
Early intervention has the potential to alter this trajectory, say experts. But until todays children with autism reach maturity, it will be hard to say how much behavioral intervention at a young age can alter the course of their lives.
The implication of our findings is that the consequences of having an autism spectrum disorder with profound difficulties in communication skills and social impairment cant be compensated for by either high intellectual level or normal language function, says lead investigator Anne Myhre, associate professor of mental health and addiction at the University of Oslo in Norway.
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S To Help Adults With Autism Find The Right Job
In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Autism Speaks is sharing 12 steps to help young adults and adults with autism find employment. Below is adapted from Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit, a guide to help people with autism research, find and keep employment in the current, competitive labor market. Stories, tips and resources were developed from a collaboration of people, including adults with autism, dedicated to increasing the employment participation of adults on the spectrum.
You can find more action steps in each section of the Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit, but use this list as a summary to jump-start your job search process.
Other Options And Resources
- Autistic adults who need additional support with daily activities but are not accessing an SDA or SRS may be eligible for funded support through the NDIS via the Supported Independent Living support category. If the individual is an NDIS participant they can request that SIL be included as a reasonable and necessary support in their NDIS plan. If the individual isnt an NDIS participant, find out more about accessing the NDIS.
- AMIDA Action for More Independence & Dignity in Accommodation is a disability advocacy group with a focus on accommodation, that offers information including the video Housing Know Your Rights .
- Homeshare is a program that brings together older householders or householders with a disability who could benefit from help in the home and companionship, with people of integrity prepared to lend a hand in return for affordable accommodation.
- Homes that work, a guide to planning a suitable home environment for autistic people.
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How To Help Young Adults With Autism Transition To Adulthood
Listen to this story:
For the past 20 years, my colleagues and I have run a social-skills group for children with autism, ages 5 to 18 years. Our program teaches the children how to recognize their own emotions, have conversations, solve problems and build genuine friendships.
About five years ago, some of those who had finished the program reached out to us for help navigating the adult world. They were concerned about the challenges involved in attending college, picking a career path, succeeding in the workplace, living independently and forming social and romantic relationships. There were few resources available to them.
Adults with autism report poorer social and vocational outcomes than any other disability group1,2. They often dont earn a living wage, have a partner or family, or participate in the community. They also frequently contend with physical and mental health problems.
My colleagues and I wanted to help these young people. We created a curriculum for young adults with autism that helps them to better manage the stress and challenges associated with the transition to adulthood. It also teaches their parents and other helpers how to assist them in learning and implementing skills.
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.
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How To Begin A Diagnosis Process
Adults who suspect they or a loved one might be autistic can do a self-assessment test for adults. A person can find these tests online. While they cannot give a diagnosis, the tests are a good starting point.
A person seeking a diagnosis can take the results of such a test to a primary care doctor who will try to determine whether ASD may be present by:
- enquiring about the symptoms, both current and during childhood
- observing and interacting with the person
- speaking to a loved one
- checking for other physical or mental health conditions that may be causing symptoms
If no underlying physical condition can explain the symptoms, the doctor may refer the person to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to make an ASD diagnosis.
If symptoms are not present in childhood but begin in adolescence or adulthood, this may indicate a cognitive or mental health condition other than ASD.
It may be difficult to find a specialist who can diagnose ASD in adults. Individuals who would like a diagnosis for themselves or a loved one may need to do research to find a provider with experience diagnosing autistic adults.
Another option is to speak to a developmental pediatrician or child psychiatrist who is willing to see adult clients.
Different Types Of Autism In Adults
Since Autism is a spectrum disorder, this means that there is a wide range of symptoms that people may experience.
Throughout the years, the definition of autism in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has changed.
In 2013, Aspergers syndrome, childhood disintegrative syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified , autistic disorder, and Rett syndrome have been included under the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
These terms are not diagnosis now. They are used as descriptions. They help clinicians and parents better understand the status of their loved one with autism.
The terms may cause confusion as they are difficult to define. Practitioners selected different diagnoses for the same patients.
Therefore, certain terms like severe autism, mild autism and high functioning autism are used to clarify the diagnosis.
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Top 10 Facts About Adult Autism
Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
People with autism, like everyone else, are adults for much longer than they are kids. That’s an easy fact to overlook when you search online for information about autism, because most articles and images focus on young children.
While it’s true that symptoms of autism appear first in early childhood, autism is not a pediatric disorder. Adults with autism face lifelong challenges.
So why is relatively little written about autism and adulthood? While there’s no absolute answer, here are some educated guesses:
- Autism manifests before age 3, so most new diagnoses of autism are in children.
- Most people who actively read about autism are worried-but-hopeful parents of children who are or may be autistic.
- Because of the changes in how autism is defined, many adults now considered autistic never received an autism diagnosis.
- High-functioning adults with autism are often uninterested in reading about non-autistic perspectives on autism.
- Some adults with autism have intellectual disabilities that make it extremely difficult to read about autism.