Characteristics Of Autism In Adults
Autism is characterized by numerous traits and symptoms, varying from one person to the next. Just like no single person is exactly the same to another, no person with autism is the same. That is why autism is considered a spectrum disorder. When looking at a rainbow, there is an array, or spectrum, of colors, and each color has countless shades. This is also true of the autism spectrum. Think of the colors and shades as the particular, one-of-a-kind characteristics each individual with autism has.
Adults with autism face a unique set of challenges in their daily lives. The various effects of the condition can alter their perception of the world and people around them in ways that others do not always understand. This can lead to confusion and frustration on both ends, but knowledge really is power. Understanding how autism impacts a persons life can help both parties improve their interactions and communication. While traits and symptoms can differ from one person with autism to another, there are some general characteristics that tend to apply.
Here are five general characteristics of adults with autism.
A New Understanding Of Asd
After reading and researching ASD and feeling certain this information describes yourself, you may experience an identity shift towards one that is autistic. Reflecting back on moments in your life, you may view things that happened in a different context, through the lens of autism. Retelling the story of your life may now have the ASD perspective. Remembering your stories, reflecting on them, and receiving feedback will change your narrative. This process of self-discovery helps to make sense of whats happened in your life how having ASD has shaped the way you think, react and feel. Maybe some of the confusion is gone, you understand yourself better, and in time you can share this discovery with people you trust.
This new identity may also cause feelings of loss, resentment or anger. Its OK to feel this way as this is a life changing event and it can feel overwhelming. Try to think about the positive things such as your strengths. People continue to grow, change and adapt throughout their lifespan. You can learn new skills and find new ways to do things that may make life easier and more comfortable.
What It’s Like For Me As A Woman On The Autism Spectrum
My name is Cass, Im a 30-year-old graphic designer and I have high-functioning autism spectrum disorder . Like some other women on the spectrum, I wasnt diagnosed until adulthood. It was recent in fact, it was only last year. Its still very much a secret as well. I had no intention of telling anyone, but my husband accidentally outed me to my mum, so then I tried to tell one of my sisters and then I gave up on telling my family. Both my mums reaction and my sisters reaction to the news was immediate and negative: No you dont have autism. My sister called it a pathology. I was so hurt.
I tried a few close friends and they had similar reactions. All of them said things like, I dont see that in you and expressed general disbelief. So I gave up telling people. My husband consoled me that it should be enough for me just to know, and not to look to others to validate what I know to be true. I married a wise man. So I stopped telling people. My other two sisters dont know, my in-laws dont know, the majority of people who know me wouldnt have a clue. Being a designer does tend to give you latitude for being a bit quirky I guess I chose my camouflage well.
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Is There A Cure For Autism
No, currently autism has no cure. Early intervention during the preschool years can help the child manage their behavioral issues.
Treatment options include
- Behavioral therapy: This focuses on reducing problem behaviors. Children are taught how to behave in social situations and communicate better with others. It also involves counseling the parents and teaching them ways to reach out to their child.
- Educational therapies: Children with autism spectrum disorder respond well to highly structured educational programs. Successful programs consist of various activities to improve social skills, communication and behavior. Speech therapy to improve communication skills, occupational therapy to teach activities of daily living and physical therapy to improve movement and balance may be beneficial.
- Medications: Specific medications can help control symptoms such as hyperactivity, extreme anxiety and severe behavioral issues. Some kids may also have medical issues, such as epilepsy, poor sleep and constipation that need medical management.
Common Signs Of Autism
Some of the more common signs that may indicate a person has autism include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Delayed speech and communication skills
- Reliance on rules and routines
- Being upset by relatively minor changes
- Unexpected reactions to sounds, tastes, sights, touch and smells
- Difficulty understanding other peopleÃ¢â¬â¢s emotions
- Focusing on or becoming obsessed by a narrow range of interests or objects
- Engaging in repetitive behavior such as flapping hands or rocking
- Children not responding to their name by 12 months
- Children not pointing at distant objects by 14 months
Worried you or someone you know might have some of the signs of autism? The Ada app can help you check symptoms. or find out more about how it works.
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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.
Autism Symptoms In Adults At Home
Other peoples feelings baffle you. You have a collection of figurines on your desk that must be in the same order at all times. These, and other common manifestations of ASD, may be apparent in adults at home:
- Your family members lovingly refer to you as the eccentric professor of the family, even though you dont work in academia.
- Youve always wanted a best friend, but never found one.
- You often invent your own words and expressions to describe things.
- Even when youre in a quiet place, like the library, you find yourself making involuntary noises like clearing your throat over and over.
- You follow the same schedule every day of the week, and dont like unexpected events.
- Expressions like, Curiosity killed the cat or Dont count your chickens before they hatch are confusing to you.
- You are always bumping into things and tripping over your own feet.
- In your leisure time, you prefer to play individual games and sports, like golf, where everyone works for themselves instead of working toward a common goal on a team.
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What To Do Next After Receiving An Adult Autism Diagnosis
I have written about what to do after receiving an adult diagnosis so please consult this article for guidance. There is also the decision on who should be told about the diagnosis. Ive written an in-depth blog about that.
Autism In Girls And Women
Autism is a condition that affects both men and women. However, studies have shown that up to five times as many men are diagnosed with autism than women.
These differences have been dominant in research for many years, beginning with Hans Asperger in 1944 who originally thought that no women or girls at all were affected by the syndrome he described. Similarly, in 2009, a study by Brugha found that of the adults surveyed, 1.8% of the men had an Autistic Spectrum Disorder yet only 0.2% of women were affected. According to the National Autistic Society, in 2015 the number of men supported by their adult services exceeded women 3 to 1.
But why is this the case? Does autism really affect more men than women? Theres no straightforward answer and research is continually being done to find out more and to see if there really is a link between gender and autism.
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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.
Signs And Symptoms Of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. Other causes are not yet known. Scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD that act together to change the most common ways people develop. We still have much to learn about these causes and how they impact people with ASD.
There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people. They may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The abilities of people with ASD can vary significantly. For example, some people with ASD may have advanced conversation skills whereas others may be nonverbal. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives others can work and live with little to no support.
ASD begins before the age of 3 years and can last throughout a persons life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children show ASD symptoms within the first 12 months of life. In others, symptoms may not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with ASD gain new skills and meet developmental milestones, until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.
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Challenging Behaviors In Autism
People with autism spectrum disorder may exhibit behaviors which put themselves at risk, cause difficulties for people around them or which are not socially acceptable.
Around 50 percent of people with autism engage in behavior that can cause themselves harm when they feel frustrated, overwhelmed or unwell. Such behaviors can include:
- Banging their head on walls or other objects
- Hitting themselves, e.g. hitting their head with their hands
- Poking themselves in the eye
- Pulling their hair
- Biting themselves
- Smearing feces
A person with autism who feels frustrated, overwhelmed or feeling unwell may also display physically aggressive behavior. This can include:
- Throwing objects
- Hitting, slapping or biting other people
- Pulling other peopleÃ¢â¬â¢s hair
Some people with autism eat objects that are not edible, or keep the objects in their mouth, a behavior known as pica. It is the most common eating disorder found in people with autism spectrum disorder. People may eat anything, including dirt or soap.
Who Diagnoses Asd In Adults
For adults who think they may be on the spectrum, the first step could be to consult their primary care physician. They can refer you to a specialist if need be.
There are a couple of professionals that can diagnose adults with ASD:
- Psychiatrists or other medical doctors who are experienced in ASD,
- psychologists and neuropsychologists,
- licensed clinical social workers
can diagnose autism in adults.
If none are available, developmental pediatricians, child psychiatrists or pediatric neurologists who are both experienced in evaluating children with autism and open to seeing adults could be an option.
They may also have colleagues that they can refer the patient to.
Another option to get a diagnosis could be contacting an established autism center in the area.
This way the adult with ASD could have access to information and referrals to clinicians who are familiar with adults with ASD.
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Child With Autism=adult With Autism
Despite stories you may have read on the Internet, it is incredibly rare for a child accurately diagnosed with autism to become an adult who is no longer diagnosable.
Yes, children with autism may build skills and workarounds that make autism less obvious. Yes, teens with autism may learn social skills and be able to “pass” in some situations. But no, a child with autism won’t just get over their autism to become a typical adult.
Assessment For Autism Diagnosis
A formal diagnosis is done by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or neuropsychologist who does adult ASD assessments. A good place to start to find such a person is through your local autism society or by contacting the governing body for that profession. Most have a college or association and they may be able to provide you with some names of people in your area. You can also ask around, maybe through members of a support group. How did they get their diagnosis who did it? If there is a local university or medical teaching hospital, there may be a psychology department you can be referred to.
If a formal assessment is too expensive, contact the local autism society or services organization to see if they have someone on staff or a consulting psychologist. Some universities, hospitals or clinical centers offer assessments by supervised graduate students who need practical experience in diagnosing. If you are in on-going therapy for other issues, a therapist may suggest the possibility of ASD and be willing to give a diagnosis.
Keep in mind that there is no standardized screening tool tailored to adults that is universally endorsed. Some of the autism tests specifically designed for adults are: ADOS 2 Module 4, ADI-R, 3Di Adult, OCI-R, AFQ, SRS 2, RAADS-14, AdAS Spectrum.
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Narrow Areas Of Intense Interest
This is a common sign of autism. But if you do a Google search for the signs of autism, when they mention this sign its usually followed by examples such as memorizes license plates or the TV guide or Can list all sub-species of insects in alphabetical order.
In other words, its usually described as an unusual, narrow topic of interest.
This is not always the case.
My sons first special interest was Thomas the Train. He was two years old. What two-year-old boy doesnt love Thomas the train? It didnt seem like a big deal to me, he was a little boy loving a little boy show.
Although in hindsight, there were red-flags that it was more than a boy loving Thomas.
He actually wouldnt watch anything else on TV but Thomas for over a year. We only read Thomas books, he slept with a Thomas blanket, and he wore Thomas pajamas. He had over 50 toy characters from the TV show, hundreds of pieces of wooden train track, and a ride on toy Thomas too.
Clearly, there was a bit of Thomas the Train overkill happening at our house, but as a first-time mom, it all seemed fine to me.
These days he loves all things Pokemon. It started when Pokemon Go was released and its grown from there. Weve played all the video games, watched all the shows, collect the cards and toys, etc.
Living With An Autism Diagnosis
Receiving an ASD diagnosis as an adult could mean a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to the world. And it can help you learn how to better work with your strengths and strengthen areas of your life that are challenging.
Getting diagnosed can help you gain a different perspective on your childhood. It can also help those around you to understand and empathize more with your unique characteristics.
Better understanding the set of challenges you face can help you find new and inventive ways to work with or around those challenges. You can also work with your clinician and your family to seek treatments that may be right for you.
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