Although autism is a condition that is usually diagnosed in young children, it does not mean that autism will not occur in adults. This disorder affects the functions of the brain and can occur in adults as well. However, it can be much more difficult to diagnose than in children.
It is possible to observe the symptoms of autism very late in a person’s lifetime. The symptoms of autism basically appear and develop from childhood, but they can be hidden because the symptoms may not be completely visible. Symptoms of autism in adulthood may be noticed when the demands of life encountered exceed the capacity of the person on the spectrum. The symptoms of autism tend to hide the unique behavior of each individual, which is learned as they get older.
In order to be said to have autism disorder, autism symptoms such as speech and communication difficulties must have been present since childhood or younger. Autism cannot occur alone or be acquired when a person has passed the growing period. So if in late adolescence or adulthood, a person suddenly has trouble communicating and has social behavior disorders, it is not autism.
Autism can be hidden in adolescents because adolescent behavior and emotional patterns tend to fluctuate due to puberty. Puberty often leaves a normal teenager feeling overwhelmed or confused about adjusting, but in people with autism, this can have a more serious effect, which can lead to anxiety disorders and depression.
However, people newly diagnosed with autism as adults tend to work and live independently on their own terms. Of course, this is closely related to their intelligence level and ability to communicate with their environment. Low intelligence levels cause adults with autism to need more help to communicate fluently. Adults with autism who can live independently and be successful in their profession generally have above-average intelligence levels.
The symptoms that autism causes in children and adults are different. An adult can speak or complete the education life with ease. This does not mean that the individual is not autistic. Symptoms of autism in adults are as follows:
- The most important symptom is that they have difficulty in performing their daily tasks. Most of the time, they may need help from their family or a relative.
- Even if they start a task, they have trouble continuing and ending it.
- They do not want to have social interaction and communicate as little as possible.
- It can be said that they do not have the ability to empathize. Therefore, they can be perceived as cold individuals in society.
- They have a certain obsession with something specific. It can be an object, a behavior, or a situation. Preventing this obsession makes the individual unhappy and causes problems.
Adults with autism do not have to have all of the above. They may even have symptoms not listed. Signs and symptoms may vary from person to person. Also, symptoms can differ between men and women. Women with autism may be quieter but more sociable than men with autism. As a result, it may be more difficult to diagnose ASD in women.
It is quite possible for an adult on the autism spectrum to participate in education and business life, get married, have children, and participate in family life. For this reason, although they are seen as different in society, they are not so inconspicuous as to be excluded. Therefore, it can be difficult to diagnose.
For adults who do not know they have autism, the symptoms are similar to those for children with mild autism. Presumably, they never considered themselves to have autism, and from childhood, they devised various ways of dealing with it. They designed their own new roads and behavior patterns.
On the other hand, adults with autism do not understand sarcastic tones, jokes, simple facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues. For this reason, many adults on the autism spectrum prefer e-mail and other forms of written communication to verbal communication.
Social clumsiness is another symptom of signs of autism in adults. Communication problems they experience also lead to social insecurity. That’s because adults with autism struggle with social signals that reach others in natural ways. Eye contact is also a problem, because of the fact that people who are not on the autism spectrum understand the lack of eye contact as indifference or disrespect, which causes them to be misunderstood in their social relationships.
Adults on the autism spectrum struggle with privacy, but highly functioning adults with autism (adults with Asperger’s syndrome) are more comfortable making friends, even if they have limited socialization.
When the time comes for them to leave or change their current task and do something else, they don’t make the transition as easily as most adults with normal development. While we are making these transitions without being aware of it, adults with autism make this transfer while they are aware of the time and task very deeply.
Sometimes they need directional help as they highlight tasks that are unimportant to us or for the moment, such as taking time to organize, categorize, and sort items.
Emotionally, the way they perceive situations may be different than how normally developed adults perceive them. For example, a small event can turn into a big crisis and they can get emotionally out of control. A situation that does not bother us at all can cause great panic in adults with autism.
Since obsession is one of the biggest symptoms in individuals with autism, this can also be observed in adults with autism. They usually end their conversations by talking about their own interests. Their obsessions can arise at inopportune times. This situation negatively affects their social skills.
Although autism is generally observed as mild symptoms when diagnosed in adulthood, if it was diagnosed in childhood and adequate intervention was not received, adults with autism cannot perform their own care, need help with basic tasks, and therefore cannot live alone.
Some adults with autism can work, be successful in their profession and live on their own, depending on their degree of intelligence and communication skills. At least 33% of adults with autism are partially independent. Although they are above a certain average of intelligence, they still have difficulty relating to others. On the other hand, some adults with autism, especially those with low intelligence and those who cannot speak, need help from those around them.
Identifying the signs of autism in adults is more difficult because of the behavioral patterns and behaviors that come from life experiences. There are a number of special features that adults with autism display. But you need to keep in mind that having some of the following signs in a person does not mean they are on the autism spectrum.
- Having a few specific friends: People with autism also exhibit some unique behaviors that are not normally exhibited by normal adults. For this reason, they tend to stay away from other people and only make a few friends with whom they meet specifications.
- Language limitations: Language limitations may manifest as difficulty speaking, difficulty finding words to express needs, and difficulty processing a thought.
- Loss of interest or distraction: The symptoms of autism in adults may be characterized by a lack of interest or liking. However, they have very deep knowledge of a very specific field and tend to have a very difficult time expressing their thoughts on something that is out of their interest.
- Trouble finding partners: This is because of difficulty communicating properly and not understanding non-verbal language or the intentions of other people’s actions.
- Difficulty being empathetic: Individuals with autism have difficulty understanding the emotions or thoughts of people who have completed their development normally. Therefore, adults with autism have difficulty adapting to the social environment.
- Susceptibility to sleep disorders: This can be triggered by mental cognitive disorders such as anxiety and difficulty concentrating, regulating emotions and depression, or vice versa.
- Interruption of processing information in the brain: Autism causes the individual to be unable to respond to external stimuli, such as movement or sound, that other people speak, or to other things in their environment, such as sight, smell, and information.
- Having repetitive behavioral patterns: Adults with autism may repeat things for longer periods of time and in greater numbers than people with normal development. This causes them to be unable to socialize and communicate less.
- Being very dependent on routine: In adults, autism causes them to be very strict about their routine, down to the smallest detail, and do the same things over and over again every day. Therefore, they are reluctant to try new things and this can get them very nervous. They also dislike activities that require them to travel to new places or try new foods or restaurants. Sudden changes in their schedule or routine make them uncomfortable.
Diagnose Signs of Autism in Adults
Diagnosing an adult with autism can be difficult for a variety of reasons. We can list these reasons as follows:
- Because they weren’t diagnosed at a young age, it could mean they have mild symptoms, which can be difficult for the doctor to understand.
- People may want to hide this condition because they have lived with autism for a long time.
- Currently, there is no definitive method or test to diagnose autism in adults.
A self-assessment test can be used to diagnose autism in adults. Although this test is not sufficient to confirm the diagnosis of autism, it can be considered a good starting point.
Alternatively, if you suspect that you or someone close to you has autism, you can talk to a specialist doctor about it. Nowadays, it is very difficult to find a specialist who treats or works on autism in adults. If there is a local autism center in your area, it would be a more logical choice to get advice from them.
Although it is misleading to be diagnosed with autism in adulthood, it also offers various advantages to the individual and the people around them. We can list them as follows:
- The diagnosis first provides relief to the individual and may offer an explanation for the difficulty they have experienced throughout their individual lives.
- It enables the people around the individual to understand them better.
- They can also get rid of a misdiagnosis they have received so far, such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
It can be difficult to live with autism, but even if the diagnosis is made, the individual will have the opportunity to apply to many support and services related to autism. They can also be a pioneer in changing the perspective towards people with autism. Autism is a part of those individuals’ identities that does not require treatment. The specific difficulties that arise with autism are also likely to be dealt with with the help of doctors and therapists.
Learning about autism can make relatives and friends more understanding if they want to understand the condition of individuals and their loved ones. Friends and family are the greatest helpers of the individual in reducing the stress caused by autism. Sometimes, with prescription drugs, the co-occurring symptoms of autism, such as depression and anxiety, can be alleviated.
What Are the Treatment Models to Follow for Signs of Autism in Adults?
The treatment of adults with autism is easier than children and promises results. Because they make an effort by responding to special education and therapy. Even if they do not internalize it, they can learn how to participate in social life and how to communicate and apply it. So it will be easier to make progress with adults on the spectrum.
So far, there is no specific treatment for autism. However, there are several things that can be done to minimize the likelihood of developing autism symptoms in adults. This can be done through a range of therapies for individuals with autism, such as special education, behavior modification, and therapy for social skills and abilities. Adults with autism may need medication for anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, or other tranquilizers to prevent them from harming themselves.
The probability of having a normal and autonomous adult life varies with the severity of symptoms and the performance of appropriate treatment. Family support is essential, especially in the most serious situations where individuals on the autism spectrum may need family members and caregivers to meet their social and financial needs.
Adults with Autism and Relationships
Individuals with autism can form friendships with both their neurotypical and autistic peers. However, friendships may be insufficient in terms of emotional intimacy and providing support to each other. One of the biggest obstacles preventing individuals with autism from forming friendships with neurotypical individuals is that neurotypical individuals interpret the autistic individual’s attitudes as not being interested in themselves and not wanting to continue the conversation. It is understandable to give up and try harder to communicate with someone you think isn’t interested in you, but such misinterpretations can cause some friendships to end before they begin.
The repetitive movements of some youth on the spectrum to calm their anxiety can also be misinterpreted in social environments and considered as a sign of indifference and boredom.
In order to better understand the social relations of individuals with autism, it is necessary to restructure our approach to the concept of friendship. Thinking in a broader definition and broadening our perspective as individuals who have common interests, share with each other, and mutually want to spend time together, instead of putting the concept of friendship into certain rigid molds, can enable us to better understand individuals in the spectrum.
Much of the research on the way people with autism form friendships is based on studies with children. For this reason, we do not have enough information about the socialization patterns and preferences of individuals with autism in adult life, which has much more complex relationships than children. Further research on this subject will be illuminating in terms of support to adults and young people with autism.
Studies show that some adults with autism can maintain friendships and romantic relationships. On the other hand, many individuals with autism stay away from social life for reasons such as not being able to initiate a conversation, feeling inadequate about how to meet people and interpreting social behaviors, communication and behavior problems, and negative experiences in the past, although they are actually very willing to establish social relationships.
We may have the illusion that they don’t feel lonely because they stay away from social situations, but loneliness is measured by the difference between the level of social interaction we want and the level of social interaction we can achieve. For this reason, individuals with autism feel quite lonely as long as they cannot reach the social environment they want and need.
The very limited socialization areas of individuals with autism are one of the biggest reasons for the decrease in socialization in adult life. Individuals with autism who do not take an active part in business life after school life cannot be included in any environment where they can meet and socialize with their peers.
Many individuals with autism want to establish and maintain a romantic relationship. Most of the time, we find it difficult to reconcile being on the spectrum and being in a romantic relationship, maybe even not possible, but being on the spectrum is not an obstacle to being in a relationship. The fact that individuals with autism want and establish romantic relationships does not mean that these relationships are easy for them. Factors such as inability to think flexibly, anxiety, low tolerance for sensory stimuli, difficulty in expressing oneself and understanding the expressions of others make relationships difficult. However, this idea can be considered as an assumption because research has not focused on understanding why and how individuals with autism choose to form close relationships.
Since individuals with autism generally have different behaviors related to the expression of emotions such as compassion, love, and interest, they are often not considered in romantic contexts.
The difficulties experienced by individuals with autism also manifest themselves in romantic and close relationships, but raising awareness of individuals with autism about their own difficulties, educating them about the basic aspects of social skills, and learning to express themselves will help to realize their desire to establish romantic or close relationships.
Famous People on The Autism Spectrum
As we mentioned above, autism in adults may not be detected as easily as in children. In addition, having this syndrome does not prevent their success in life. The best example of this is that well-known scientists, people who are engaged in music and art are also individuals with autism. The following celebrities have achieved success in their careers despite being adults with autism:
- Franz Kafka, one of the best in world literature,
- Beethoven, classical music composer,
- Nietzsche, philosopher, and psychologist,
- Einstein, Nobel Prize-winning physicist,
- Tesla, who found the light bulb and jumped the age with coils,
- Edison, Tesla’s teacher,
- Mozart, the master of western classical music,
- Newton, one of the most important physicists in world history,
- Van Gogh, the famous painter of western art history,
- Jane Austen, the successful author of world literature,
- Temple Grandin, is one of the most important animal behaviorists in history.
As can be understood, many of these people, who are considered a turning point in world history and represent the best in their field, have autism syndrome. These people did not turn into individuals with autism later on, but they grew up with this syndrome since their childhood. Their inconvenience made them rank among the best instead of failing them.
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