When we hear the word “autism”, the first thing that comes to our mind is that of children who have difficulty in socializing, communicating with others and also have some kind of intellectual disability.
This description is by no means generalizable, firstly because autism spectrum disorders are associated with varying degrees of impairment, people with autism being highly functional, and secondly, because autism is not just a childhood thing. , they also present it in adults.
Below we will address the issue of autism in adultsExplain why there are cases where ASD is diagnosed in adulthood, what problems and explanations may be behind it, and the importance of investigating this disorder in adulthood.
How is autism expressed in adults?
In popular culture, there is a pretty misconception about what autism is and how it is diagnosed. Many people think of people with autism as having severe socialization problems, unable to communicate, being very sensitive to noise, and having severe intellectual disabilities. Believing that this definition reliably describes most people with autism, many people believe that autism is something that cannot go unnoticed in childhood.
While it is true that some people with autism may fit the description just mentioned, we should not ignore it. autism refers to a whole spectrum of conditions, not a particular way of being. People with autism can be very diverse, have very different degrees of impairment, and their ability to function on a daily basis is not the same for everyone.
Autism spectrum disorders or ASD are defined as chronic neurological dysfunctions with a strong genetic basis which, from an early age, lead to problems in social interaction, communication and a lack of flexibility in reasoning and diversity of behavior. The severity of the problems that can arise in these areas is very varied, so that some people will need a lot of help while others, with certain difficulties, may cope with everyday problems.
Many people find they have autism in adulthood. The cause is that these are people with more or less mild ASD, manifesting relatively mild problems in the areas usually affected in people with autism. Problems encountered them throughout their lives and they were never considered to be completely normal people, but since their problem was mild, it was never necessary to see a professional for a diagnosis. They were considered strange, manic, or too sensitive for their age, but never considered likely autistic people.
As we said, a lot of people have a very concrete idea of what it is to be autistic. This stereotype involves prejudices about how the autistic person can become functionalBelieving that a person with ASD will be doomed to receive supports throughout their life, they will never be able to work or be independent. However, many people with autism who don’t even know they have a good job, have been successful in starting a family, are in a good financial position, and don’t seem to need much support, even though they may have had more difficulties than a neurotypical person.
Why is it not detected in childhood?
There can be many reasons why an adult with ASD was not diagnosed as a child. As we said, contrary to popular belief, ASDs shouldn’t get as much attention as they think. Yes, there are problems with sociability, communication, lack of flexibility in changing routines and other warning signs but since these people are mildly autistic, their behavior is considered strange but not too disturbing and their parents saw no reason to take them for professional consultation.
Another thing that can happen is directly related to the heritability of autism. As we said, autism has a high genetic component, so in the same family there can be several members with the disorder. What sometimes happens is that the parents of the child with ASD did not take him for consultation because his offspring’s behavior resembled that of one of his parents, attributing this to the fact that he had inherited his own personality. What is really happening is that this father had ASD and since his son was behaving like him, he saw no reason to worry.
The support of family members, teachers, and the personality and coping ability of many boys and girls with ASD can help mask the disorder, take their difficulties more unnoticed, and eventually overcome them without seeing the need for psychological support or psychiatrists. The autistic person has learned techniques to manage their difficulties effectively, not knowing that they were really caused by a disorder, which has led them to have more or less successful lives.
As people with mild autism progress through life the same way others do with occasional difficulty, at first they do not consider seeing a psychologist to find out if they are in pain or not. no trouble. In addition, in our society, we have very internalized the idea that those who have a more or less functional life can hardly have a psychological disorder, therefore as these people move on with their lives, they do not see the need to see a mental health professional.
Another reason it goes unnoticed in childhood is because it doesn’t have intellectual difficulties associated with obsessive behaviors. Some boys and girls with autism are very good at all kinds of tasks that a pattern needs to be found in, which is very useful in subjects like math, physics, and chemistry. As many parents and teachers focus exclusively on academic performance, if they see that their child is doing well, they are already satisfied and do not consider the need to address the social sphere or communication problems with others.
The main problem for adults with autism
The main problem for adults with ASD, however successful they may be, are social relationships, And it affects both your personal and professional life. It is quite difficult for them to make friends, and it is even more difficult for them to keep them. While some can be very good at making friends and even seem very outgoing and outgoing, their usability is rather lacking. Communication problems lead to misunderstandings and lead to sticky situations that end up losing friends.
Another aspect is their difficulty in lying, capturing sarcasm or using social conventionalism. Many people with ASD are very sincere and honest, sometimes so direct that they clash with social habits and demands. considered culturally cordial. For example, if someone asks them if they are trying on the dress they are wearing and it turns out to be horrible, the person with autism may be so sincere to the point of unintentionally hurting them.
Communication and sociability problems may seem minor if one is generally functional, but in the long run they involve significant problems. Being so sincere, honest, and not understanding or using social formalisms makes relationships, especially sentimental ones, more likely to fail. In fact, this is the main reason why many people with functional autism who manage to get married end up getting divorced after a few years.
How is it detected in adults?
As we have said, there are not a few people with autism who find out that they are adults and also have the suspicion that their own parents were. But it also happens the other way around: having a child suspected of having autism and, upon diagnosis, starting to suspect that he is also autistic. Many adults are diagnosed soon after their child’s diagnosis is confirmed and this story is more and more common.
Over the years, parents have come to realize the need to go to the psychologist with their children at some point in their development. Although this is still not the general rule, many parents do, especially if they notice something strange in their children. They hope it’s okay, but they say it’s better to be safe than sorry and go to the professional. Here they find out that yes their children have ASD and that it was good to confirm early so that they could intervene as soon as possible.
Like any good father should, many of those who find out their children have ASD begin to document themselves to make sure they are dealing with the situation The best they can. In the course of their research, they begin to realize that they themselves have characteristics that might well be considered typical of a person with autism, so they decide to go see a psychologist and be assessed where. they receive confirmation that they also have an ASD.
Everyone is different and everyone has a different diagnosis, but many people feel relieved to know they have ASD. After years of misunderstanding, of being called ‘weird’, of being accused of behaving too abruptly, or of not caring about their social relationships, these people find they are like that because of a mental disorder, not out of lack of interest or social incompetence.
Understand and assume your disorder, people with ASD feel much better, see themselves better able to take care of themselves, understand the challenges of their daily lives, Progress in your professional, social and personal life. Additionally, once the diagnosis is confirmed, they begin to receive psychological strategies to deal with aspects of the disorder, dramatically improving their lives. If the patient was one of those who previously knew they had a working ASD, now he will be even more so.
Childhood Centered, Ignoring Adulthood: The Situation of Adults with Autism
So far, we have discussed the lives of people with autism who are diagnosed with this disorder in adulthood. As we said, one of the reasons a person with ASD was not diagnosed as a child is to have mild symptoms of the disorder. As in his childhood they did not draw too much attention to the problems of communication and social interaction, his environment was not too worried, in addition he had a more or less normal growth and reached the adulthood with a longer or shorter life. functional.
However, not all people with ASD are “lucky”. Those who manifest the disorder with the worst severity are easily diagnosed in their childhood as it attracts a lot of attention and a lot. This is one of the reasons why the diagnosis and treatment of people with ASD is so concentrated in the early years, because it is there that it is first detected if the “classic” disorder presents itself. . however, this disorder does not go away with time: it stays here in both adolescence and adulthood.
It is true that over the past decades there has been progress in both the diagnosis and understanding of AME, with more and more professionals. However, since many professionals specializing in childhood autism are still lacking, the situation is even worse for autism in adulthood. Autism in adults has not been as studied or treated as it is found in children, which is a problem because in the end all children with autism become adults with autism and will need help.
Leaving aside adults with autism who have been functional most of their lives without knowing they have the disorder, the overall picture for adults with autism is not very encouraging. At the end of compulsory education, where there is state support, these scholarships end abruptly, leaving people with autism alone in the face of the world, a world that is difficult for them to understand and that generates anxiety, stress and anxiety. confusion. As a result, many people with autism drop out of school and relatively few (compared to the general population) manage to find work without help.
Considering all this andThere is a need to do more research on autism in adulthood, to improve existing treatment techniques and to create new ones. in order to provide well-being to these patients. People with ASD also need to be busy, as work has been shown to help them become more independent, alleviate their symptoms, and learn applicable ways to manage their daily lives, both at work and in the family.
- American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Hall, D. (1991). Shy, withdrawn or autistic? British Medical Journal, 302, 125-136.
- Alonso, JR (2020). Autism in adults. Neuroscience: José Ramón Alonso’s blog. Retrieved from: https://jralonso.es/2020/12/14/autismo-en-adultos/