Autism in adults: Signs of autism spectrum disorder as you get older

Photo of author
Written By Margonoe Tumindax

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur pulvinar ligula augue quis venenatis. 

There can be various signs of autism in adults including being inability to communicate, resistance to change among others. Read on to know more

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an autism spectrum that helps determine people’s needs and developmental abilities. Differences in learning patterns and behaviour, experiencing restrictive movements, diminished social communication and delayed milestones in early childhood are all symptoms of autism. Some autistic people may not get diagnosed in early childhood, but may experience signs of autism as adults. Getting it diagnosed and seeking due support can help a person live a better life with autism.

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) comes under the category of neurodevelopmental disorders known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). Autism is called a developmental disorder because it develops within the first three years of life and is chronic. Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Neha Patel lists out the broad signs and symptoms of autism in adults.

What is autism?

Autism is a developmental and neurological disorder that impacts the way we interact with others, states The National Institute of Mental Health. “ASD is a spectrum disorder with a neurological basis where the abilities and symptoms of people with ASD differ greatly from each other based on where they stand on the spectrum,” explains Patel.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) states that autistic people face difficulties in communicating with others, their interests are restrictive and are repetative in nature. These individuals are not able to function well in school, or at workplaces

Signs of autism in adults

  • Anxiousness about social situations
  • Difficulty in making friends and maintaining close relationships
  •  Limited or no opportunities for employment
  •  Lower participation in education, especially beyond high school
  •  Challenges in maintaining conversations, and understanding idioms and sarcasm
  • Difficulty maintaining eye contact
  • Inability or relegated ability to understand other’s emotions through expressions and body language
  • Difficulty in understanding what others are thinking and feeling through social cues
  •  Challenges with regulating one’s own emotions
  •  Difficulty in expressing how they are feeling
  •  Difficulty in understanding social rules
  •  Limited independence as a majority of adults with ASD live with their families

Also Read: How to identify autism early to avoid complications?

Also Read

A woman with a psychiatrist
Autism in adults can be diagnosed with a one-on-one discussion with a mental health expert about symptoms. Image courtesy: Freepik

Signs of restricted and repetitive behaviour in autistic adults

Restricted and repetitive behaviours (RRBs) are repetitive, inflexible, invaried and sometimes inappropriate behaviours that hinder daily functioning and interactions with the environment, says Patel. However, the frequency and intensity of restricted and repetitive behaviours decreases with age.

RRBs can be categorised into four broad subtypes:

  • Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, repeated identical use of objects and patterns of speech.
  • Insisting on doing the same thing, being inflexible in routines, resistance to change or ritualised patterns of verbal or non-verbal behaviour.
  •  Highly restricted, fixated interests that are “abnormal” in intensity or focus.
  •  Hyper- or hypo reactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment.

Sensory symptoms of autism in adults

Sensory symptoms can be defined as hyperactivity (over responsiveness) or hyporeactivity (under-responsiveness) to environmental stimuli. The various reactions of autistic adults to stimuli in the environment will be as follows:

  • Heightened movement, such as leaping, twirling, or colliding with objects
  • Increased self-stimulatory behaviours, such as flapping hands, emitting repetitive sounds, or rocking back and forth
  • Speaking more rapidly and loudly, or becoming non-verbal
  • Covering ears or eyes in response to sensory overload.
  • Challenges in recognizing internal bodily cues like hunger, pain, or the urge to use the restroom.
  •  Resistance to or insistence on specific foods or clothing items.
  •  Frequent chewing on non-edible objects.
  •  Regular physical contact with others or engaging in rough play.
  •  Communication difficulties or delayed responses as the brain reallocates resources to manage sensory stimuli (shutdown).
  •  Intensifying emotions or a strong urge to escape a situation (meltdown)

Diagnosis of autism in adults

There is no physical test to determine autism. The diagnosis for autism in adults is done through a series of in-person tests and observations, after the symptoms are discussed. The current DSM-5 criteria is what determines autism in adults. Once the chance for any physical ailment is ruled out for your symptoms, you will be referred to a psychiatrist of psychologist for evaluation. The professional will base their evaluation on self-reported symptoms and how you answer their questions. Your medical history about how you were in childhood and how you are now will also provide crucial information for your diagnosis. References from family members including parents and siblings, along with friends are also taken into consideration.

A woman with a notepad
Sticking to a routine helps adults deal with autism. Image courtesy: Freepik

Finally, diagnostic tools are administered by professionals to formally come to a diagnosis. The diagnostic assessment tool adapted to assess adults with ASD is called Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, second edition (ADOS-2) Module 4. Other diagnostic tools like Autism Diagnosis Interview- Revised (ADI-R) are also used to assess of autism in children and adults.

Select Topics of your interest and let us customize your feed.


Also Read: World Autism Awareness Day: Here’s how to manage autism spectrum disorder

Can adults with autism live a normal life?

Autism cannot be cured, but there are ways to cope with the disorder. Getting diagnosed is the first step you can take towards dealing with autism. One of the main issues faced by people with autism is getting anxious easily due to the pressures and demands and expectations of living a social life. Autistic adults benefits from fixed routines, practicing self care and focusing on their strengths.


Leave a Comment

data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data data