Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has always been most commonly associated with children. While this may be the general stereotype, it is simply not accurate. In 1980, autism was first recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-III). For many years this disorder was only identified in children. However, children ultimately grow up and enter adulthood. ASD doesn’t simply disappear at age 18. In fact, approximately 70,700 to 111,600 autistic adolescents reach maturity every year.
The NIH categorizes autism as a developmental disorder due to symptoms appearing within the first two years of life. However, autism can be diagnosed at any age. The NIH defines the disorder as a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. The way autism affects individuals varies greatly from case to case. Additionally, this disorder does not discriminate on gender, race, or other background distinctions and can be diagnosed in anyone.
Additionally, autism is classified as a spectrum disorder due to the wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms that people experience. As a spectrum disorder, there are no longer individual types of autism treatment. Conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome, which were previously their own diagnoses, are now considered only as specifiers of autism.
What Are the Symptoms of Autism?
According to the 5th edition of the DSM, people with autism often experience the following:
- Difficulty communicating and interacting with other people
- Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
- Symptoms that affect the ability to function in daily life
While these are generalized symptoms associated with autism, the complexities of this disorder stretch much further. Despite the many symptoms that autism can bring, people who have this disorder display many wonderful strengths. Among these are:
- The ability to learn and remember detailed information for extended periods
- Substantial visual and auditory learning skills
- Heightened intelligence level resulting in excellence in math, science, music, or art
Where Does Autism Come From?
Autism is often misunderstood and, in many cases, can be missed during childhood. The factors that determine which children develop the condition are vast, and this complex field must be studied further.
A growing body of evidence supports the role of genetics in the onset of autism. The NIH estimates autism to have a wide heritability risk range of 17% to 50%. One study found over 100 different chromosomes that may be linked to this disorder, showing significant proof that autism can be passed down genetically. However, genetic makeup only accounts for a small percentage of the overall development of autism.
Due to the increasing number of ASD cases, there is reason to believe environmental factors also contribute to autism. If an individual is susceptible to autism due to their distinct DNA, certain situations can activate the development of autism. One example is a particular infection coming into contact with specific chemicals in the individual’s environment. However, susceptibility does not guarantee that such circumstances will cause autism.
Researchers still have a long way to go in determining factors that can cause autism. Currently, known factors include the following:
- Issues found in brain connections
- Growth or overgrowth problems in certain areas of the brain
- Metabolism issues
- Problems found in immune system function
The CDC also recognizes risk factors such as being born from older parents, birth complications, and certain genetic or chromosomal conditions. These may include but are not limited to fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.
What Can I Do About My Adult Autism?
There has been minimal research on adults with autism. In fact, according to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), in 2018, only 3% of the funding awarded by the NIH to autism went to researching the needs of adults. Additionally, only 6% went to researching services for quality of life. However, multiple independent studies have gone toward understanding adult autism and the challenges it poses better.
There is currently no medication available to treat autism. However, medication can treat co-occurring disorders associated with autism. Anxiety, for instance, often co-occurs with autism and its severity levels are often particularly high for autistic patients. Treating anxiety along with autism in a well-rounded treatment plan can greatly improve an individual’s overall quality of life.
There are also programs available that focus on the social aspects of autism as well as employment opportunities. Creating healthy social relationships within the community is extremely beneficial. Additionally, this community is crucial to maximizing the potential among autistic adults. These relationships can positively impact the workforce by creating better interactions among coworkers. The strengths that come with autism help better equip individuals applying for high-tech in-demand jobs. In fact, Daivergent Data Entry found autistic adults to outperform non-autistic peers within their company.
Having autism as an adult doesn’t define a person. In fact, with proper treatment, autistic individuals can excel in ways not previously thought possible. During therapy, adults who face autism learn coping mechanisms and self-management skills to improve their function in daily life. With guidance, these individuals can gain the tools needed to thrive.
People who face autism have a unique opportunity to change the world. By seeking treatment, these individuals can prosper in beautiful and incredible ways.
At Alter Behavioral Health, we understand the challenges that facing adulthood with untreated autism can bring. These challenges can keep you from your greatest potential and cause added stress in your daily life. You don’t have to struggle with your diagnosis alone. Let us help you achieve the prosperous and joyful life you deserve. With the right guidance and care, you can show the world just how phenomenal you really are. Autism provides you with a unique skill set that sets you apart in a beautiful way. Let us help you harness the powerful qualities you already possess so you can achieve the life you deserve. Call us today at (866) 691-4386.