To measure the success of our societies, we should examine how well those with different abilities, including persons with autism, are integrated as full and valued members. Quote by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) usually into adults with the same diagnosis. As Autism Spectrum Disorder was only medically classified in 1943 and research has been limited, little information abounds on the symptoms and coping mechanisms of adults as they transit from childhood. Adulthood has its shares of challenges and opportunities for all people on this planet and the same goes for individuals living with ASD. Surveys conducted in the past on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean have given revealing information on aging and autism.
Here are some of the findings from these surveys:
1. An association between age and the severity of the symptoms has been founded. As patients age, the severity of the symptoms increase. This is especially true in social situations, communication, and flexible thinking.
2. Adults with autism as compared to children prefer a higher degree of structure for example following the same routine in performing a task and so on.
3. Adults performed better on cognitive tests such as those where the speed of thinking on certain tasks was measured or tackling visual & shape information. They develop strategies to age better.
4. A third of adults with autism suffer from depression and anxiety. This is a much higher % than the general population. Depression in adults is linked to problems with memory and cognition. This is where doctors and therapists can play a vital role in monitoring moods on a regular basis and then take remedial actions at the earliest.
5. Adults are also likely to suffer from a broad range of medical conditions such as Parkinsons, diabetes and heart ailments. They are also likely to die early *2.5 times more as compared to neurotypical peers (Individuals with regular developmental, intellectual, and cognitive abilities.)
6. Adults indulge in what is termed as camouflaging - trying to be like a neurotypical person by hiding traits of autism to fit in better with society. This is a very stressful scenario for them and leads to strokes and suicidal thoughts. Burnouts characterized by exhaustion, loss of skills is experienced by adults with autism.
7. They experience a constant feeling of loneliness, alienation, and rejection by their social network and the world at large. Their social world shrinks with age and takes a heavy toll on their emotional and mental well-being.
Every adult with Autism is different like every child who has Autism. We can all make their lives easier with an early diagnosis as a child leading to regular therapy throughout their lives. Continuous therapy assists in dealing with some of the conditions listed above which are very detrimental to the heath of these patients and their families at large. All of us deserve to age well and with greater understanding adults with ASD can do the same.