March 29, 2023

While certain neurological disorders, like ADHD or anxiety, first manifest in a child, others are increasingly being identified in adulthood. Autism, often known as autism spectrum disorder, is one of these conditions (ASD). Around 2.21% of adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have ASD.

According to Sharon Kaye-O’Connor, LCSW, an adult-onset autistic psychotherapist, “Autistic persons are always autistic.” “Autistic qualities may not become more pronounced or recognisable until later in life , despite the fact that we are all born with them. It’s very usual for autistic females, women, or non-binary persons to go undetected, or misdiagnosed, until far into adulthood. The majority of the criteria for diagnosing autism still depend on how it has been observed.

Allison Lobel, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist and Director of Child and Adolescent Services at Wellington Counseling Group acknowledges that indications of autism sometimes do not become apparent until adulthood, despite the fact that it is more usual for autism to be diagnosed earlier in life.

The transfer away from the ingrained structure, rituals, and supports that unavoidably become a part of family and school experiences, she claims, is substantially to blame. Teachers and/or caregivers may learn to make accommodations for the child, which naturally lessens underlying developmental problems, even though the youngster may show some concerns throughout the formative years.

But what is autism exactly? What signs and symptoms do adults exhibit?

Autism: What Is It?
According to Kaye-O’Connor, autism is a difference in neurodevelopment.

She explains, comparing ASD to an operating system for a computer, that “autism is a different method of perceiving, processing, and interacting with our environments.” She explains that some computers use Windows and others Mac operating systems. Both operating systems are correct; they just function differently. Autism is seen as a separate neurotype when examined through the perspective of neurodiversity. Simply put, we are wired differently.

Dr. Lobel continues by saying that autism affects what she refers to as “developmental trajectory,” which encompasses behavior, social interactions, emotional control, and communication.

According to her, “autism can manifest itself in a variety of ways, contributing to a range of severity.”

It should be noted that autism may not always be thought of as a mental health issue. According to Dr. Lobel, while autism can affect certain developmental domains, a person with autism can have stable mental health just like anyone else.

The prevalence of co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and eating disorders is higher in people with autism, she adds. “Due to the awareness of feeling different from peers and failing to fit in with social expectations, autistics may be more vulnerable to mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.”

Even while autism is frequently associated with children by those without the condition, it can also manifest in adults. Since adults “may be better at disguising some of the indicators of autism if they have lived with symptoms for years without a diagnosis or support,” Dr. Lobel claims, adults simply may experience lesser symptoms than children.

According to Kaye-O’Connor, autism is thought to be mostly genetic, and it is usual to see autism diagnoses run in families. In actuality, children of autistic parents frequently have autism.

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