What Happens to Autistics when They Get Older?

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Autism Spectrum Disorder is a relatively new disorder. It was first mentioned in 1943 and not regularly notified until the 1970’s. When we hear about autism, we usually think children. However, those who were diagnosed with ASD in the 70’s and later are all grown up and we can learn more about the symptoms of autism in adulthood.

There is an opinion that symptoms may reduce as people get older. This was based on the reports from individuals with ASD and their families. Recent research sheds some light on this subject, as well as some new questions.

The group of researchers from Autism Diagnostic Research Centre in Southampton assessed 146 adults who were seeking a diagnosis of autism between 2008 and 2015. Individuals were aged between 18 and 74 years old. 100 were diagnosed with autism and 46 were not. The further analysis showed that age and severity of autism were linked. It proved that the severity of autism symptoms in social situations, communication and flexible thinking, increase with aging. Older people with autism were more likely than younger people to extract rules from situations and preferred structure. This pattern didn’t occur in the 46 people group who didn’t have autism. However, it’s still unclear whether this symptom to extract rules is a “worsening” factor or a general tendency among all older people.

Surprisingly, people diagnosed with autism later in life, had more severe symptoms than those who were diagnosed earlier. Though, the group diagnosed with autism were faster on tests measuring speed of thinking during a task and did better when dealing with visual and shape information. Obviously, these abilities have helped adults with autism develop strategies across their lives and cope with their symptoms. It may explain why they haven’t been diagnosed with autism before.

A high level of depression was found in both groups, with autism and not. Depression among older adults increases the risk of developing problems in memory and cognition.

It is still unclear whether people with autism age in the same way as people without autism. However, it is clear that older people in the study showed more severe symptoms of autism.

Read more: http://theconversation.com/what-happens-when-people-with-autism-grow-old-65572

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