When you hear the word autism, most people think of children. But the truth is, those children eventually become adults, and adulthood doesn’t replace autism.
Have you ever wondered what happens when your autistic child becomes an adult? Let’s get down to the facts on how autism manifests itself through a lifetime and what an autistic adult can do for assistance.
How Will Autism Affect My Child Over the Years?
How do the different stages of life affect a person with autism spectrum disorder? What happens to children as they get older? Will they face more difficulties? Certainly, each stage of life will present new challenges.
Autism In Children
Autism can be managed in a more efficient way when it is treated early on. If you don’t seek treatment until your child is more developed, it will be harder to manage symptoms and control some of the behavioral differences.
Autism In Teens
Because an individual’s self-awareness increases with age, life for autistic teens can be hard. Non-autistic teenagers won’t always understand why teens with autism act the way they do. This is one reason why developing friendships and relationships is difficult for autistic teenagers.
Autism in teenagers can affect the way they interact during events or games. A teenager with autism may get upset if something is not done the way they think it should be. They won’t always understand physical boundaries, and they may stand too close to other people or invade personal space. Because of the difficulties in relating to their own age group, teenagers with autism may choose to form relationships with different people, such as younger children or adults.
Autism In Adults
Adults with autism often continue to have difficulty with social interaction. This can include struggling to understand others’ feelings and thoughts (social cues). They may find it difficult to make friends or find that they prefer to be on their own.
Because people with autism are often unflinchingly honest and blunt, others may interpret this as rude. People may find that autistic adults can misinterpret sarcasm and exaggeration and that they take everything literally.
Autistic adults also may have a strict and solid daily routine that is hard to break away from, even when they have the option to do so. It isn’t a choice for them to stick to this routine.
What Is the Difference Between Being an Autistic Child and an Autistic Adult?
Autism doesn’t go away once an autistic child becomes an adult. The difference, however, is that people are much less attuned to autistic adults than they are to children.
At the age of 22, the individuals lose IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) services. It’s not that their autism symptoms necessarily improve at age 22; this is just the legislated cutoff age. Parents and families of people with autism may find themselves at a crossroads at this point, unsure of what happens next.
How Can I Help My Autistic Child Transition to Adulthood?
Experts point out that we have to start preparing autistic children early on for adulthood. The IDEA does not require a transition plan until age 16. While they don’t require the plan until then, it is always helpful to start as early as possible.
Teaching your child daily life tasks early on, whether it’s chores, cooking, grocery shopping, etc., can be pivotal for them to be able to do those things as an adult. The earlier you teach them, the more time they will have to process the task and master it. If you start at age 16 with some of these skills, it might be too late for them to master them fully.
Does Early Intervention Really Help My Autistic Child as an Adult?
Getting early intervention for a child with autism is directly aligned with greater success at certain skills in the future. Several studies have shown that when children with autism receive early intervention treatment, it reduces the symptoms of autism over the course of a lifetime.
When children receive early intervention, they are still in the beginning stages of brain development. When autism is diagnosed later in life, the symptoms can be more severe because they weren’t addressed at the early critical point in development.
Adult Life and Autism
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a mental disorder, although people with autism may also have or develop mental health conditions. Many people have described autism as having a different way of perceiving and interacting with the world than neurotypical people (those without autism).
There have been studies that show a link between autism and having a higher IQ. Many autistic individuals are considered geniuses.
People with autism often become hyper-focused on routines, structure and rules. However, autistic individuals can also bring different perspectives and alternative views to problems and situations.
What Therapies Can Help an Autistic Adult?
Maybe a child was not able to get the early intervention they needed. Maybe they weren’t diagnosed until later in life or didn’t have the resources early on. There are still therapies available for autistic adults to help them cope with life and manage daily functions.
ABA therapy (applied behavioral analysis therapy) is helpful for any autistic individual. While it is typically used for children as early intervention, adults can benefit from autism therapy too. It can get them to a point where they can operate more on their own and function as a mature adult.
Adults with autism, like children, benefit more from a positive reinforcement approach with therapy. ABA therapy will focus on finding and determining a plan customized to fit the individual.
ABA therapy can help autistic adults understand how to conduct themselves in social situations. It can help them be flexible in their daily routine and understand that why changes occur.
There are varying degrees of ABA therapy and programs for autistic individuals. What may work for one individual may not work for another autistic adult. A qualified treatment center will offer a consultation to determine the best tailor-fit treatment plan for you.
At ABA Centers of America, we specialize in helping families create the brightest future possible. We have experience with all forms of autism and with people of all ages. If you’re interested in learning more about how ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy can help, contact us today for a free consultation with one of our autism treatment professionals.