How to Diagnose Autism in Adults? (Symptoms, Tests + More)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals in various ways. While autism is typically diagnosed in childhood, there are cases where it goes undetected until adulthood. In this article, we will explore how to diagnose autism in adults, the common symptoms to look out for, and the professionals who can help with the diagnosis.
- CDC approximates that 1 in 54 children in the United States are identified with ASD.
- An increasing number of adults are discovered to have been living with ASD without a diagnosis.
What Is the Autism Spectrum?
The autism spectrum refers to a range of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect an individual’s social interaction, communication, and behavior. Autism is characterized by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, leading to differences in brain development and function.
- Autism doesn’t discriminate and impacts all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
- The likelihood of boys being diagnosed with autism is four times higher than girls.
What Are the Symptoms of Autism?
Identifying the symptoms of autism in adults can be challenging, as they may differ from those seen in children. Here are some common signs and behaviors that may indicate the presence of autism in adults:
- Challenges with social interactions and communication.
- Difficulty understanding non-verbal cues.
- Struggles in sustaining conversations.
- Exhibiting repetitive behaviors.
- Resistance to changes in routine or surroundings.
- Sensory sensitivities to stimuli like light, sound, and touch.
- Deeply focused interests in specific topics.
- Issues with emotional regulation.
- Difficulty interpreting others’ emotions.
- Problems with coordination and motor skills.
It’s important to note that autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that each person’s experience with autism can vary widely. Some individuals may have milder symptoms and higher functional abilities, while others may have more severe impairments that require significant support.
- Approximately one-third of individuals with autism are nonverbal.
- Around 31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability.
How to Diagnose Autism in Adults?
Diagnosing autism in adults involves a comprehensive evaluation that takes into account the individual’s developmental history, behavior patterns, and current symptoms. Several types of tests and assessments are used to diagnose autism in adults. These include:
- Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS),
- Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R),
- Ritvo Autism and Asperger Diagnostic Scale-Revised (RAADS-R),
- Self-Report Measures,
- Medical Evaluation.
Statistics: Over 40% of adults diagnosed with ASD received their diagnosis after the age of 30, according to a survey.
Who Can Diagnose Autism in Adults?
The diagnosis of autism is a complex undertaking that demands specialists with profound knowledge and understanding of ASD in adults. These specialists could include psychiatrists, psychologists, or neuropsychologists.
Statistics: The median age of ASD diagnosis is three years, but it’s not uncommon for adults to be diagnosed later in life.
What Is the Best Therapy for Autism?
Once a diagnosis of autism is confirmed in adults, various therapeutic interventions can help individuals manage their challenges and enhance their quality of life. The most effective therapy for autism typically involves a combination of approaches tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Some common therapeutic options include:
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- Speech-Language Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Social Skills Training
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The choice of therapy depends on individual needs, preferences, and goals. A comprehensive treatment plan often involves a collaborative effort among therapists, educators, and family members to support the individual’s development and well-being.
Statistics: According to the CDC, early intervention significantly improves learning, communication, and social skills in individuals with autism.
Diagnosing autism in adults requires a comprehensive evaluation that considers developmental history, behavioral patterns, and current symptoms. By recognizing the common symptoms and seeking assistance from qualified professionals, individuals with autism can receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate support.
Remember, early identification and intervention can significantly improve the quality of life for adults with autism and help them thrive in their personal and professional endeavors.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA.
- CDC (2021). Data and Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Baron-Cohen, & S. Lai, M.-C.(2015). Identifying the lost generation of adults with autism spectrum conditions.
- Brugha, T.S., et al. (2011). Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Adults in the Community in England. Archives of General Psychiatry.
- Hull, L., et al. (2017). “Putting on My Best Normal”: Social Camouflaging in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
- Spain, D., et al. (2015). Cognitive behavior therapy for adults with autism spectrum disorders and psychiatric co-morbidity: A review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.