When there is a mention of autism, people tend to think of young children. But those autistic kids grow up to become autistic adults, for autism is a lifelong condition. However, though autism has been regularly diagnosed since the 1970’s, little is still known about the changes that take place in autistic individuals as they grow into adulthood.
As these individuals grow up, we can learn about how the disorder changes over the person’s lifespan. There have been numerous suggestions that symptoms lessen as one grows. Have you ever wondered if there is any evidence for this?
As many as 146 adults were assessed in the Autism Diagnostic Research Centre based out of Southampton between the years of 2008 and 2015. The age group varied from 18 to 74 years old. Out of these people, 100 people had received a diagnosis, and the other 46 had not received any diagnosis.
This was an opportunity in disguise for researchers, which helped them understand that they must explore the differences between the people who were diagnosed with autism and the ones who were not diagnosed, even though they faced some difficulties along the same lines.
A careful analysis highlighted the fact that severity of autism and age are interrelated; in other words, severity of autism increases with age. Interestingly, it was also found that older people are more stable than younger people when it comes to structure preference; following a disciplined routine, for example.
This pattern, however, was not seen in the other group, with individuals who did not have autism and had not been diagnosed. It is yet unclear whether the tendency of extracting the rules is getting worse in aged individuals with autism.
Strategies for life
It comes as no surprise that individuals who were diagnosed later in life had more severe symptoms, though as a rule, we expect that individuals with symptoms do seek a diagnosis as early as possible.
The group of researchers also found that older adults performed better than their younger peers with autistic traits on a few cognitive tests that were given. The group of people who were diagnosed with autism fared well when it came to shapes and visual information. Using these new learned abilities, autistic individuals develop different strategies in their life to cope with symptoms, which throws further light on why individuals might not seek an earlier diagnosis.
Another unusual symptom was discovered and found to be common between both autistic and non-autistic individuals. The rates of anxiety and depression were found to be higher in the older group. Depression also poses a risk, as it ends up developing into complexities in cognition and memory. Thus, it is important for doctors to monitor the rates of depression to ensure individuals are not at a higher risk.
It is not yet clear whether autistic people age similarly to their non-autistic peers, as the research is still in an early stage. Further down the road, more time may be dedicated as more people on the spectrum start aging, in order to understand the ways in which they change over a period of time.
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