Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Joe Powell explains some of the everyday challenges of living with Asperger syndrome

What is Autism?

Adult with autism talking to another adult Autism is a condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

Autistic people vary enormously but they all share the two 'core' features of autism:

- persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction. For example, they may find it hard to begin or carry on a conversation, they may not understand social rules such as how far to stand from somebody else, or they may find it difficult to make friends.

- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. For example, they may develop an overwhelming interest in something, they may follow inflexible routines or rituals, they may make repetitive body movements, or they may be hypersensitive to certain sounds.

Autistic people also have significant strengths. These often include reliability, a good eye for detail, producing highly accurate work, an excellent memory for facts and figures, and the ability to thrive in a structured, well-organised work environment.

Some people claim that autism is not a disorder but simply an expression of neurodiversity. In other words, they think that autism is a difference, not a disability.

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Getting a diagnosis of autism can be a positive thing. It means you have an explanation for some of the difficulties you may be experiencing, and it may also give you access to services and support.

The process of getting a diagnosis varies from country to country and sometimes even within the same country. In the UK you start the process by contacting your GP who will then refer you on to specialist diagnostic services. However this is not always a straightforward process, with some GPs being reluctant to start the process and with a lack of specialist diagnostic services in some areas.

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Autistic adults face many issues and challenges on a day to day basis. Some issues - such as difficulties with communication or excessive anxiety - affect many autistic people whatever their age. Other issues - such as finding and keeping a job - are more likely to affect autistic adults.

However it is important to remember that each person is a unique individual, with unique needs and abilities. Because of this, he or she will experience those issues in a unique way or may not experience them at all.

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There are a number of interventions - treatments and therapies - that are designed to improve the quality of life for autistic adults.

However there is no one-size fits all solution. Each autistic adult is a unique individual, with unique needs and abilities. The most effective interventions are personalised to meet the unique characteristics of each individual.

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As an autistic person you have some legal rights, especially if you have a formal diagnosis of autism. This is because the government considers autism to be a disability.

So, for example, if you live anywhere in the UK you have rights under the Equality Act (2010) or the Disability Discrimination Act (1995). These Acts require employers and service providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in order to ensure they do not discriminate against you.

If you live in England, you also have rights under the Autism Act (2009), and the autism strategy which followed it. The autism strategy tells local authorities and NHS agencies what actions should be taken to meet the needs of autistic adults living in their area.

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Many countries provide services to help autistic adults although the range and qualify of those services varies enormously between countries and may even vary within the same country.

Some are specifically designed to help autistic adults. Other services are designed to help a range of people, irrespective of their age or disability

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NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is a UK agency which provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care.

NICE has produced a range of clinical guidance on the topic of adults on the autism spectrum including

  • recommendations on interventions which should and should not be used
  • recommendations on how local public services (NHS, education and social services) should operate

More about NICE: Guidance on Adults on the Autism Spectrum

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More Publications on adults on the autism spectrum

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Organisations and Websites

More Organisations and websites about adults on the autism spectrum

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Other Resources

Please see Useful Resources on Autism for a list of additional resources inc.apps, blogs, events, forums, journals, podcasts and videos.

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Related Pages

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15 Jun 2022