Adults who suspect they or a loved one might be autistic can do a self-assessment test for adults. A person can find these tests online. While they cannot give a diagnosis, the tests are a good starting point.
A person seeking a diagnosis can take the results of such a test to a primary care doctor who will try to determine whether ASD may be present by:
- enquiring about the symptoms, both current and during childhood
- observing and interacting with the person
- speaking to a loved one (with permission)
- checking for other physical or mental health conditions that may be causing symptoms
If no underlying physical condition can explain the symptoms, the doctor may refer the person to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to make an ASD diagnosis.
If symptoms are not present in childhood but begin in adolescence or adulthood, this may indicate a cognitive or mental health condition other than ASD.
It may be difficult to find a specialist who can diagnose ASD in adults. Individuals who would like a diagnosis for themselves or a loved one may need to do research to find a provider with experience diagnosing autistic adults.
Another option is to speak to a developmental pediatrician or child psychiatrist who is willing to see adult clients.
Benefits of diagnosis
Not every undiagnosed autistic adult may want or need a diagnosis. It is important to respect the needs and preferences of the individual. For those who prefer it, a diagnosis may offer several advantages.
- It may provide an explanation for the challenges an autistic individual may be experiencing.
- It may give family members, friends, and colleagues a better understanding of ASD.
- It may open up access to services and benefits, including in the workplace or education environments.
- It may replace an incorrect diagnosis, such as ADHD.
Living with ASD may be hard for some autistic adults. They may struggleTrusted Source with social interactions, get fixated on routines, or experience sensitivities to light or sound.
Many of the same symptoms that appear in autistic children may also exist in adults. But adults experiencing these symptoms may find it difficult to live independent, day-to-day lives as a result.
A study on services and outcomes in autistic adults showed that 27% of autistic participants were unemployed. Autistic adults may also have more limited options for support services than autistic children. In the same study, 25% of autistic participants reported not getting enough support services.
Some autistic adults experience high intelligence, strong memory, an ability to think “outside the box,” and strong talent in particular areas. Other traits can include a unique sense of humor, and a strong sense of fairness and justice.
For many autistic people, ASD is an essential part of their identity and does not require support. For those autistic adults who experience more challenges, increased access to the following may help:
Learning more about autism can give autistic individuals and their loved ones or carers a greater understanding of the condition.
It can also help an autistic person feel validated and find solutions that work for them.
As with neurotypical people, autistic people may benefit from seeing a therapist if they are experiencing anxiety, work stress, or feelings of isolation.
Therapists can introduce autistic people to methodsTrusted Source such as cognitive behavioral therapy. This may help with challenges that may be more particular to ASD, such as having rigid thoughts. Therapy may take place either individually or in a group or family setting.
Vocational rehabilitation can help autistic people cope with career-related challenges. It allows them to explore the possibility of further education, volunteering, or job changes.
Some autistic people may find their workplaces uncomfortable if they are too noisy, too bright, or require a long commute.
Employers can take steps to support neurodiversity in the workplace, for example, by making appropriate accommodations for autistic employees. Many resources are available, including from the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion.
Autistic people can thrive in the right workplace and with adequate support.
Some autistic people may find it helpful to connect with other autistic people who may be experiencing similar things. A person can do this through online groups and forums, or at face-to-face support meetings.
Interacting with other autistic adults may give an autistic person new ideas about things they can do in their own lives. It can also expose a person to more resources.
Many autistic people advocate for taking a more active role in their own support services. A growing body of evidence shows that access to autistic peers can positively benefit an autistic person’s life.
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