With the increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the growing number of children diagnosed with it, it’s crucial to understand that autism is not just a childhood condition. Many autistic individuals grow up to lead fulfilling and productive lives, but they often face unique challenges in adulthood. 

What Is Autism?  

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. The term “spectrum” is used to reflect the wide range of symptoms and levels of impairment that individuals with autism may experience. 

While some people with autism have significant cognitive or language impairments, others are highly skilled in specialized areas and may have above-average intelligence.

It’s important to recognize that autism is not a linear spectrum with a neat progression from “mild” to “severe.” Instead, it is a complex interplay of characteristics that can vary significantly from person to person. This means that adults with autism may have different needs and support requirements, depending on their unique constellation of traits and abilities.

Diagnosis and Support

Many adults with autism were not diagnosed in childhood, particularly those with subtle or “high-functioning” forms of the condition. This can lead to a lifetime of struggles, as they may have difficulty understanding their own behavior and navigating social situations.

Adults who receive a late diagnosis may experience a range of emotions, including relief at finally understanding their challenges, but also frustration or anger at the lack of support they received earlier in life. It’s essential to validate these feelings and recognize that it is never too late for autistic adults to receive support and accommodations that can improve their quality of life.

How to Show Support

1. Educate yourself: One of the most important ways to support autistic adults is by educating yourself about autism and the unique challenges they may face. This includes understanding the different ways autism can manifest, as well as the many misconceptions about the condition. By staying informed, you can help to challenge stereotypes and promote greater understanding of autism in society.

2. Listen and learn from autistic voices: Autistic adults are the experts on their own experiences, so it is crucial to listen to their perspectives and learn from them. This can involve following autistic bloggers and advocates, attending autism conferences or events, or joining online forums or discussion groups where autistic voices are centered.

3. Respect their autonomy: Autistic adults, like all individuals, have the right to autonomy and self-determination. It is vital to respect their choices, even if they differ from your own or what you believe is best for them. This may include respecting their preferred communication methods, sensory needs, and boundaries.

4. Offer accommodations: Just as you might support someone with a physical disability by providing ramps or accessible entrances, you can make accommodations for autistic adults to help them navigate the world more comfortably. This might include offering alternative communication methods, such as texting or email, or modifying the environment to reduce sensory overload.

5. Be a safe person: Building trust and establishing a safe, non-judgmental space is essential for autistic adults to feel supported. This might involve being patient during conversations, validating their feelings, and avoiding making assumptions about their experiences or abilities.

6. Advocate for acceptance: Supporting autistic adults also involves advocating for greater acceptance and understanding of autism in society. This might include challenging harmful stereotypes, promoting neurodiversity, and supporting policies and initiatives that benefit autistic individuals.

The Bottom Line

Supporting autistic adults requires an understanding of their unique needs and experiences, as well as a commitment to promoting acceptance and empathy. By educating ourselves and listening to autistic voices, we can help create a more inclusive and understanding world for all individuals on the autism spectrum.

Extended care services play a vital role in ensuring that individuals with additional care needs receive the support, assistance, and personalized care they require. Contact our team at Extended Care, and see how we can help you!