Autism is a disorder that children don’t usually outgrow. It follows an individual into adulthood no matter how severe or mild it may be. The only thing that changes is that many high functioning adults learn how to cope with the symptoms better than when they were children because they are more mature and have been dealing with it longer. However, for some adults, learning to cope with autism doesn’t get any easier. For the most part, behavioral characteristics are the same for adults as for children affected by autism.
An adult with autism often has a hard time maintaining relationships. He typically has a hard time relating to others or feeling empathy when friends or loved ones are going through problem situations. He may not know how to let a spouse get close to him, or his children. However, he may expect them to be there for him when he needs them. This can make it hard to get close to someone with autism because the relationship may feel one-sided.
Sometimes, he may not seek any kind of relationship unless it benefits him. Topics that someone with autism may discuss will often be inappropriate for the time or place he is in, making conversation awkward. His interests are usually centered on specific things that others aren’t interested in or knowledgeable of, and may be the only things he wants to talk about.
Life is full of changes that people can’t always do anything about. Adults with autism may have a difficult time with change. Having to move to a new house or job, getting used to married life or the addition of a child, changing policies in the work place or in every day life may make an adult with autism irritable, resisting the change. Because she may have a hard time expressing her feelings, her emotions may present themselves as anger, depression or indifference.
Sensory deficits also follow a child with autism into adulthood. Just because he’s older doesn’t mean he has learned to handle the feel of certain fabrics or the lack of control one feels when having to travel on an airplane. He may still not want to be touched or find loud noises painful. In situations where these things occur, he may still become so agitated that he loses control of his ability to hide the problems. This is especially true of lower functioning adults with autism. Adults will try their best to avoid these situations as best as they can, but being forced into such a position may trigger a fight or flight reaction, leading to violent or angry behavior.
Many adults with high functioning autism thrive in the work place due to several reasons. Behaviorally, they tend to be very focused on a job, as long as it’s something they like to do. Performing the job well gives them a sense of accomplishment, pushing them to work harder. Most jobs bring with them a certain degree of routine, which people with autism seek. Routine helps keep them regulated because they know what has to be done without guessing or reading social responses. They are usually extremely intelligent, able to learn quickly and retain what they have learned, making them great assets to any company.
However, many adults on the autism spectrum find it hard to keep a job. Often, their social deficits interfere with their ability to get along with a supervisor or coworkers. Some have a hard time being told what to do and before long, walk off the job or are fired because they can’t adapt. Fighting, either verbally or physically, isn’t uncommon. Because they can be so selective about the type of work they want to do, they may find it hard to obtain work and sometimes aren’t willing to compromise. This can place strain on a family at home, triggering more stress.
Autism brings many challenges for those who live with it. This is true for adults as well as children. With social deficits, an adult with autism may appear to be insensitive, aggressive and self-centered. It’s important to remember that most of these behaviors are because they don’t know how to properly express themselves or relate well to others, and not that these actions are necessarily intentional.