I was recently giving a keynote during World Autism Month in April about what happens to children with autism when they become adults when during the Q&A someone asked me about whether or not someone could be diagnosed with autism when they reach adulthood.
The question left me shocked.
A lot of questions ran through my head at this moment. Being diagnosed with autism at 4 I considered myself lucky because my parents were able to get me early intervention services to help me succeed. I thought to myself about if any of my development would have been different if I was diagnosed as an adult and wasn’t eligible to a certain amount of services.
My response to the woman in the audience was simply this.
“Early intervention is the key but no matter what age you are anyone at any age can be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
At the time, I wanted to add-on information to this answer but I couldn’t help but becoming distracted in thinking to myself about how many adults with autism may have fallen through the cracks due to the lack of awareness out their about adult diagnosis.
Today, I continue to hear more and more stories of adults being diagnosed. A few days after answering that woman’s question I gave another talk where after the presentation I visited a support group in the Conference center for people who were diagnosed with autism in adulthood. Some were diagnosed in their 20’s, others in their 40’s and one individual in their early 50’s. Some highlighted the difficulties finding treatments while others who were more recently diagnosed discussed the need for things such as navigating reasonable accommodations in the workplace. As they went around in a circle discussing each of their stories it made me realize more and more why it’s important to understand that autism doesn’t end when you turn 18.
No matter if you feel you may show one sign of autism or 20, one of the most important things you can do is start a conversation towards getting a diagnosis. Talking to your practitioner and asking who may be able to get you diagnosed is imperative. While I was working at Autism Speaks one of the toolkits I was the happiest to see come to fruition was the Is It Autism and If So, What Next? A Guide for Adults that was designed to help adults who suspect they may have autism, as well as those who were recently diagnosed with an ASD.
I’m glad more and more organizations are becoming more understanding of the needs of adults with special needs and I can only hope we can continue that trend in the future.