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Autism in the Elderly

Autism in the Elderly

Whilst the majority of Autism diagnoses are made for children and teens, it is not uncommon for older people to be diagnosed nowadays.   Some people spend their lives just feeling like they don’t “fit in”.  They are not comfortable in social situations, fitting into their workplace can be challenging and just establishing friends or getting along with extended family can be difficult.


How Important is a Diagnosis?

Whilst there is no standard diagnostic criteria for diagnosing adults with suspected Autism, the diagnosis is made through a series of in-person observations and interactions with a Healthcare Professional, as well as taking any indicators into consideration.  Pursuing a diagnosis can be a positive experience and bring a sense of relief.  Even if someone has gone undiagnosed for most of their life, suddenly having a logical explanation for their symptoms,  and a reason for their struggles, means they are aware of and can understand why their bodies and minds behave the way they do.  Understanding one’s own limitations and abilities can open new opportunities and foster new connections with other autistic adults.  It can also help medical professionals and carers to better understand how multiple health conditions are interacting.


What are the Signs of Autism?

Autism is a spectrum, so there are different symptoms for different ranges on the spectrum.

Common signs in adults include:

  • Lack of nonverbal communication skills like eye contact, body language, and facial expressions.
  • Difficulty reading social cues.
  • Inability to relate to, or express empathy with others.
  • Focus on a very few specific interests, and lack of curiosity in anything else.
  • Repetitive and ritualistic behaviours.
  • Rigid routines, schedules and patterns that must be maintained.

These symptoms can also be shared with other conditions such as mental health disorders and dementia, so it’s important to take into account whether these behaviours are new, have always been present or perhaps even exacerbated by recent events such as the Covid-19 Lockdowns.


How is Autism Managed?

Generally speaking, adults are not given the same treatments as children diagnosed with Autism.  They may be treated with cognitive, verbal and applied behavioural therapy.

Some treatments include:

  • Visiting a psychiatrist experienced in Autism treatment for medical evaluation.
  • Consulting a social worker or psychologist for group and individual therapy.
  • Receiving counselling on an ongoing basis.
  • Seeking vocational rehabilitation (for career-related difficulties).
  • Taking prescription medication for symptoms like anxiety, depression, and behavioural issues that may occur alongside Autism.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Autism in later life you can still live a fulfilling and active life by exploring therapies and medications, as well as accessing facilities and resources that will help improve the quality of your life.  For more information visit Autism Awareness Australia.

Homestyle has a number of autistic residents that live positively and happily in our homes alongside others.  If you would like to know more please phone us on (03) 8799 2000 or contact us here for more information.

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