Autistic Adults

This page describes the experiences of autistic adults. For our Adult Support and Wellbeing Programme click here.

In the last few decades our understanding of autism has advanced far beyond its original definition to include autistic adults. Dr. Leo Kanner, who first coined the term in 1943, primarily saw it as a childhood psychosis. We now know this to be untrue; in fact the very first child Kanner diagnosed, Donald Triplett, lived until 2023! Autistic adults face their own unique challenges.

A large number of adults have grown up without receiving an appropriate diagnosis. This may be due to financial factors, long waiting lists, misdiagnosis or even gender (the incorrect notion that only boys are autistic is still commonplace.) Without a full understanding of themselves, they will likely have grown up with a lot of anxiety due to sensory overload or the stress of ‘masking.’ Some may even have spent time in to psychiatric units when autistic burnout is mistaken for a nervous breakdown.

They may be more likely to develop problems of addiction in an attempt to reduce their anxiety. These combined issues also mean that under or unemployment is frequent problem. Since there is no public route for pursuing an adult diagnosis, they may be forced to go private, which may be too expensive for them to access.

Furthermore, even if they were diagnosed as children, autistic adults can face other challenges. Certain clinical supports stop abruptly at the age of 18, even if they require further assistance. Finding a therapist for anxiety may be harder if the professional isn’t familiar with autism. Long term employment may be difficult due to job interviews, workplace culture or a lack of supports. We’ve compiled a list of books about autistic adults for further reading.

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