Spotlight on Adult Autism Symptoms

Page content

When Autism is Diagnosed as an Adult

The autism spectrum was not widely understood or recognized until a couple of decades ago. This meant that a number of adults with autism were not diagnosed or were diagnosed incorrectly. OCD and mental retardation were common misdiagnoses. As knowledge about autism has grown, many people have been diagnosed in middle age or later. This often happens when a child is diagnosed and the family realizes that one of the parents displays similar signs or did so as a child.

Adult Autism Symptoms

Many adults with undiagnosed autism have formed their own methods for coping with daily life and society as a whole. This is commonly seen in the symptoms they display. An undiagnosed adult is often on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum and may be married and gainfully employed. However there are traits and idiosyncrasies in their behavior that are likely to be symptoms of their autism. Here is a list of adult autism symptoms to look out for:

  • Poor social skills and a tendency to be a loner. Attempts to socialize are often clumsy and repeated rebuffs mean that they find it easier to keep to themselves.
  • Adults with autism do not understand the social niceties that people use when socializing. Small talk is considered a waste of time and they may turn a conversation into a self-centered monologue without allowing the other person to speak.
  • Spoken language is often formal in content and may be delivered in a monotonous tone.
  • Adults on the low functioning end of the spectrum are often non verbal and may have been misdiagnosed as mentally retarded.
  • Eccentric behavior patterns that include obsessions with a certain topic or interest. An autistic adult often finds a career that incorporates their special interest. This may involve computers, astronomy or other scientific areas and they are normally very gifted in what they do.
  • Autistic adults have a tendency to regard things as either right or wrong. They may come across as being rigid in their thinking and often appear to overreact if they think that something is being done incorrectly or dishonestly.
  • Routines are important to adults with autism and they often work in situations where they can clock in and clock out at regular times. Repetitive work is welcomed and they are generally honest and reliable employees.

Autism symptoms are often more muted in adults than they are in children. Even without professional therapy, adults have often developed strategies to enable them to cope with the world they live in. An adult diagnosis based on symptoms can be helpful to some but others prefer to live in the way that they have done for years.


The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007