What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?
The autism spectrum includes Asperger’s syndrome, Rett’s syndrome, autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). While autism as a whole is characterized by certain groups of symptoms, each disorder on the spectrum displays these in different ways. The three main symptom groups are:
- Problems with social interaction
- Communication and language difficulties
- Repetitive and restricted behavior patterns
These are acted out in many different ways across the autism spectrum.
Facts about the Different Spectrum Disorders in Adults
It is estimated that approximately one in 15 people in the USA have some kind of autistic disorder. This works out to almost 400,000 sufferers, with many of these being adults. The ratio of male to female sufferers is four to one. Here are some interesting facts about adults with autism spectrum disorders:
- Rett’s syndrome occurs almost exclusively in females. While the condition becomes apparent from six months of age onward, many sufferers survive into middle age.
- Adults with a childhood disintegrative disorder often remain dependant for life. Only about 20% of them will regain the ability to speak in sentences and many will be placed in institutions due to the level of care needed.
- PDD-NOS is diagnosed when a person shows some but not all of the core symptoms of autistic disorders. Adults with PDD-NOS can be helped to the point where they can receive a good education and go on to function in society. Their prognosis is better if the condition was diagnosed as a child and appropriate therapies were introduced at that time.
- Some adults with autism spectrum disorders also suffer from mental retardation which makes communication difficult.
- Autism is a lifelong neurological condition, and while some adults learn to cope with their limitations, they can never be cured as such.
- Some adults with autism remain nonverbal for life and communicate their needs through signs or grunts. They may become frustrated if their needs are not seen to. Males, in particular, can become aggressive.
- Many adults with autism have sensory problems and feel uncomfortable in crowds or in noisy places. In some cases, the noise levels can cause them physical pain. If crowds can’t be avoided, an MP3 player or similar can give some relief from the noise.
- Sexuality can be a problem among autistic people if they are not given an appropriate sex education. Some turn to pornography to learn about sex and end up acting out what they have watched with disastrous consequences.
- Adults with Asperger’s syndrome are on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum. Many go on to marry and hold down jobs.
- Men and women with Asperger’s are normally of average or above average intelligence and many are especially gifted in a certain area, such as computers or astronomy.
Adults with autism spectrum disorders have a wide range of abilities and disabilities. While some need full time care, others are able to live independently and run a home. Early intervention and therapy as a child give an autistic adult the best chance at leading a secure and fulfilled life.