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Dachel Wake Up: What Happens When People With Autism Grow Old?

Dachel Morning Wake UoOct 10, 2016, (Boston, MA): What happens when people with autism grow old?

By Ann Charlton

If you mention autism to most people they will think about children, but it is a lifelong diagnosis. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism. Little is known about how the symptoms change with age. This is because autism is a relatively new disorder, first described in 1943 and not regularly identified until the 1970s. It is only now that those people first diagnosed are reaching older age that we can start to learn whether the disorder changes over a lifetime.

There have been some suggestions that symptoms may reduce as people get older. These reports, describing fewer difficulties with older age, are often from people with autism themselves and from their families. But how much evidence is there for this? Our latest research provides some answers, and also raises some new questions.

Working with the Autism Diagnostic Research Centre in Southampton we assessed 146 adults who were referred to the centre seeking a diagnosis of autism between 2008 and 2015, and who consented to take part in the research. People were aged between 18 and 74-years-old. A hundred of these adults were diagnosed with autism, and 46 people did not receive a diagnosis. This gave us an opportunity to explore the subtle differences between people who receive a diagnosis and those who don’t, even though they may have some other similar difficulties.

Our analysis showed that age and severity of autism were linked; that is, as age increased so did the severity of autism symptoms in social situations, communication and flexible thinking (such as coping with change or generating new ideas or solutions). We also found that older people with autism were more likely than younger people to extract rules from situations or prefer structure (for example, wanting to know how committees are organised or always following the same routine during a task). ...

Older adults with autism performed better on cognitive tests than younger adults. ...

It isn’t yet clear whether people with autism age in the same way as people without autism – it’s still early days, given the relative age of the disorder. Ageing may also be different for each person with autism. People with autism may have developed strategies to help them age better, or may be at risk for depression and cognitive decline. In future work, we aim to see people every few years so we can understand how they change over time. 

Autism folklore: Autism has always been here, but we've only been able to find it in young people.

Here Ann Charlton writes a confusing piece. Autism is "a relatively new disorder," people may outgrow it, but research has shown that "age and severity of autism are linked."

All her guesses are based on studying 146 adults with autism between 18 and 74 years of age from Southampton in the UK.

146 adults? Why such a small study group?

How severe were they? What was the age span? Were most of the "adults" in their twenties?

This is fiction. The reason people keeps asking this troubling question is because there simply isn't a comparable autistic population among older adults. Pretending that they're out there somewhere, and that we just haven't looked for them, is fostering a lie. We are still having to train teachers, EMTs, fire fighters, police and just about everyone dealing with the public about autism because it's a relatively new phenomenon.

I have asked over and over for SOMEONE to show us the 40, 60, and 80 year olds displaying the same signs of autism we see in our kids. And I'm talking about full-blown autism...adults who regressed (in other words, they started out as normally developing children and lost learned skills), hand-flapping, echolalia or no speech, meltdowns, OCD, wandering. I want to see the ASD adults with all the concomitant health problems plaguing our kids: seizures, bowel problems etc.

Let's ask the real question: WHY CAN'T WE FIND OLDER ADULTS WITH AUTISM? (Why aren't doctors doing "better diagnosing" among their middle aged and elderly patients?) 


Martha Moyer

My son is age 43. I think he is getting to want a certain structure and isn't wanting to do things he
used to enjoy. He used to go to an art for disabled program and now won't go anymore. My son is different from most as he has autism, mental health issues, moderate IDD, and minimal speech/ language skill. He also has paralyzed bowels due to institutional neglect. I think many of them by the time they reach their 40s have experienced neglect from institutions, group homes, day habs or something. I think sometimes adults as they get older don't want dayhabs anymore. And, anyway I want everyone to know day habs requirements by CMS are requiring great changes soon such as more community opportunities for individuals. You may see more out in the community then of the older ones.

moon batchelder

My daughter had not regressed. She was always.. At about age 4 her language skills kicked in,, by agree 6 she could use the toilet. By agree 7 she was able to tolerate normal food and was weaned off of the pediasure that had been the only thing she could keep down. The stimming' behaviours have tapered off from about age 9. She doesn't bang her head much any more... But heaven forbid the electricity goes out, the internet goes down, or gravity makes something fall from her hands of off of the table. She rages and can't self calm...
The absence seizures have ceased but even after 8 years of trying she hasn't been able to memorize her math facts... We use counting by 2 of 3 or 5..I taught her songs that helped her remember her addition doubles . At 13 now she can bathe herself and brush her teeth... But everything comes harder for her.. Even sleeping!
So what if she's high functioning..I still don't know how she would handle employment of any kind, or even shopping.... What can we do for our autistic adults when there are still deficits, whether great or small? I'm her grandmother. I adopted her at birth, I will have to somehow stay alive and able til I'm into my eighties to get her into her twenties... After that, what programs will be in place to take over?...

These are the worries with which every parent of an autistic child must contend. Pretty sure if there were a population of 60 to 80 year old autistic folk of any size, we'd have in place the requisite programs...


My son is a teen now and today was hitting his head harder than ever for about 10 minutes. I am really scared. I don't want to put him on medication but I don't want him to do this. We did tons on biomed when he was little and it made him bang his head. That there are no real solutions is inhumanity. He is a really good boy, a really good person with something to contribute to this world. I don't want him written off, drugged up or pitied. He deserves the chance to thrive. When he stopped banging his head he smiled shyly like he was ashamed of his behavior.


My 2 Grandchildren, one severely autistic and one 'on the spectrum' both live in Southampton, UK. They did not take part in this very small study group nor was their family approached. This is just more propaganda to 'prove' that older people are also on the spectrum in the same number. Of course, it will probably convince people who do not know the facts, but the truth is coming out and, in the end, nothing will stop it.

Vaxxed is a terrific vehicle for getting the fact that vaccines do cause autism out to the public and no matter what 'science' they try to use, nothing beats the testimonies of the parents. These videos are getting so much publicity on the net and their 'science' is really beginning to look very unconvincing.


So the youngest people in the study were 18 and could give consent. That sounds like Asperger's to me, and probably at the mild end at that. So not only is it a small sample size but it's a skewed sample size without any mention in the article that they were avoiding the lower half of the spectrum. Bad science all around. By the way, I do know older adults with autism, but not many. One I swear was misdiagnosed because she was very verbal and social and should never have been in a day hab. A quick check of day habs will show you just how few people have autism over 50.

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