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What are the Problems Faced by Autistic Adults?

By S. Reynolds
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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Autistic adults face a variety of obstacles, including difficulty forming and maintaining relationships, getting and keeping jobs, and communicating effectively with others. Autism is a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) that affects communication skills. Autistic adults may have a mild form of autism, such as Asperger's, or a more severe form that prevents them from speaking.

People who suffer from Asperger's Syndrome can hold conversations, but may find it difficult to understand social rules. They usually have a normal or high intelligence level, but poor social skills, which holds them back. Adults with Asperger's also may have a low frustration level or seem withdrawn from others. Usually, adults with Asperger's can improve their social skills drastically through specialized training sessions and behavioral therapy.

One challenge that autistic adults face is starting and keeping relationships and friendships. Since autism affects the ability to read faces and emotions, individuals may find it challenging to hold conversations and follow basic forms of social rituals. Many autistic individuals do not hold eye contact for very long, which may be off-putting to neurotypical people. Many autistic people do not have many friends because of their quirks.

Many autistic people also never get married. Romantic relationships are very challenging for those who cannot understand the normal give-and-take of a relationship. Those who are married might have difficulties with communicating to their spouses.

Another common problem faced by autistic adults is finding and holding down a job. Positions that require a high degree of social interaction typically are not suitable for autistic people. Autistic job applicants usually find the job interview to be quite daunting due to their poor social skills.

Many autistic individuals also have problems with change. They generally dislike change of any kind in their environments or routines. Typical coping mechanisms include shaking, rocking, or hand flapping. Autistic people generally strive for order and routine at all times and may have meltdowns if their regular routines are changed. Their love of routine may be a positive trait in technical job settings, but it generally hinders many aspects of their lives.

Overall, autistic people find social situations to be very difficult. Many of them must take social skills training or special education classes to learn how to function in ordinary society. Behavioral modification programs and medication help some individuals with autism. Adults who received special attention and social skills training at a young age usually have the best outlook.

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Discussion Comments
By pleonasm — On Mar 30, 2012

Something I think people should be cautious of in this day and age is misdiagnosing people as having autism when really they are just introverts or have some other kind of learning difficulty.

I know the temptation to try and diagnose yourself. And, really, Asperger's in particular is quite broadly defined.

Half my friends could be autistic adults the symptoms are so common.

And I know a lot of kids who are diagnosed as having Asperger's only to have a doctor tell them as adults that they were just depressed, or "difficult".

I don't think people should run from the diagnosis if that is what they have, but don't blindly accept that you have a disorder if you are just a bit different.

It might feel good to have an explanation for what you feel is wrong with you, but in the end it won't change anything.

By umbra21 — On Mar 30, 2012

@Mor - The sad thing about that is that if his son was capable of using his computer he might have responded well to treatment as a child. He might even still respond to it, but it sounds like his father could never afford the kind of intensive treatment his son would need.

Unfortunately, it takes a lot of work by professional psychologists to really help those suffering from autism to feel comfortable with normal interactions.

It's such an individual disease, but it can be so devastating to the people around you.

Of course, there are quite a few people with autism so severe that they will never be able to live a normal life, but even then there are therapies that can help them.

By Mor — On Mar 29, 2012

I saw a documentary recently about a young man who was autistic and how difficult it was for his father to care for him.

He was on the cusp of adulthood, but there didn't seem to be much chance that he would go out and be on his own any time soon.

While much of the time he just stayed in his room and played on his computer he had difficulty remembering to eat properly and tended to freak out if he was looked in the eye or if people approached him the wrong way.

I actually thought, in a way, his life wasn't all that bad. He didn't seem to miss interactions with people.

It was his father I felt sorry for. He had no real chance to ever have a normal life, as his son needed 24 hour care and he couldn't really afford to hire someone to help him.

There must be so many people out there like this who have no way of having a normal life because they have to care for their relatives.

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