Features of Autism May Be More Serious in Older People Spectrum
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If you tell most people about autism, they’ll think of children, but it’s a lifelong diagnosis. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism. Little is known about how the characteristics of the disease change with age. This is because autism is a relatively new condition, first described in 1943 and not regularly identified until the 1970s. It is only now that people first diagnosed reach old age that we can begin to tell if the disease progresses over the course of life. .
There was suggestions that the characteristics of autism may decrease as people get older. These reports, describing less difficulties with advanced age, often come from people with autism themselves and their families. But how much evidence is there for this? Our latest research provides answers and also raises new questions.
In collaboration with the Autism Diagnosis Research Center in Southampton, UK, we assessed 146 adults who were referred to the center for an autism diagnosis between 2008 and 2015 and who have consented to participate in the research. The people were between 18 and 74 years old. About 100 of these adults have been diagnosed with autism and 46 people have not been diagnosed. It gave us the opportunity to explore the subtle differences between people who are diagnosed and those who don’t, even though they may have other similar challenges.
Our the analysis showed this age and the severity of autism are related; that is, as age increases, the severity of autism traits in social situations, communication, and flexible thinking (such as coping with change or generating new ideas or solutions) also increases. We also found that older people with autism are more likely than younger people to extract rules from situations or prefer structure (for example, wanting to know how committees are organized or always following the same routine during a task).
This pattern did not occur in the group of 46 people without autism. It is not yet clear whether this tendency to menstruate is an “ worsening ” feature of autism or a general trend in all older people.
Strategies for life:
It may seem surprising that people who are diagnosed much later in life have more serious characteristics, as one would expect that people with severe characteristics are more likely to seek a diagnosis earlier in life. life. What we found is that older adults with autism performed better than young adults with autism on some of the cognitive tests we did. The group diagnosed with autism was faster on tests measuring thought speed during a task and did better at processing visual and shape information. These abilities may have helped adults with autism develop lifelong strategies that have helped them cope with their difficulties, which may explain why they were not diagnosed until adulthood.
When the group with autism was compared to the group without autism, we found that the rates of depression and anxiety were high in both groups. One-third of adults diagnosed with autism report high levels of depression or anxiety – rate much higher than in the general population. Depression in the elderly is a risk factor for developing memory and cognition problems. Given the high rates of depression in people with autism, it may be important for doctors to monitor mood as they age to make sure individuals are not at risk for cognitive decline from depression.
The people described in our research are not typical of people with autism. They all had cognitive abilities within the normal range and were not diagnosed in childhood, when autism is most commonly recognized. Despite this, the older people in the study showed more serious features of autism. This could suggest that the characteristics of autism become more severe with age. However, reporting more autism-related issues might also reflect a change in self-awareness. Better self-awareness is generally a good thing, but it can lead to greater awareness of one’s own difficulties.
It’s not yet clear whether people with autism age the same as people without autism – it’s still early days, given the relative age of the disease. Aging can also be different for everyone 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 in order to understand how they change over time.
We all deserve to age as well as possible. Only by understanding how people with autism change as they age, can we begin to put in place services to support them.
Rebecca ann charlton is Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London.
This article was originally published on The conversation. It has been slightly modified to reflect Spectrumthe style.