Autism was first described as a syndrome in 1943 by Leo Kanner. That’s over 70 years ago. However, most of the autism research still mainly focuses on children. This is important, as we desperately want to understand how to best assist children to reach their potential.
However, the challenges of autism follow these individuals throughout their lives. And some of them are well into their 70’s. How does autism affect the different stages of life?
CNN contributor, Francesca Happe, reported recently on a number of studies of older ones with autism. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Adults with autism have higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity. This might be because they can’t communicate health difficulties and due to their sensory issues, they can’t tolerate the standard physical exams that physicians give.
- One group of severely affected older adults with autism showed high rates of Parkinson-like movement problems. They can only speculate as to reasons at this point. More study is required to discover the answers.
- There is some good news. At the International Meeting for Autism Research last weekend Marsha Mailick, director of the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shared data gleaned from 10 years of following the lives of more than 400 people with autism, starting in 1998. It found that “Autistic symptoms, such as impaired verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, and rigid/repetitive behaviors, decreased over time among one-third to half of the study participants, and stayed stable in many others. Independent living skills remained stable in this group, as well.”
The evidence indicates that people with autism need continued research, support, and services throughout their lives. Since they are more prone to anxiety and depression, it’s vital that their mental health is evaluated and assisted by a specialist trained in autism spectrum disorder.
And not to be forgotten are the life long caregivers for those with ASD. They require continued support as well to cope with the demands put upon them. Are you ready to reach out? Do you need to talk with someone who understands the dynamics of a relationship with someone with autism? If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and set up an appointment.