Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Understanding autism

Week 7: Adulthood

Introduction

Most of what you have learned so far has focused on children. However, autism is usually a lifelong condition with many core challenges persisting in adulthood – although there is also change and development, just as for any neurotypical person growing up. Some young autistic adults succeed in overcoming multiple challenges and adapt to independent living, and as you saw in Week 5 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , a small proportion achieve ‘optimal outcomes’, becoming free of their autistic symptoms. For others, serious challenges affecting autonomy and well-being persist. Some people only discover their autism in adulthood, often after years spent struggling with a sense of being different. Across these different groups, several things are clear:

  • less is known about how autism affects people in adulthood
  • the factors that lead to different outcomes in adulthood are not fully understood
  • less help and support is available for adults than for children.

This week discusses what is known about autism during and after the transition to adulthood and in older age. It describes some different life scenarios for autistic adults and the challenges that they may face, for instance in employment and relationships. It outlines some of the provision and support available, but also highlights the many gaps, whether in the UK or worldwide.

Now watch the video in which Dr Ilona Roth introduces this week’s work:

Download this video clip.Video player: boc_aut_1_video_week7_intro.mp4
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Transcript

ILONA ROTH:
By now, you know that autism is usually a lifelong condition. And this week, you'll be focusing on adolescence and adulthood. Of course, this change in development, as for any young person growing up, many young autistic adults overcome huge challenges. Some adapt to independent living. And as you saw in week five, a small proportion may achieve so-called "optimal outcomes" becoming free of their autistic symptoms. However, for many, serious challenges affecting autonomy and well-being persist.
You'll start by looking at the transition to adulthood and the special importance of ongoing education and support for young people who are still developing. You'll also learn about different kinds of living arrangements for adults. One thing, which stands out for me, is the number of autistic adults who remain dependent on parents, experience social isolation, and suffer from mental health problems. Unfortunately, the factors which help to avoid such outcomes are not fully understood. And sadly, less help and support is available for adults than for children.
However, it's important to look at the positives too. You'll learn about the lives of three very different autistic adults. Each in its own way, a success story considered in individual terms. You work also covers how autistic people fare in typical areas of everyday life, such as employment. With recognition of the particular skills that autistic people can bring to work situations, some excellent organisations now specialise in securing employment for adults. Your week's work concludes with a look at some recent UK legislation aimed at ensuring better adult services and support. Legislation is clearly a step in the right direction, but so far, progress in meeting the goals has been disappointingly slow.
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By the end of this week you should be able to:

  • understand problems relating to the transition into adulthood for autistic people
  • appreciate factors that may affect outcomes in adult life
  • be aware of the range of outcomes that may result for autistic adults
  • understand particular challenges in adult life concerning independence, employment, relationships, legal issues and health
  • be familiar with forms of support available for adults and their limitations.
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