Adulthood

As the individual with autism reaches adulthood, that is the time when secondary education is completed, learning still seems to continue to occur. In some instances for example, it would appear that information processing may still be processing quicker or more efficiently as they grow older making it appear as if they are somehow brighter than when they were younger. Additionally, particularly with those individuals who are considered “higher functioning”, that is those individuals whose language appears relatively unaffected and whose overall intelligence is sufficient enough to obtain gainful employment there appears to be an expectation when there are problems that those individuals “should know better” or “should have known better” despite the fact that they may never have been taught how to do certain things. In adulthood, new behaviors, even behaviors or tasks that are similar to others need to be taught as if they are new, one needs to remember that autism is a lifelong developmental disability.

a. Learning - as noted above, learning is lifelong and each new task needs to be taught as a new task or job or behavior.
b. Vocational – many vocations or jobs can be taught, but each likely needs to be taught in a step-by-step method and there can be no expectation, at least at the start that the individual can generalize from previous learning.
c. Social behavior – in a similar sense to social behavior as an adolescent, the adult with autism often struggles finding appropriate adult role models to model after appropriate or acceptable ways to do myriads of routine behaviors in their new social world. Without appropriate adult role models, many may find themselves either living with her biological parents or isolating themselves in their own apartment staying essentially by themselves.

d. Mood, anxiety, companionship-friendship - those adults with autism who have not developed many similar age friendships and who have found themselves more isolated, may develop issues and concerns with depression and anxiety requiring formal treatment by professionals (if such professionals can be found – professionals who work with adults in the autism spectrum). Those however who have in fact developed a neurotypical friend or friends typically seemed to lead lives that parallel neurotypical counterparts.

e. Human sexuality/marriage/family - it is possible for adults with autism to marry, and have children. It is not uncommon for adults with autism though to see counselors – marriage or family counselors not due to specific types of problems, but more for assistance on how to navigate issues in marriage related to problem-solving, areas of intimacy, and future planning. Couples counseling where one of the partners is in the autism spectrum appears not to be a common practice, though specialist who provide this service help both partners navigate routine as well as complicated marriage and family related issues that many neurotypical couples travel through on their own both successfully and unsuccessfully. It is recommended that couples where one of the individuals is in the autism spectrum consider seeking possible help from a counselor who is familiar with working with specialists counselors be considered.

f. Criminal justice concerns – as adults, any action involved in the criminal justice peer is of concern as it is a permanent record. An individual who is over the age of 18 and is considered “competent” (unless legally noted otherwise), and is considered responsible for the actions they have done or committed. That is to say, just because one has an autism spectrum disorder doesn’t mean that they are not responsible for their actions and as a result they may end up in a criminal justice setting because of what they may have done. Unfortunately, individuals with an autism spectrum disorder are not always the best of individuals in defending themselves. At times they may in a matter of fact way say that they are or are not guilty of a given crime and provide no other explanation. They may not speculate on any alternative to a given situation which at times may make it appear as if they are even guiltier of a given crime then it may otherwise seem, leading to their arrest, too often this has been the case and the individual with autism is too often unable to meaningfully defend themselves.