Report from a Think Tank on Aging and Autism Published
In 2017, Autism Canada, The Pacific Autism Family Network, and ARI facilitated a think tank on ASD in adulthood and later life in Vancouver, BC. Meetings focused on collaboration around common priorities to advance research, knowledge, and solutions for issues related to autism in middle adulthood and beyond. A summary of this international meeting was published in May 2020, in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Aging in Autism: A Call to Action – Autism Research Institute
Twenty years ago there was much talk but little action about the inevitable onslaught of children and teenagers on the autism spectrum reaching adulthood. Whether it was hesitation or procrastination, private and public agencies delayed planning, and the autism community is now scrambling to figure out ways to best provide needed support and services to young adults on the spectrum. A similar scenario is starting to play out with respect to seniors with autism. Today there is little discussion about individuals with autism reaching their senior years even though three notable individuals on the spectrum have reached this age-related milestone.
Autism Symptoms and Diagnosis in Adults – Autism Research Institute
“Classic” symptoms of autism in children are not always present in adults on the spectrum, especially in those underdiagnosed as children (Lewis, 2018). Adults on the spectrum commonly exhibit symptoms related to social and communication difficulties, repetitive behaviors, sensory processing difficulties, and issues with executive function and theory of mind.
Challenging behaviors in adults with autism – Autism Research Institute
Challenging behaviors such as aggression, destructiveness, and self-injury take a tremendous toll on adults with autism and their caregivers. Each week, the Autism Research Institute receives desperate communications from caregivers seeking help for an adult son or daughter whose behavior is disturbing, dangerous, or even life-threatening.
This editorial looks at the scope of this problem, current approaches for treatment, and the steps the autism community can take to help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and caregivers who are struggling with this serious issue.
Interoception Is Impaired in Children, but not Adults, with Autism
A new study suggests that children, but not adults, with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have impairments in interoception. Interoception is the ability to sense the internal state of the body—for instance, to accurately identify sensations such as hunger, thirst, pain, and internal temperature.
Transportation issues rarely addressed by providers – Autism Research Institute
Very few medical or behavioral specialists discuss driving or other transportation-related issues with patients who have ASD (autism spectrum disorders), according to a new study.
Emma Sartin and colleagues surveyed 78 providers, mostly pediatric physicians and psychologists who care for both autistic and non-autistic patients. Half of the providers reported having transportation-related discussions with non-autistic patients, while only one in five discussed transportation issues with patients with ASD. A third of providers believed they were able to assess if non-autistic patients were capable of driving, while only 8 percent believed they could assess the readiness of patients with ASD.
Executive Function & Autism – Autism Research Institute
Executive function (EF) describes the “overarching regulation of goal-directed, future-oriented, higher-order cognitive processes” largely controlled by the frontal cortex (Szczepanski & Knight, 2014; Demetriou et al., 2019). These higher-order functions include skills related to planning, organizing, self-regulation, attention maintenance, emotion regulation, prioritizing, and staying on task. EF skills develop intensely from infancy to the preschool period and steadily improve into early adulthood (Carlson et al., 2013).
The Puzzle of Lifestyle Planning
Everyone makes choices daily that impact life. For example, people decide where they will work, with whom they will live, and in what extracurricular activities they will engage. For individuals with autism spectrum disorders these decisions are often made by others and without the person’s input. Lifestyle planning allows people with autism to explore possibilities, brainstorm strategies, and identify outcomes that are typically beyond what is offered by traditional services. Quite simply, lifestyle planning is a method for supporting individuals with autism spectrum disorders in making choices which reflect preferences, areas of strength, and their own visions.
To understand the dilemma that people on the autism spectrum often find themselves in, consider the following scenarios:
- You have just been shown your new office, which consists of a cubicle lit with fluorescent lights. To a person with autism, this may feel like working under a strobe light.
- You’re in high school. It’s time for a math test where each page has ten questions. The scratching sound made by the other students’ writing implements drives you, quite literally, to distraction. Not only that, but all those math questions on the test seem to jumble together.
- You have recently met a special person with whom you think you’d like to have a long-term relationship. Until now, you have put on a good act at “pretending to be normal” (Willey, 1999), and she hasn’t noticed a thing – yet – or has she?
These three cases bear directly on the subject of self-advocacy and disclosure. In each scenario, the situation needs to be modified, which may require an explanation for one or more people. Let’s take a look at what self-advocacy and disclosure are, and what it entails.
Adults with Autism: Survey Takers Needed – Autism Research Institute
We invite you to complete the survey on quality of life issues associated with senior adults on the autism spectrum. We hope the results from this survey will provide much insight into the needs and challenges faced by senior adults with autism (ages 50 and older) and their support providers. We anticipate that this study will also inspire others as well as better inform the autism community, government agencies, and other welfare and health-related organizations about such quality of life issues.