Autism Spectrum Disorder - Distinguished By Age

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

Written & Researched By: Kamya Patel

*Disclaimer: As suggested in its name, Autism Spectrum Disorder includes a broad spectrum of symptoms and behaviours. Thus, the information discussed throughout this blog post is neither representative of all autistic persons nor an exhaustive list of the characteristics of all autistic persons.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or autism, is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that occurs in people of all ages and backgrounds. Most of the time, autism diagnoses, especially for severe forms of the disorder, are acquired by patients during their childhood. However, some cases of ASD remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed until adolescence or adulthood. Due to recent growth in ASD awareness within adults, public understanding and the number of diagnoses have increased significantly, allowing patients and families to gain a sense of clarity

and relief.

Symptoms Of Autism

Although no two autistic patients are the same, common symptoms can be categorized into three groups: social interactions, communication, and ritualistic behaviours. While each of these areas may pose similar challenges, age can indeed play a role in determining the symptoms exhibited by patients, especially if the diagnoses came at different points in their lives.

(The next few sections will present an overview of ASD within three age groups: children, teenagers, and adults)

ASD Within Children

When it comes to children, early signs of autism occur between ages 0 to 2 years, such as lack of smiling and gestures, not showing interest in other people, or not making eye contact with parents or familiar people. Symptoms become more noticeable in a few years as they are expected to show evidence of growth and learning. Autistic toddlers may begin to speak unusually or have little to no interest in playing with other kids of the same age. Additionally, many autistic children are likely to be upset by particular sounds, only consume foods with a certain texture, and seek vibrational objects like washing machines. Because there is no strictly defined technique for diagnosing autism within children, doctors observe children interact with others, interview parents, assess language and cognitive skills, and consider past history to arrive at a diagnosis and a description for the severity of symptoms.

ASD Within Teenagers

Just like their non-autistic counterparts, autistic teenagers experience a roller coaster of life and emotions during their adolescent years. Sometimes, they tend to showcase their newfound stress and confusion through aggressive behaviours. As they become aware of their differences, like not focusing on their future career plans, lacking age-appropriate interests, or trouble with adjusting to highly social situations, teens with ASD may become even more sensitive to socializing. Nevertheless, this realization does motivate some to actively improve their social skills and communication. When they do choose to behave in an intractable manner, common acts of aggression include refusing/ignoring requests, inappropriate actions, and hurting themselves or others. These acts are signs of struggles with the following tasks: understanding non-verbal communication, communicating one’s needs & wants, stress & anxiety, an overwhelming environment, and more. By the time these behaviors wear off, parents and families start looking into education and employment opportunities in order to best support their autistic loved ones during the transition to adulthood.

ASD Within Adults

In regards to adults with ASD, diagnoses that come later in life are caused by various reasons, including unrecognized milder symptoms in childhood or long-term experience with disguising and managing autistic behaviors. As fully grown adults, many patients learn to live with ASD, work successfully in their respective jobs, and treat ASD as a unique addition to their identity whereas others need assistance in their journey to independent living. Either way, adult autism comes in all sorts of shapes and forms; typical characteristics range from trouble with interpreting body language and feeling confused by figurative expressions to following consistent routines and having a preference for solitary activities. Furthermore, adults with ASD have also been known to portray strong interests in a single topic and become the “eccentric professor” of their family.

Simply put, Autism Spectrum Disorder can present itself in a multitude of ways that may be specific to the patient’s age.


Autism in Adults: Spectrum Disorder Symptoms & Signs

Autism in adults: Signs, symptoms, and diagnosis

Adults and Adolescents with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism signs & diagnosis in children | Raising Children Network

Challenging behaviour & autism: 3-18 years | Raising Children Network

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