| Adults with Autism

Autism symptoms in adults can present differently than in children, and many adults have learned to live with their symptoms over the years.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. In most cases, people with autism receive a diagnosis in childhood, usually after the age of 4. However, some adults with autism are not diagnosed in childhood, even though their symptoms are more severe.

For a person with autism who was not diagnosed as a child, receiving an ASD diagnosis later in life can be helpful for several reasons. In particular, it can provide better access to services and support. In this article, we discuss the signs and symptoms of ASD in adulthood and what to do if a person would like a diagnosis.

Signs and symptoms of autism in adults

People with autism may find some aspects of communication and social interaction challenging. They may have difficulty relating to people and understanding their emotions. Adults with autism may also have inflexible patterns of thinking and behavior and perform repetitive actions.

Common signs and symptoms of ASD in adults may include:

  • difficulty making conversation
  • difficulty making or maintaining close friendships
  • discomfort during eye contact
  • challenges with emotion regulation
  • extreme interest in a particular topic
  • frequent monologues on the same subject or subjects
  • hypersensitivity to sounds or smells that do not seem to bother others
  • involuntary noises, such as a repetitive cough to clear the throat (clearing the voice)
  • difficulty understanding sarcasm or idioms
  • lack of inflection in speech
  • limited interest in only a few activities
  • preference for solitary activities
  • trouble reading other people’s emotions
  • difficulty understanding facial expressions and body language
  • reliance on daily routines and difficulty coping with change
  • repetitive behaviors
  • social anxiety
  • superior skills in a particular field, such as mathematics or other subjects
  • the need to arrange the items in a certain order.

Not all people with autism will have all of the signs and symptoms above and may experience others that are not on the list.

There may be some similarities between ASD and other disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but the signs and symptoms of ASD vary from person to person.

Symptoms may also differ by gender. Some people may seem better able to cope with social situations than others because their symptoms may be more subtle and masked. As a result, it can be more difficult to diagnose ASD.


Receiving an ASD diagnosis as an adult can be challenging for several reasons:

    People who were not diagnosed when they were younger may have milder symptoms that may be harder to recognize. Sometimes such people may never receive a diagnosis.

    If people have been living with ASD for a while, they may be better at masking the signs and symptoms.

Research shows that one of the common diagnostic tests for adult autism, the ADOS-2, can be quite reliable. But a doctor must recognize a person’s symptoms to refer them for testing.

Medical News Today website / 2021

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