Autism among adults: an underexposed problem

There is a lot of attention for autism among young people, especially children. But Plus Magazine now reports that people over 45 suffer from autism much more often than we previously thought. In the past, autism could go unnoticed quite easily. But nowadays autism is so much in the spotlight that you can easily find out after decades that you are autistic. Whether you’re having problems socially, in relationships or at work, this can be a real aha experience. There is a lot of attention for autism among young people, especially children. But Plus Magazine reports that older people suffer from autism much more often than we previously thought. However, as an older person you can often slip through the net. You don’t know that you are autistic, and that can take decades. However, our society is becoming increasingly busy and complex. This means that people who have autism but have little or no knowledge of it can still run into problems later in life. Moreover, there is much more attention for autism than before. Once you were hardly noticed with autistic complaints, now everyone has heard of autism or even received the comment ‘are you a bit autistic or something?’

85,000 people over 45

There are a considerable number of people over 45 in the Netherlands who probably have some form of autism. The estimates assume 85,000 people over 45. But what does autism actually mean for your daily life? Plus Magazine asked the opinion of psychologist Annelies Spek, specialized in autism in adults. She states that these patients suffer from ‘a lack of connection’ with others. Someone who has autism lacks the proverbial social antennae. For such a person, autism can mainly mean that you do not really know how to interact with each other.

What’s so funny about that?

There is also a literal element to autism. Missing subtle social nuances means you might miss a joke. It’s painful, because when everyone is laughing at a birthday party, you quickly feel stupid. But autism also means that you have extra difficulty with changes. When things go the way you imagined, it all works. But when things turn out differently, it leads to confusion. In the worst case, it can even evoke panic or unadulterated rage.

Lost your job again

There are many adults with a failing professional life, or a love life that cannot be managed properly. If you find yourself moving from one job or relationship to another, you may label yourself as a professional or relationship failure. But it could also be that you have been autistic for years, without even knowing it. With autism it is difficult to function well in a relationship, but you can also encounter problems in a job. While teachers and school doctors are now more trained to detect autism, this will of course not happen so quickly with a boss or loved one. While society is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate for people with undetected autism. Expert Spek just mentions the existence of so-called open-plan offices, the current habit of multitasking, and the obligation to keep quiet via countless online and factual networks. All in all, you quickly find yourself with an excess of stimuli that is extra unwelcome for autistic people. This has the consequence that the older autistic person is still left out, and the possible positive consequence is that the help that has been lacking for years is now available, says Spek.

Diagnosis and treatment of autism

Autism has the attention. That is why we now have a real professor of autism in the Netherlands, at the University of Amsterdam. Special professor Hilde Geurts is the developer of a diagnosis and treatment guideline for adults with autism. From sometime in 2012, this guideline will be available to psychologists, but also to general practitioners and company doctors. Autism is not an easy diagnosis to receive, but there is also relief when, as older autistic people, you finally understand more about that burdensome ‘being different’ than your life partner, social contacts or colleagues. Rens turned 50 before he discovered that he suffered from autism. Rens: “It was a weight lifted from my shoulders. I wish I had known it earlier, then life would probably have been easier for me and my wife.

Plus Magazine

Plus Magazine, the largest monthly magazine in the Netherlands, is read by 1 million people every month. Plus Magazine is the only general interest magazine for self-confident women and men aged around fifty. The pillars of Plus Magazine are the mix of topics, the approach to those topics and the tone of voice.

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