While therapists’ and doctors’ abilities to more accurately and quickly diagnose autism has increased exponentially over the past couple of decades, there are still many instances in which a teenager or adult does not receive a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder until well into their lives. Often these individuals go through a large part of their life due to the high-functioning nature of their autism, as can be seen in such well-known instances as Susan Boyle confirming that she has Asperger’s syndrome in 2013.
But if you think that a friend, loved one, or family member might be displaying symptoms in line with ASD, how do you go about diagnosing them? Researchers at Karolinska Institutet recently pioneered a new screening tool to facilitate the diagnosis of autism in adults in which they refined and revised an existing American test. The new test is a questionnaire with 14 distinct, self-screening questions and have thus found a diagnosis success rate of 97%. You or a loved one can take the screening test by clicking here.
So if a loved one or family member has been found to be living with some degree of autism, what are the options available to him or her to help to better manage the condition? After all, for children diagnosed at a young age, they often have their whole education and personal lives re-worked to incorporate a set of treatment and therapies, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy. As children get older and their social skills start to improve, they might also get involved with group and cognitive therapy to better develop their social skills.
But currently, in relation to adolescents and adults with autism, there exist a small handful of treatment strategies that have been clinically evaluated and classified as useful, including a virtual reality training system developed at the University of Texas that’s been found to help older individuals with autism to improve social skills.
However, even if you don’t live in or near Austin, there exist a number of tried and proved treatment regimens that can be utilized by someone no matter where they might live. For example, many clinicians, parents, community providers, and adults with ASD are developing therapy programs and groups in their communities where individuals with autism can work with each other and therapists in a group situation to improve on problematic areas.
Often adults with autism will discover that they have ASD after visiting a mental health clinic as a means to treat issues with mood, anxiety, or depression that they might be dealing with. Thus, it’s advisable that an individual seeks out a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist and/or psychologist, who specializes in treating individuals with autism.
Unfortunately, not every community has adult autism specialists. If yours does not, it is recommended that one seeks out a counselor who seems sincerely interested in learning more about autism in general and one’s experience in particular. Furthermore, searching for a group therapy program or classes that aim to help improve one’s social interaction is another excellent option for those who are unable to find autism-specific groups.
Ultimately, as there is less research and scientifically proven treatment measures for adults with autism, there will likely be a fair amount of trial and error when seeking to help a friend or loved one. But by tackling autism head on, no matter how late, one can ensure that he or she can start living a more fulfilling, less frustrating life.