• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”

Does Autism Symptoms get worse with age?

Little_girl_with_a_little_ponytailI was reading an article on WebMD that stated “most teens and adults with autism have less severe symptoms and behaviors as they get older, a groundbreaking study shows” You can read the full article. here

While working through the writing of my memoir, Twirling Naked in the Streets…, I have been contemplating what my life “looked” like when I was a young child with autism, as opposed to how I “look” symptom wise as an Adult. What I am seeing is that my autistic traits were readily visible when I was very young, I disguised them in my teen and early adult years, and in my later adult years (after child rearing and marriage etc.) the traits have reappeared in a sense.

By reappearing I am not suggesting that they ever went away, only that they are more apparent and troublesome today than they were in many days past. My “symptoms” seem more pronounced now that I am older than they did when I was a child.

Of course I have learned to cope with many outside factors which cause overloads and meltdowns sometimes being able to affectively ward them off. As an adult I am more aware of why I am feeling overloaded and irritated because of it, whereas, as a child I would simple meltdown and scream.

However, overloads, overstimulation, sensory issues, are more frequent today than they were in days past. I am surmising that as an adult I have more responsibilities—more rests on my shoulders and the stress of adult life brings about more sensitivities, more stimming behaviors, easier overload, and a more difficult time coping.

I think that what the above mentioned study has observed is the appearance of the teens and adults ability to cope; with their ability to control the showing of their symptoms. For instance, I can try to act “normal”, consciously stop stimming in public (most of the time), because I have adopted coping strategies. These coping strategies may mask my symptoms but they do not make them go away. In fact, sometimes my inner turmoil is fiercer.

If I for instance would just allow myself to not “act normal”, or not stop myself from stimming or banging my head on the wall I know I would feel a whole lot better. I don’t think the study shows our inner selves, only what we display outwardly.

Eventually all the holding in…comes out.

On another note, I’ve noticed that my Aspie Teen’s autistic traits have definitely grown “worse” or more noticeable is what I like to call it as he is getting older. Things that went unnoticed when he was a smaller child are now apparent to not only me, but others around him.

What is you experience? Do you think your symptoms have worsened as an adult? Are your children’s traits showing more as they age?

For me, autism was not quite as internally painful as a small child as it has been in adulthood.

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Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert , contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and four sons, three of which are on the autism spectrum.