Fact sheet: issues faced by adults with Autism


Communication and social problems are very common with autism, the most common of the Autism Spectrum Disorders. This often cause difficulties in many areas of life. In severe cases, a person with autism may have an intellectual disability and will need full-time residential care for life. On the other hand, other individuals will go on to work and raise a family, although often with various difficulties. Early intervention does make a significant difference in maximizing a child's chances of integrating with a non-autistic world when they reach adulthood.


Far fewer adults with autism marry or have children than the general population. Even when they do marry it is more likely to end in divorce than the norm. Furthermore, far fewer autistic adults live in metropolitan areas than the general population, and even if they live near metro areas they are more likely going to experience issues such as bullying and poverty than the norm. Nevertheless, as more social groups form, progressively more diagnosed adults are forming relationships with others on the autism spectrum.


Autistic culture

Similar to deaf culture, autistic culture is based on a more accepting belief that Autism is a unique way of being and not a disorder to be cured. There are some commonalities which are specific to autism in general as a culture, not just “autistic culture”.


It is a common misperception that autistic people do not marry; many do seek out close relationships and marry. Often, they marry another autistic, although this is not always the case. Autistic people are often attracted to other autistic people due to shared interests or obsessions, but more often than not the attraction is due to simple compatibility with personality types, the same as for non-autistics. Autistics who communicate have explained that companionship is as important to autistics as it is to anyone else.


Employment and autism

A small proportion of autistic adults, usually those with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome, are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs, although frequently far below their actual level of skills and qualification. Some have managed self-employment; many of those are listed on self-employment sites such as Auties.org.

Others are employed in sheltered workshops under the supervision of managers trained in working with persons with disabilities. A nurturing environment at home, at school, and later in job training and at work, helps autistic people continue to learn and to develop throughout their lives.

It is often said that the Internet is a good medium for communication since it is almost devoid of the non-verbal cues that autistic people find so hard to interact with. It has given some autistic individuals an environment in which they can, and do, communicate and form online communities. The Internet has also provided the option of occupations such as, teleworking and independent consulting, which, in general, do not require much human interaction offline.


Effect of autism on income

However autism can be a poverty trap for adults and young people with autism, many of whom are engaged in unskilled jobs for which they are overqualified, or they are on welfare benefits. Many parents of autistic children also face financial difficulties as they must often pay for essential support and therapeutic services. Furthermore, people who might qualify for financial assistance in one country are not eligible in another, because some nations do not recognize autism as a disability.


accommodation for people with autism

Where a person with autism or Asperger's syndrome lacks the skills to live independently, the family needs to help with finding appropriate living arrangements, employment and support services. The autism or Asperger's Association in your area should be able to help with contacts for these issues.


Living independently

Some adults with autism, and especially Asperger's syndrome, are able to live entirely on their own. Others may require a degree of support in order to live semi-independently. This support often comes from the family, but in some countries there may be government funding and specialist services for this support.


Living with family

In some cases, a family may choose to continue caring for a son or daughter into their adult years. In some countries there may be funds provided to assist carers financially, as well as respite services for breaks.


Group homes

Some countries fund houses and around-the-clock support for people with disabilities. These homes are staffed by professionals who help the individuals with basic needs such as food preparation, housekeeping, and personal needs. In some cases, this support may be provided just a few hours each week, depending on the needs of the residents.


Institution care

There has been a trend over the past few decades to assist people with disabilities to live in the community instead of institutions. However, some institutions still remain for individuals with very high support needs. Although institutions now have a bad reputation, the increasing respect for human rights has, for the most part, given rise to a much more ethical and respectful approach to care provided in modern institutions.


Well known adults with unspecified types of autism

• Daryl Hannah, American actress (Splash, Blade Runner and Kill Bill)
• Christopher Knowles, American poet
• Matthew Laborteaux, actor on Little House on the Prairie
• Katherine McCarron, autistic child murdered at the age of three by her mother.
• Jason McElwain, high school basketball player
• Michael Moon, adopted son of author Elizabeth Moon
• Jasmine O'Neill, author of Through the Eyes of Aliens
• Sue Rubin, subject of documentary Autism Is a World
• Birger Sellin, author from Germany.


Click here to read about autistic culture, politics and community.
Click here to read personal stories by adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders.


Closing button for this Autism fact sheet

Click here for the full range of autism and Asperger's fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation. It is derivative of an autism and Aspergers-related articles at http://en.wikipedia.org

Adults with Autism or Aspergers face unique issues