Individuals with autism already face an entirely new set of challenges throughout the duration of their life. But, what happens when you add the factor of aging to autism?
Oftentimes, when people think of autism, they think of a sweet, little, innocent child who might display a few obsessive interests and might become upset by seemingly minor changes. But, we often don’t think of the fact that that child will one day become an elderly person.
And, what will their life be like then? In what ways do elderly people with autism differ from those without it?
Whether you are the caretaker or an elderly person with autism or a family member – it is important that we explore how autism affects this age group to better understand and meet their needs.
A Lack of Support
Just a few decades ago most people had yet to even hear the term “autism,” much less actually know anyone with a diagnosis. While the term is no longer so taboo, there is still much about it that we don’t understand.
Unfortunately, there are several adults with autism who are now over the age of 50 and have still never officially been diagnosed with autism. Then, there are also others who receive their diagnosis much later in life.
Either way, these adults face unique challenges that society is ill-prepared to address.
A few rare studies have actually begun to look at older adults with autism.
One study shows there might be a link between depression and signs of autism. The study found that 31 percent of adults aged between 60 and 90 years who suffer from depression also display signs of autism, compared to a mere 6 percent of older adults without depression.
What They Might Experience
There are a few different signs that you might notice and a few different things an elderly person with autism might experience:
- They might display repetitive pattern of thought or behavior.
- They might display a restricted pattern of thought and behavior.
- They might show significant problems with nonverbal communication skills.
- You might notice increased eye-to-eye gazing.
- They might display significant changes in facial expressions and body posture.
- They might lose interest in sharing interests, enjoyment, or their achievements with other people.
How You Can Help
Although you cannot simply get rid of the diagnosis of autism for someone, there are a few measures you can take to help them.
One great tool that is commonly used to help those with autism is a weighted blanket for autism. The weighted blanket provides a soft and soothing fabric that is great for sensory seekers. It is slightly weighted which helps calm the body down in a time of distress or anxiety by adding pressure to all the pressure points on the body that is under the blanket.
A weighted blanket is great for calming someone with autism down, helping them sleep, and ultimately, helping them have a healthier life.
Another great way to help an elderly adult with autism is to visit a support group where you can learn about other people’s experiences with an elderly person who has autism. Through their experiences, you can learn what might work best for your patient or loved one.
The process of handling autism in an elderly person is a continuous learning process. Each person will be different and will have different needs to be met.
In general, as a society, we can continue to do our part by learning the warning signs and seeking help when necessary.
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