Autism signs in adults

Updated April 17, 2017

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder. About 1 in 150 people are born with autism. The symptoms usually appear by the age of 2 and affect more males than females. An individual can be affected mildly or severely. There are four types of autism that can affect adults. These are Asperger Syndrome, Classical Autism, Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified and Rhett Syndrome.

Asperger Syndrome

Adults with Asperger Syndrome often times show an obsession with certain objects or routines. They prefer sameness and order and can become overly stimulated very easily. Their language development is usually within the normal range, but are behind in motor development. Social skills are lacking and they may lack empathy for others. Normal and sometimes above-normal intelligence is present in those with Asperger Syndrome.

Classical Autism

Adults with Classical Autism have social issues, may not be able to form close relationships and prefer to be alone. They may still have behaviour issues from when they were a child, but the impact is greatly lessened. Many adults with classical autism have perceptual problems as well. Lack of eye contact is common and so are repetitive movements. Some may have limited verbal skills or may be completely nonverbal despite various therapies.

Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

Those suffering from Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified or PDD-NOS are generally less affected by symptoms than the other forms of autism. They still face difficulties in language and social skills. However, they do not fit fully into the other categories of autism. Sensory processing issues are sometimes present with this form of autism. Those with PDD-NOS are usually more social than those who suffer from other forms of autism.

Rhett Syndrome

Rhett Syndrome is the most debilitating of all the Autism Spectrum Disorders and is the most rare. It is caused by the mutation of the gene MECP2. Those who suffer from Rhett Syndrome have a wide range of symptoms including brain growth issues, intellectual difficulties and scoliosis. Because of poor coordination, they have trouble walking and may not be able to fully use their hands. Unlike the other forms of autism, Rhett Syndrome almost exclusively affects only girls and women.


There are several popular treatment options for adults with autism. The first option is ABA therapy or Applied Behavior Analysis. Positive reinforcement is used and the goal is independent functioning regardless of the environment. Occupational therapy can be beneficial to adults as well. Skills such as play, social, fine motor and self help are learnt using this type of therapy. Lastly, RDI or Relationship Development Intervention focuses on the individual developing the skills to develop meaningful relationships.

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About the Author

Stormy Lee has been writing professionally since 1997. Many of her articles appear online at various websites. Lee specializes in writing education-related articles and has experience in proofreading and writing reviews for schools in Palm Beach County. Lee holds a master's degree in education from Florida Atlantic University.