Some people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) grow up without their condition being recognised, sometimes through choice.
However, a diagnosis can make it easier to access a range of support services that may be available locally.
It's never too late to be diagnosed with ASD, although it's not always easy because some local NHS authorities don't provide NHS funding for diagnosing ASD in adults.
Read more about diagnosing ASD in adults, or see The National Autistic Society website for further information about autism diagnosis for adults.
Treatment and support
With a proper diagnosis, adults with ASD may be able to access local autism support services, if available in their area. You can search for services for adults using the Autism Services Directory.
The healthcare professionals who diagnose you with ASD should be able to provide more information and advice about the care and support services available to you.
Read about assessing your care and support needs.
Examples of programmes that may be available in your local area include:
- social learning programmes – to help you cope in social situations
- leisure activity programmes – these involve taking part in leisure activities, such as games, exercise, or going to the cinema or theatre with a group of people
- skills for daily living programmes – to help you if you have problems carrying out daily activities, such as eating and washing
Adults with ASD may also benefit from some of the treatments offered to children with ASD, such as psychological therapy and medication.
Read more about the help and support available for people with ASD.
Adults diagnosed with ASD can also claim some benefits, such as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This is the new benefit replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people with a disability who are aged 16 to 64.
You can find out more about benefits for adults with autism on The National Autistic Society website, or you can visit GOV.UK to read more about benefits.
Adults with ASD can live in all types of housing. Some people may be suited to a residential care home, while others may prefer to live on their own and receive home support. Some people with ASD live completely independently.
Supported living can work very well for some adults with ASD, because it means they can choose a place to live in the community, either alone or with other people, with the support they need. They may need 24-hour care, or they may only need help with important tasks for a couple of hours each week.
The level of support an adult with ASD needs will be decided after your local authority's social services carry out an assessment, and it's agreed with the person and their carer.
Read more about care assessments.
It can be difficult for people with ASD to find a job. For example, they may find the work environment too noisy, or travelling to work may be too stressful because of the crowds. Sudden changes in routine can also be upsetting.
However, in the right job and with the right support, people with ASD have much to offer. They're often accurate, reliable, and have a good eye for detail. Being in a working environment can help the individual's personal development tremendously.
Read about disability in the workplace and the Equality Act.
If you're having problems getting a job or staying in a job, you may be able to access a supported employment programme in your local area. These programmes can help you write your CV and job applications, and prepare you for interviews. They can also help you choose which jobs would suit you and provide training for that role.
Those providing the programme can also advise employers about any changes that need to be made to the workplace to suit people with ASD, as well as supporting you and the employer before and after you've started work.
See The National Autistic Society website to find help with getting a job.
Someone with ASD may have the capacity to make some decisions (for example, to decide what items to buy at the local shop), but lack capacity to make other decisions (for example, making decisions about complex financial issues).
Where someone is judged not to have the capacity to make a specific decision after they've had a capacity assessment, that decision can be taken for them – but it must be in their best interests.
For more information, read What is the Mental Capacity Act?