Autistic adults - Autism

Some autistic people grow up without a diagnosis of autism.

But it's never too late to be diagnosed with autism, although it's not always easy. This is because not all areas have a specialist autism assessment centre.

Some GPs may not be familiar with autism in adults and be reluctant to refer you to an assessment centre or a healthcare professional, such as a clinical psychologist. But it's worth persevering.

A formal diagnosis is usually given as autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. Asperger syndrome or Asperger used to be a diagnosis for some people, but this term will no longer be used.

Find out more about diagnosing autism in adults

Or see the National Autistic Society website for further information about autism diagnosis for adults.

Benefits of a diagnosis

The benefits of getting a formal diagnosis of autism can include:

  • you can learn about your condition and understand why you have certain difficulties or find some things easier than most
  • people close to you can understand why you may see and feel the world in a different way and find certain things difficult
  • access to a range of support services and benefits
  • if you work, your employer may have to make any necessary adjustments

Read more information from the National Autistic Society about the help and support available after a diagnosis.

Support for autistic adults

With a proper diagnosis, autistic adults may be able to access autism support services, if available in the local area.

You can search for services for adults using the National Autistic Society's Autism Services Directory.

You can also ask the healthcare professionals who diagnosed you with autism for more information and advice about care and support services.

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

If you need additional help with daily living, it's a good idea to get a needs assessment from social services at your local council.

The needs assessment is free and anyone can ask for one.

Find out more about how to get a needs assessment

Benefits

If you have a diagnosis of autism, you may be able to claim some benefits, such as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

This benefit has replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for disabled people who are aged 16 to 64.

You can find out more about benefits for adults with autism on the National Autistic Society website.

Or read more about benefits for adults under 65 in the social care and support guide.

Housing

Autistic adults can live independently.

Some people may:

  • live completely independently
  • live with their family
  • get extra support at home
  • live with other people with similar needs (supported living)

Supported living services can work very well for some autistic adults because it means they can choose a place to live, either alone or with other people, with additional support.

Some people may need 24-hour care, or they may only need help with important tasks for a couple of hours each week.

The type of support you need will be decided after a needs assessment has been done by your local council social services.

The results should be agreed with you and your carer, if you have one.

The National Autistic Society has more information about housing options on their website.

Employment

It can be difficult for autistic people to find a job.

For example, you may find:

  • applying for a job and attending an interview stressful
  • the work environment may be too noisy
  • travelling to work may be too stressful because of the crowds
  • sudden changes in your work routine can also be upsetting

But employers should support you in the workplace.

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 autistic people.

They can also support you and your employer before and after you have started work.

The National Autistic Society has useful advice about work.

Making decisions

Many autistic people may have the capacity to make some decisions (for example, to decide what items to buy at the supermarket).

But they may lack capacity to make other decisions (for example, about complex financial issues).

To decide if someone has mental capacity to make a decision, they need to have an assessment.

If that shows the person does not have mental capacity, certain decisions can be made for them, but these must always be in their best interests.

Find out more about the Mental Capacity Act

Caring for an autistic adult

If you care for an autistic adult at home, you may need additional support.

If you have not applied for a carer's assessment or your assessment was done some time ago, contact social services at your local council.

Find out more about carer's assessments

Your carer's assessment may identify that you need a break from caring from time to time.

Carers' breaks are so you can look after your own health and wellbeing. They may be arranged and paid for by your council or a charity.

Find out more about carers' breaks and respite care

Video: Adults with autism

Media last reviewed: 31/03/2018

Media review due: 31/03/2021

Page last reviewed: 04/02/2019
Next review due: 04/02/2022