Economic Realities of Autism

Personal income potential for the autistic population.

If you are autistic ( have autism?) and are an older adult like me, how many jobs have you held? How many jobs held included being bullied and or harassed by bosses, co workers or other associates?
How many of those jobs were high paying?
How many jobs did you hold long term (more than 5 years)??
I feel I can safely guess that you have held many low paying jobs, have been bullied and harassed, and have not held many of those jobs more than 5 years. Of course not everybody’s experiences will be the same.

Readers can guess where I am headed with this line of questioning and comments.

Of all the topics discussed on the autism forums I attend, jobs are in the discussions most frequently. How do I get training for a job? How do I know what to do in certain circumstances in my job? How do I keep from being bullied on the job? How do I apply for a job? How should I dress for a job interview? Should I reveal my autism? Should I ask for accommodations on the job? What jobs can be done at home and how do I set myself up in that business?

Due to autistic struggles, many of us find it difficult to interact with co workers or the public in work positions. Many report leaving jobs due to aggression and bullying from bosses, co workers, and customers although in general most of us get good grades for actual work performance. We can do the work, we struggle with social aspects of the job.

Studies have reported that autistic people have harder times finding jobs, keeping jobs, and working with others. Discussions in autism forums seems to reflect this.
Additionally, studies I have read say that autistic people are at higher risk of unemployment and homelessness. Gotta be related, right?

In a recent discussion online I asked what accommodations were needed most for adult autistic people once they knew of their diagnosis. Second after asking for counseling to help adjust to the new identity of self as autistic, was help finding and keeping jobs… job training, accommodations, aid in applying for jobs and matching skills to work on offer, all were mentioned as being something the adult autistic community needs and wants.

In some places agencies offer job placement help, training , skills testing, and social service agencies sometimes offer grants or have volunteers to help guide unemployed people to find suitable and sustainable work. As in many other areas of life where autistic people say they need help, this seems to be difficult for autistic populations to access. How can we find those autistic persons who need and want assistance with so many aspects of work and get them connected with the right agency, the right group, the right training or classes, the right office, social worker, volunteers or case workers? I don’t have answers, but I am learning more specific things about needs of the adult autistic community.
First thing on our list should be to make these agencies aware of our presence. Today adult autism from age 18 to 100 is not known or understood… autism is thought of as something related to children who get “treatment” early and are somehow magically no longer struggling or needing services when they become adults (age 18 to 22 depending on laws in your state). 5+ million adults over age 18 in the USA alone are autistic. ( CDC numbers according to the last census) and the majority of us are not diagnosed. How can we make society aware that autism is “for life” and not just for kids???????? I hope somebody finds some answers!



Get READY now

What if there is an emergency?

Recent events have been on my mind lately. A good friend spent hours watching firefighters battle a huge blaze in an apartment complex across the street. An area the size of a city block was lost. All the people who lived there lost their homes and belongings. Certain surrounding areas had to be evacuated as well. Others were put on “standby” alerts.

People in the state where I live lost everything when an old dam burst and allowed water from the recreational lake it had created to inundate the subdivision and part of the large sized city just downstream from that location.
People who lived there lost their homes and belongings. Somebody I knew there was without utilities, including water and sewer for several days as the area began to recover.

There are chemical spills, forest and urban fires, floods, earthquakes, violent damaging storms, civil unrest, and many other reasons why people must suddenly leave their homes , evacuate certain areas, and try to begin new lives in places that are strange to them.

Do you have plans for such an emergency? Now is the best time to think about it, as terrifying as it might be.
Emergencies do happen in every part of the world, every day.

Our autistic inflexibility can be an extra problem for us in emergency situations. We can be so shocked by rapidly threatening events that we become ‘frozen’ and unable to act for ourselves. We may not be able to do the things that need to be done quickly in such an emergency if we have not planned and thought about what we would do and made certain things ready “just in case”.

The flood issue struck close to home. We live in an area close to one of the Great Lakes in the USA, and there is a river through the heart of town, much beloved, tamed by no less than 4 dams in regions above town and in the middle of town as well. If one of those dams broke, would/could the others follow? The government agency that inspects the dams says they are reaching the end of their span of usefulness and they are not completely stable. I have been thinking about what we would do here, if there was a flood situation and we had to be evacuated.
We have important papers we would need to take with us. We do not have a trailer or access to one to bring large items with us. By the time we got our files, our pets, our clothing and medications, food and water for 3 days, sleeping bags, etc. we still would have to find a safe place to go, figure out a safe route to get there, and figure out how to proceed to live our lives from there.
I am making a check list and gathering things we might need into one area of our home, and packing up what I can ahead of time.

Something that might help you think about emergency preparedness is the usa government website ready.gov What possible threats are most likely to cause emergency evacuations near you?

I began to prepare for emergencies even before I knew of my autism. I lived in an earthquake prone area in the south of my home state and there had been a lot of publicity about “the big one” – a huge earthquake being possible on a nearby extended-area fault zone which had been inactive for well over a hundred years. I had small children and the stories of possible damage worried me. So I began preparations.

I packed an emergency bag for each family member, one complete change of clothing plus a couple extra socks and underwear, and shoes. Shoes are so important in case of night time evacuations and possibilities of having to walk in areas with broken glass, damaged buildings, down trees, etc..

I remembered to pack clothing that could be used as night clothes in a public sleeping situation. I packed a towel, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc in the emergency bags (these were backpacks). I packed a comfort toy and non perishable snacks in the kids’ bags.

I packed a bag for the pets with collars/ harnesses/ leads, dishes, food enough for 3 days. I packed the contact number for the vet and included letters for “permission for emergency treatment” as well as all health records for the critters.

I packed food and water for 3 days for each family member as well.
I made sure we had copies of our birth certificates, our social security numbers, emergency phone numbers (family, friends, etc we would need to contact in case of emergencies , doctors numbers, health records, records of all the places we paid our household bills, so we could terminate service, ask for extensions or help restoring services, tax records, etc.
Insurance cards and copies of plans plus contact numbers went into the bags, as well as all the contact numbers and account numbers for the bank, credit cards, etc etc.
I got extra prescription drugs for family members and put those in the bags too. I had a little first aid kit and a small radio that ran on batteries, flashlights and extra batteries. I had sleeping bags and blankets and pillows stacked and ready to pick up and put in the car.

I began to be very conscious about the level of gas in my car’s tank.
If we had to evacuate I had seen the television and news articles showing long lines with waits for gas and people’s cars abandoned by the side of the road due to running out of fuel.

Especially if you live in areas that are prone to ‘weather events’ or known hazards, please consider giving yourself a huge advantage by insuring you are ready ahead of time as well as you can be.
Emergencies can happen at any time. They happen to everybody.
Being older and autistic does not mean we can not give ourselves the accommodation of being ready to react and save precious time and perhaps our own and /or our loved ones’ lives.
I do not dwell on scary thoughts surrounding these “what if” scenarios, but I have peace of mind knowing I will know what to do if the time ever comes that I am called on to act and react quickly for safety and well being of my household.
Do you need an emergency plan? How will you respond?

Grief and Autism

Defining grief and discussing feelings of loss and sadness surrounding Autism

This is dangerous ground. Issues surrounding Autism are sometimes very political and raise great emotional reactions. Ideas about grief are among the most controversial, discussed, ranted over, rage-raising and distressing issues on many autistic forums and blogs today. I am about to try to sort some of the controversy, anger, shaming, blaming, and distress. Instead I might inadvertently add to it, who knows?

I spent hours reading definitions of grief preparatory to writing this.
Grief can be explained as a normal or natural reaction to loss, deep sorrow in reaction to change of any sort, the usual being over loss of a relationship due to death. There are also aspects of grief in loss of expected outcomes or change of expectations or plans .

Grief is not simply feelings of loss, but also a ground for conflicting feelings of guilt, anger,sadness, relief, or release. We can feel sorrow over the loss of a parent and still feel relief over their release from suffering, from the difficult behavior or painful relationship, and feel guilt for feeling the accompanying sense of freedom. All of that is part of grief, and there is often much more.

In natural cycles of grief there can be stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and sadness, and acceptance. These can happen in stages, and can be repeated over and over in any order, sometimes simultaneously, other times remaining in one stage for long periods of time.

Many people may need support and counseling or therapy to help with grief. It is not uncommon for adaptation to be incomplete or adjustments to be unhealthy in our search for consolation , solace, and peace over our place in the midst of our losses.

The thing that brought grief to my attention was the third reading of Tony Attwood’s excellent book on autism. “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome.”

I read it through the first time when I suspected my autism but was not sure. I thought much of it was written only about children and did not see how much of it applied to me. Then I read it again and recognized so many traits and experiences of my own from my childhood (looking at it and comparing it to my younger self). The entire book read from the aspects of my own childhood was filled with “aha” moments.
I was amazed and so interested… it explained almost everything about my early life. This was it!

The third time I read the book, something very strange happened. As I read those descriptions of childhood struggles I had the urge to cry uncontrollably. I felt sadness and loss and immeasurable helplessness and confusion. I was re-living my childhood emotions. I felt the feelings I had felt in all of those impossible situations from my childhood, the guilt, the anger, the sorrow, overwhelming sorrow and sadness all wrapped together in one experience, each situation the author described bringing forth a flow of memories of similar situations from my childhood, adolescence, and teen years.
The most predominant of these was the deep sorrow I had for myself and my struggles.
I experienced this feeling for most of my life. Feeling nobody understood, nobody cared, I was lost and helpless, feeling I was the cause of everybody else’s troubles. I remember being told over and over to stop feeling sorry for myself. I remember wailing ” I don’t know how” .

I can remember so many tears and so much distress. I remember begging for therapy, a counselor, for somebody to help, and being told repeatedly that “there is nothing wrong with you”.
I just needed to shape up, to get with the program, to shake it off, pull myself together and TRY..to do right, to be good, and to stop being selfish and bad. I never understood how I was supposed to do these things, but I was to do them by myself by willpower and strength of character. The feeling of futility was immense.

OK, back to grief. I believe I was trapped in grief and despair. I knew I needed help and comfort and that I was not ever ever going to get. I had a need for understanding and compassion for the struggles nobody seemed to understand, and took for deliberate willfulness and acts of evil. I needed explanations, insights, support and directions, I needed details of almost everything explained in depth . I knew I was not going to get them in my home situation.
I came to the stage of acceptance eventually, but the underlying sadness was there throughout most of my childhood and young adulthood. I spent my early day to day life not only in fear and dread of any interaction or mistake I might make, but also in grieving for the things I was pretty sure others had somehow obtained but that were forever out of reach for me.

Grief for loss of loved ones is called bereavement. It is a reaction to losing through death, divorce, separation, life changing disability or other circumstances. I have always processed this sort of grief more easily because the “why” factor is usually evident. The loved one died, had health changes, was no longer in love , moved far away, all concrete facts that don’t have that “why” factor.

Now we come to an opinion that is not popular with many autism groups. There is a huge backlash against parents of autistic offspring who lament online that their children are suffering and wish that they were not autistic.
I find the anger of some autistic people may be misplaced because the distress the parents are showing is at their own helplessness to help their struggling children, some of whom are very heavily afflicted with many of the worst features of autism.
I think it is natural grief that is showing, however poorly worded in forums or blogs. The parents are truly grieving because they see all sorts of things that they have been helpless to prevent and to aid.
There is a loss of expectations for a normal childhood and adulthood, a loss of dreams for a bright future, a loss of the idea of “what it was supposed to be”.
I understand the angry autistics’ reaction to the spoken wishes of so many parents saying they wish the child had not been born, that they wish the child was not autistic, etc.
In many cases such children are killed by their parents. In many cases children are abused by their parents.
In times of the past and today, many wish for elimination of pregnancy of a potentially
” damaged ” child , society of today deeming it is OK to select which pregnancy can be terminated , the demand is there for tests for autism as there is for down’s syndrome and other genetic conditions. To be an autistic child and hear that you are unwanted is probably a very common state. I heard it too. I understand the reaction against such statements. I understand the reaction against being told we are unwanted.
I understand the pain it causes in our own autistic hearts and I suggest that the anger we feel is grieving of our own over things that we have missed, have lost, have never known. I have no answers. Grief is part of the human condition and will be experienced by the vast majority of humans today. Grief has been the hardest to sort and understand of all the almost constant emotions of my life. Now with my new understanding of my own autism I am making progress toward sorting it out.
I have no answers but find it difficult to focus all of my rage on the parents in these support groups who are feeling loss of ability to help their children, who feel grief at the things they want their children to be able to experience or goals they will perhaps never attain. I don’t think it is realistic to blame the behavior of a few parents on all parents of autistic children, any more than we all recognize how unfair it is to blame ourselves for our autistic struggles, or the behavior of a few autistic people .
I may write more about grief and autism as I continue to sort and to understand. Mean time, I want to make a call for unity. Autism needs different perspectives of diverse people to continue to help us all understand the many ways we are affected, our needs, our self understanding, our struggles and our triumphs. I hope we can refrain from tearing other grieving people apart in our quest for “justice”, “fairness”, etc.
As human beings we are all in this together. Let kindness and not anger and retribution win this one.


Who am I ???

Finding your authentic self after diagnosis


There has been much discussion lately, in the online forums I attend , about masking and finding one’s own identity.
How to drop the mask and be more authentic? How to know who I really am beneath all the adaptive and self protective behaviors I have learned over my lifetime? How do I know which parts are “real” and which parts are camouflage for self protection or ease of coping?

I was at a loss for a long time about these questions. For me a lot of these questions did not apply because as I had aged, I had adjusted my style of dress, my social behavior, my willingness to put up with discomfort, etc.
I had become more authentic to myself for the most part before I learned of my autism.

It might be a process of ageing that we become less willing to put up with social and physical discomfort or meaningless rituals or distressing social situations, or I might have been lucky to have sorted out sources of discomfort and to have allowed myself to discard those things that were most difficult and distressing to me.

I understand the need to sort it all out, and to self accommodate in order to have the best experiences that life has to offer and to eliminate pain and discomfort where we can.

May I suggest we start with the things that we find most difficult and distressing? By figuring out different ways to do things, we can eliminate at least some of the things that are hardest for us to tolerate.

I learned to avoid physical discomfort first. Stopped spending hours on clothing, hair, makeup, and worrying about being “in style” or if I looked right. Flat shoes, loose fitting clothing, easy hair cut, minimal makeup applied only for very special times. Works for me! Even within dress codes, unless a certain specific uniform is required, there is usually some leeway.



I got rid of the scratchy couch that I could not bear to sit on, the bright flickering fluorescent lights. When I lived alone I did not use TV or Radio. I now remove myself to my quiet zone if my husband wants to participate in things that drive me wild (TV and Radio for example).
I have bright clear lighting that doesn’t flicker in places where I need it for reading and close work.
I stopped forcing myself to go to concerts, listening to podcasts or videos, trying to interact in large groups (4 or more is a large group to me), stopped going to restaurants, shopping malls, and other places that caused my sensory struggles to make me anxious and put me in ‘stampede mode”. What was the point?
If things like wedding receptions, anniversary parties, retirement parties, etc send you into panic or meltdown, consider a congratulatory card, note, email, or phone call along with polite regrets.
( you don’t have to explain, just say you are sorry you missed their big day but wanted to send congratulations or whatever message you’d like to give).


I found new ways to get a lot of things done, adapting them to my sensory struggles so that I no longer suffered loud noises, chaotic surroundings, etc.

In replacing those old painful experiences I found joy in solitary walks in nature, taking photographs, doing crafts, listening to my choice of music (peaceful or upbeat and not dissonant, no lyrics since I can’t readily process spoken or sung words), I found the ‘real’ me.

I lost a lot of anxiety and anguish by simply declining invitations to loud parties, noisy social gatherings such as dinners in restaurants, classrooms, malls, etc and substituting meeting with one or 2 people for quiet shared activities.

It may require others in your life to make adjustments too, or you might need to compromise to keep peace, but I urge you to find your most distressing activities and find ways to eliminate them or change them to things that provide pleasure or at least reduce discomfort.

Change clothing, change shopping habits, change the way you socialize or interact with others, change decor or arrangements within your home to accommodate your worst struggles. Many of us have it in our power to make adjustments that can make life so much better. You do not have to do anything one certain way, or in many cases you might not have to do it at all.

Sometimes we need to just stop and consider alternatives. Change can be scary, but taken in little bites, and not all at once, sometimes changes can bring about a lot of relief and comfort in exchange for the pain, anxiety and frustration.

What can you do, one step at a time to remove painful experiences from your life and to substitute or build new and pleasant experiences for yourself?

What happened to all the autistic children?

They grew up to be adults!


Awareness is rising about autism and most people have heard of autism. Autism is primarily thought of as a children’s issue in the eye of the general public. What happens when these kids grow up? What happened to all the children who grew up before autism was commonly diagnosed in kids? They are now autistic adults!
If the CDC is right, there are well over 4 million autistic adults in the United States alone, and most of us have never suspected we are autistic.

How do we find autistic adults today?

Autistic people are more likely to be suicidal.

Autistic people are more likely to be victims of crime.


Autistic people have a higher rate of depression and anxiety.

Autistic people account for about 10 percent of admissions for treatment in rehab centers for alcohol and drugs ( compared to 1 percent of the general population admitted) This is truly stunning when you understand that autism is believed to affect 2.2 percent of the general population.

Autism may account for up to 10 percent or more of the homeless population.

Autism may be involved in those admitted to jails and prisons although very little or no research has been done specifically on autism. Intellectual disability in general has been studied as a factor in prison populations and shown to be present in higher than normal levels among the general population.

Autistic people tend to have poorer health and to die younger. Life expectancy in some studies is as low as 38 years. Other studies say around 58.

From these statements one can see how knowledge of autism would be particularly useful to certain groups. Doctors and health care workers of all types, law enforcement professionals, social workers, can you name others?

Diagnosis of autism as an adult can change lives. Self understanding is one of the keys to finding a new life amid common social struggles. Autistic people seem to have more than our share from a statistical reporting level at the very least. I can not tell you the huge difference my understanding of my own late diagnosis has made in my mundane and every day life. I can only imagine how useful such self knowledge can be to those struggling with such difficult issues in their lives, and how useful it would be to know and understand about how autism may have been involved in so many lives of pain and hardship.
I am reading of mandatory screening for autism in new hospital admissions for suicidal behaviors. I am reading of mandatory screening in clinical situations for care of those struggling with addictions.
I am grateful that professionals in some places are using today’s understanding of autism to help recognize and diagnose autistic adults. So much more needs to be done. Please help spread the word.

Autism executive function

Getting things done


Disorganized, lazy, procrastinator, negligent, sloppy, messy, always late,
late bills, late for appointments, late for work, cluttered, dirty, overwhelmed!

This is the life of many autistic adults. Although we love details, many of us need help with every day life due to struggles with executive function. Executive function is the part of us which is used to organize, start a project and follow it to completion, to do basic household chores in a regular and frequent manner, to follow up on paperwork , balancing a check book, paying bills, keeping files so that we can find important records when we need them ( or in case we need them). Executive function is getting work done in an orderly way and keeping up with due dates, project deadlines, keeping within guidelines or following directions.

There are many things that can contribute to our struggles with executive function. Like everything in a spectrum, there are some very vague areas of functioning from deep struggles with everything or not needing much help if any. Struggles with executive function are not diagnostic of autism, but many of us (autistic folk) need help sorting it out one one level or another.

Proprioceptive difficulties can add to our burdens… how do we know and recognize when to do any specific job? How far should I go with cleaning? Quick wipe down? Deep clean? How often?

The ability to even begin a project can be held back by several different issues. We could have Demand avoidance, performance anxiety, learned helplessness, troubles with memory either or, or both short or long term. There may be need to see an occupational therapist to help devise strategies that are useful to assist functioning levels. Psychologists or other therapists may be able to help with the anxiety, helplessness, and avoidant behaviors.

Some of us are great at finding details, but not at sorting them or ranking them in a way that can be useful. We might need help deciding which details are important and which are of less importance, and ranking them as priorities.


Struggles vary and each of us will need help with different things.
I might know I should do the dishes and clean the bathroom, vacuum, do laundry, change the sheets, etc. but how do I know when to do these things, and have I learned how? I needed to learn each of these tasks individually and was fortunate to have been taught much of it as a child. I had to get books on household administration and read them, advice on auto care, information on lawn care, household maintainence and how frequently to have things like the furnace serviced, etc. There are lots of informational resources on line! We can ask others to teach us or help us sort out the details of almost anything. We do not have to struggle along and make do, there are usually resources available.

With autism, we can break each individual job down to its smallest components.
Naming Tools needed for each job, and supplies needed. ( how do we choose them?) Then we learn how to go about doing each task. How to use the washing machine( what kinds of things go in the wash water, cleaners, brighteners, scent, softeners?) and hang clothing to dry, our use the dryer ( do I use dryer sheets?) How do we treat stubborn stains and spots? How do we fold the clothing and do we have a single certain place to put it every time ? It is more complicated than it may seem. If we missed those lessons as children, we need to find a way to learn them today. The same for every single thing we do to take care of ourselves and our possessions, and our households.



A project such as “housecleaning” can overwhelm us until we learn to break it down into small steps.. instead of “cleaning the kitchen” as a job, we can break it down to small tasks. Collect all the trash and take the garbage out. Wash the dishes. Put away food/spices and utensils. Do we have one specific place where each item belongs? clean the counters and cabinets, wash the floor. We learn individual things like cleaning the oven and cleaning the fridge as separate tasks and make sure they go on our list of things we don’t need to do daily, but less frequently. we can use lists, schedules, electronic devices, calendars, reminders in the form of post it notes or a cell phone that might call you back and remind you.

The same goes for individual paperwork tasks… do we know where we keep supplies, what supplies do we need? Where will we work (desk, kitchen table, ???) Do we have adequate light? What dates do we need to be aware of? Bills and other deadlines can not be ignored, but must be planned for and this is something that we can learn. Many management techniques are available, from credit, debit, electronic banking, using an accountant, etc. If you don’t feel you can do it yourself, please ask for help. We can get easily overwhelmed or frustrated, and letting these things go can cause such major problems.


If you are not able to sort executive function issues on your own, there is no shame in reaching out to get help from others or to rely on paying others to make sure some of this stuff gets done. I must point out that I do not know what resources are available in other countries, I am speaking from the perspcective of a person living in the USA in a small and relatively poor and rural community.

I suspect some places have nothing at all to help. In this case, talking to others and asking how they handle specific issues may get some guidance or insight.

Who do we go to for help? Talking to a friend, family member, therapist, social service agency, your doctor or minister, and explaining your struggles can get suggestions, help you find ideas the might work for you, and get referral to others who can help if they can not. Many areas have senior citizens agencies set up to help seniors with daily living struggles, senior centers usually have information services. government agencies, on city, county, state levels may have programs to help seniors with issues of daily living, including cleaning, keeping appointments, food plans/ meals or food programs, etc. If you need help, there is no shame in asking for it.

Millions of autistic adults

undiagnosed in the USA today.

Per the USA’s Center For Disease Control (CDC) there are 5,437,988 autistic adults as described by those being over age 18 upward in the USA today. CDC claims this statistic as 2 percent of today’s population in the USA. Census numbers after 2020 may drive that number still higher.

A notice posted April 27, 2020 claims the CDC has determined these numbers so that states can be aided in budgeting and planning funds, etc. regarding diagnosis and support (“treatment”) for autistic adults. All states now require insurance plans to cover diagnosis and supportive therapies for autistic adults. Children ageing out of the system, which used to close at the age limit of 18, are now going to be supported as adults as well.

The happy side effect of parents of today’s early diagnosed children’s and young adults’ activism ( this was entirely unintentional, I am sure within myself) is the new availability this could give older autistic adults in this country for access to diagnosis and support.
Support plans will soon be in place for adult autistic folks. Will elders once more be overlooked as focus is on the younger generations, with most Americans never suspecting the hidden millions of autistic adults struggling without diagnosis and support that many so desperately need?

Educators of those already practicing diagnosis and those now just learning how to diagnose and recognize autism must learn how autism displays differently in all adults and how diagnosis of adult females may be more complicated than today’s standard diagnostic criteria.


Statistics posted by the CDC show that males ( children) are still diagnosed at much higher rates than females.

There are no known statistics on how many adults have been diagnosed, or the proportion of males to females who have received late diagnosis.

I see the CDC’s post as a ” first light ” showing in the attempts to find diagnosis for all age and gender groups who have struggled lifetimes with autism and never knew, never had help, never suspected.

I have been feeling frustrated and discouraged lately. My personal plans to offer local talks and information to local groups likely to encounter un-diagnosed autistic elders has been completely shut down by Covid restrictions.
Now I am considering a different, possibly more effective approach to gaining more diagnostic and support structure for older adults with autism.
College classrooms are the places that need to offer more information about autism and how it presents in adults and the elderly. Professional groups for individual practices need to be alerted to the presence of adult autistic people. Political entities who plan and portion out those huge budgets need to know about adult autism. The list of places to raise awareness is practically limitless!

As a group, older autistic adults need to speak out about finding diagnosis, and need to bring attention to the need for support, to organize much as the parents of autistic children have.

If population statistics are correct, the adults in the USA who are autistic out number the children who have been diagnosed up to age 18 .

Time to speak up and ask for educated diagnostic and support systems.. Laws for insurance coverage have changed. Colleges and other schools need to be aware and make changes to provide for the future.

Baby boomers will all be over the age of 65 by the year 2030, just 10 short years from now. Will elderly autistic populations get the support they/we will need as they/we age and rely on others for our medical and physical decline as we grow older?

Will young adults “ageing” into the system get the support they need? CDC has taken the first step by providing numbers and an “authoritative” source of information on which individual states will be basing plans now required by law.

Many of us will be watching with interest.
If we are able, most of us ( ageing adults who are autistic, whether formally diagnosed or not) can help raise awareness and place social pressure by making lots of noise to legislators, planners, providers. Call, text, write letters, email, write letters to the editor of your local newspaper, contact local TV or radio outlets…. whatever you can do, we need each other right now.
The demand is there, we know it, but I am not sure that those in the places we need to reach are hearing us. Please do what you can!

Autism Anger

Shhhhhhh don’t talk about that!!!!!

Autism has a few “sore spots” that seem to be avoided as topics for discussion in the forums I participate in. When somebody does open up, there is a flood of responses, seemingly relief in finding that individuals are not alone in their struggles. I am talking about emotional regulation struggles this time.
Autism and anger, autism and emotional breakdowns due to anxiety, fears, frustration, and inability to cope displayed as meltdowns, shutdowns, violence, tantrums, and outbursts.
We all understand this happens frequently to many of us. But we are ashamed or afraid to talk about it.

Autism is all about our neurology. Many of the ways we experience the world are not the same for us as “neurotypical” or average, “normal” or non-autistic people. Struggles with emotional regulation are definitely not limited to autistic people, we see examples everywhere of people behaving with one or another form of problems with emotional regulation.

Emotions and responses to those emotions are things we generally learn about when we are very small (people in general).
We are taught to recognize our emotions and how to deal with them in socially acceptable ways, usually before we leave home for school days.
Learning to recognize emotions can be helped by explanations given through instruction person to person, videos, books, and role playing, role modeling and other ways.
Learning to recognize emotions and learning ways to express those emotions in healthy and socially acceptable ways takes practice. The good news is that for the most part, these are skills that can benefit from a coach or teacher, a therapist or a counselor.

Sorting and learning to recognize one’s emotions and how to deal with them in healthy ways is part of the sensory system ( remember I said emotions had a neurological basis?) called interoception.

Interoception used to be considered part of the proprioceptive group of neurology but more recently has been removed to its own special category.

Interoception has to do with what you feel physically inside you. It is the sense which tells you what you are feeling when your body gives you physical clues to your needs and wants. That empty feeling in your middle is telling you that you need to eat. The pressure you feel in your lower regions means you need to use the bathroom. The tenseness of your muscles in your stomach and legs can mean that you are afraid and ready to run. The tenseness of your muscles in your neck, your clenched jaw, your tight fists may mean you are getting ready to fight.

Autism often interferes with our ability to recognize the first physical signs of our emotions… so we end up surprised at our own emotional outbursts and our extreme reactions to emotions we did not recognize we were feeling until they reached crisis proportions. The body experiences emotions in a physical way and we can learn to recognize the signs.

Many of us have not been aware of or have not learned to notice the physical signs of emotion. Elevated heartbeat? Heavy breathing? Weak pulse, feeling faint, tight muscles in any part or parts of the body? Feeling sick to one’s stomach, clenched fists, gritting teeth or tight muscles in lips, jaws? Smiling, grimacing, frowning, head lowered or thrown back? What we are feeling physically and doing with our bodies is a huge clue to how we are feeling emotionally. Many autistic people might not recognize body language in others, and many might not recognize our own body’s signs as well. We can learn!

In the forum discussions I have participated in and observed, many autistic adults have remembered that as children they decided emotions were not useful and made deliberate choices to disregard them or to hide them. This seems generally to have been “early on” in the nursery or as a very small child. We can learn to recognize and make use of our emotions, but it does not come naturally to may of us. It is one more thing we might need help with to sort it out. Especially this might be true in older people who are set in their ways and less likely to realize or recognize alternatives.

It is never too late to learn about interoception and how to recognize our building needs and emotions before we reach the bursting point.

Occupational therapists might be able to help, and there are many anger management classes, biofeedback specialists and therapists who specialize in behavioral difficulties. There is much printed and online regarding how to recognize emotions early inside us and how to use that “early warning system” when we recognize it in order to work with our emotions in healthy ways instead of finding ourselves in a huge and surprising/ distressing/ destructive/embarrassing/ blow up situation.

If you struggle with overwhelming emotions of any sort, I want to encourage you that this can be changed, and new ways can be learned to recognize our emotions, to direct and control them into healthier behavior in distressing situations. We can learn to recognize and use our interoception skills as an ‘early warning system’ to detect and divert our physical reactions to emotional situations and make better choices in how to express ourselves or to deal with those emotions before we are overwhelmed and helpless in still another emotional blowout.

If this is an area of distress for you, please be encouraged, it is something that can be helped.
We can learn new ways, sometimes we need to reach out to others who can help us sort it all out.
Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to take action. Those folks are there because they want to help and they want us to live better lives. There is no shame in asking to learn new skills. And the benefits are beyond measure in terms of the quality of your life and your relationships to others as you move forward.


Autism Self Love

Autistic negative feedback” baggage” and learning to love ourselves.

Self love is a very difficult concept for me.

I think it is difficult for many other elder autistic people too. The very idea that we deserve anything as an individual has been driven out of our thoughts by negative feedback for too long.

From my earliest memories I recall feedback from others about my selfishness, laziness, thoughtlessness, worthlessness, my failures and my seemingly deliberate wickedness.

Those negative statements about me and my behavior, plus early and continual childhood training as a Christian (where everything is about taking care of others, service to others, selflessness, giving and humbleness) were absorbed early and taken to heart. Having no other guidance and trying to understand the rules for living life, it is no wonder I got so much of it wrong.

In a recent online discussion and subsequent blog ( Was there Love?) wrote thoughts about how most of us in my autistic forums on line felt unloved and unlovable. This is sort of continuing the theme and enlarging on it. What do we do with all of those negative feelings about ourselves and our lack of worthiness?

I got therapy at age 30 due to suicide attempts and depression/anxiety I could no longer control by my willpower alone. The therapist probably had his worst problems in me with my self worth and my inability to stand up for myself.
I did not understand that my thoughts and opinions or preferences had any value. I had to learn that I had worth as an individual, and then I had to learn how to express my thoughts and preferences, set healthy boundaries and above all, learn to take positive actions to keep the boundaries and to take care of myself instead of sacrificing my self in response to other’s demands and desires. I had learned to appease others when I was very small, to avoid punishment and anger. I had to be taught that I was a person in my own right and that it was OK to want things, to ask for things, to have my own beliefs and ideas. Autistic rigid thinking was at work, and I had no idea that I had alternatives. It was terrifying to suddenly be responsible for my self.. I had to take responsibility for my thoughts, my behavior, my ideas, and above all to take action to enforce boundaries to declare myself a person and not a servant, slave, or accessory. ( among other roles I was expected to play )

I was not able to get past the idea that I was at all worthy of being more than a puppet for others to use as they chose.
I ended up having to look hard to find the time in my childhood when I began to learn the negative things and believe them.

I ended up seeing myself between ages of 5 and 8, and being able to find the little girl who was so afraid and who felt so unloved and unwanted. When I was able to do this, ( and remember I can not picture a thing in my mind, so I need visual aids such as photos, models, maps, or drawings to “see” things), I purchased a sad looking child-doll (not a baby!) and put her near my bed so I could see her and think about that child and how I was now able to give her what she had need and not got. I took care of her in my mind and heart. I took pleasure in giving her new clothing, imagining her being cherished, supported, fed and cared for, helped with struggles and given love. I was able to transfer those feelings first to my childhood self, who had missed it all, then to my middle school and teen years and the years of my early 20s.

Breaking though that initial barrier of feeling unworthy took a lot of time, though, and emotional homework. I cried for that little girls a couple of times, but not for long. I had been trained to believe my feelings were not worthy of being recognized and taught to hide them deep within myself. That was yet another skill to learn, to identify my own emotions and to recognize them properly, and to learn to respond to them properly.

Autistic people have many struggles identifying emotions and sorting them out as it is,
our proprioception/ interoception neurological issues being common to most of us.

I was taught to deny my emotions or to redirect them until my whole idea of self was buried deep in what I hid, and never thought or understood that there were other ways and that other people handled these things differently.

It has taken a very long time and lots of hard work to develop new behaviors and to find new ways of thinking. I am certain that many of us, especially older people who have never considered they might be autistic, grew up with similar training… and with similar results.

Years and years of negative feedback from family, neighbors, schoolmates, co workers, spouse and other contacts in our experience have led to our deep self hatred. How could we get things so wrong? How could we fail over and over to perform as expected? How could we mess things up so badly. It was our fault! We were useless, stupid, worthless. Years of negative feedback is a lot to overcome.

When I learned about my autism, suddenly things began to make sense. No wonder I could not do what they wanted me to! I have neurological struggles which they do not have! They expected me to behave as they do never knowing, any more than I did, that I simply was give a different “tool box” from which to do what they expected of me. So amazing!
No wonder I failed! No wonder I could not work to expectations ! No wonder everything was so hard!

Diagnosis changed everything for me, even though the therapy 38 years ago helped me survive and do better in the world, it was not then that I discovered how much my autistic struggles contributed to the difficulty and distress in so many parts of my life.

Here is my message.

You are worthy of respect. You are worthy of caring, you are worthy of love and friendship.


You are an amazing survivor of so many things that were so hard to understand and so difficult to live through, never knowing about autism and about how it has worked in your life to cause so many struggles that others simply do not have.

There are so many new ways to live and to care for yourself, to assure your needs are met and to give your life a richness and fullness you might never have thought you could have.
Please take the time to explore the options, to feed the needs inside of you for so many things you have been missing all these years. Take time to find self care, self comfort, self accommodation, self interest!

If you struggle with self care, I suggest that you think about a stranger you might come across, who has had a very hard life and is full of hurt and feeling un-cared for and misunderstood.
How would you help that person?
Would you punish, shame and chastise them?
Would you be constantly angry at them when they struggled to do things that were difficult for them?
No, I doubt you would.
Instead you might try to help and encourage them, wouldn’t you?

I hope you can look at the lost stranger inside yourself and be at least as good to them as you would be to any other person .