How many people are we talking about?
I started wondering yesterday just how many people in the US population 65 and above were likely to be autistic. I have used statistics from the Washington DC based Population Reference Bureau( PRB) to try to figure this out.
According to PRB there are currently 52 million adults over the age of 65 in the United States as of 2018. Our life expectancy is 78.6 years.
Using only these figures and not adding all the missed diagnoses and undiagnosed people under the age of 65, and using the often quoted average of 2 percent of the population as being autistic, I came up with at least 1,040,000.
That many adults may be considered to be Autistic without diagnosis, although of course some of us are now finding diagnosis as autism and its hallmarks are becoming better known.
If we add in the population of adults who are younger than 65, to include the adults from all the years before 1980 when autism was first listed as ‘infantile autism’ in the DSM, you can see there is a need for diagnosis in adults now reaching middle age as well.
If you know 100 adults over age 50, you know at least 2 autistic people among them. My high school graduating class just celebrated its 50th anniversary. There were just over 200 people in the class ( 229). I know I was one of the autistic people in that class and I think I know of at least 2 others who, looking back, would probably be diagnosed as autistic. I wonder if they have any idea they are autistic, or if they still struggle with issues not understanding why, or having tools that could help. How many of us will end our days not ever being aware of why we struggled, never understanding the neurological condition that affects us every day and knowing our problems are not a matter of character, morality, goodness, evil, or inner strength, and never knowing that all our supposed/ believed/ blamed by family and society’s pointing fingers of shame…. never knowing what we think are our personal failures are not our fault?
How many of us need the tools that knowing about our autism provides? I know from personal experience how much better is life from the other side of autism and understanding how it has affected me, affected others through my behavior, affected my life, the choices I made, the things I believed, the things I do… everything looks different from this side of diagnosis. It has made a world of difference to me. I would love to know that others like me, even this late in life, could find the utility of new ways to live, peace and understanding that comes with diagnosis of autism.