According to the DSM-5, autism is characterized by:

  • Difficult talking and interacting with others.
  • There are a narrow set of interests.
  • Quality of life and functioning are affected by some symptoms.

No two autistic people have the exact same set of symptoms. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is referred to as a spectrum because of the variety of its signs and symptoms, and the different impacts and support needs that people may experience.

Some people with the condition experience symptoms that can make daily life difficult.

Others who have lower support needs (sometimes referred to “high-functioning”) may simply feel like something is “different” about them. They might have felt that way since childhood but haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly why.

They may not notice that others around them are acting differently, but they may notice that they are acting differently.

It is possible for adults with a diagnosis of autism to go unrecognized.

If you think you may be on the spectrum, this article will explain the common characteristics of the condition.

Most of the time, the symptoms of the disorder are found in young children.

If you believe you may be on the spectrum, it is possible that you may be considered a low-functioning person with lower support needs. This has been referred to as high-functioning.

There are signs of the condition in adults.

Social communication behaviors

  • “You can’t read social cues.”
  • It is difficult to participate in a conversation.
  • You have trouble with others thoughts or feelings.
  • “You can’t read body language and facial expressions. You might not be able to tell if someone is happy or unhappy with you.”
  • “Flat, monotone, or robotic speaking patterns don’t communicate what you’re feeling”
  • You invent your own words.
  • It is difficult to understand figures of speech and turns of phrase.
  • “You don’t want to look at someone’s eyes when talking to them”
  • You talk in the same way, no matter where you are.
  • You talk about a lot of topics.
  • You make noises in places that are expected to be quiet.
  • Close friends is difficult to maintain.

Restrictive and repetitive behaviors

  • You have trouble regulating your emotions.
  • Changes in routines and expectations can cause strong feelings.
  • When something unexpected happens, you have an emotional meltdown.
  • You get upset when your things are rearranged.
  • You have a lot of rigid routines, schedules and daily patterns that need to be maintained.
  • You have a lot of repetitive behaviors.

Other signs

  • You care about a few areas of interest, like a historical period, book series, film, industry, hobby, or field of study.
  • You are very successful in a few challenging areas. Some people with a condition may do well in certain areas while also having difficulty doing well in others.
  • You are sensitive to pain, sound, touch, or smell, but you are less sensitive to other things.
  • You feel clumsy or have trouble with coordination.
  • You prefer to work alone, rather than with others.
  • Others think you are eccentric or an academic.
  • You can learn and remember a lot of details.
  • You learn by listening or by looking.

There are no criteria for adults with the condition. The DSM-5 criteria can be adapted for this age group.

Clinicians diagnose adults with the condition through a series of in-person observations. They take into account any symptoms the person has.

If you’re interested in being evaluated for ASD, begin with your family doctor, who will evaluate you to be certain that there is no underlying physical illness accounting for your behaviors. Your doctor may then refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for an in-depth assessment.

Reporting issues

The clinician will want to speak with you about any issues you have with communication, emotions, behavioral patterns, range of interests, and more.

You will answer questions about your childhood, and your clinician will ask you to speak with your parents or other family members to get their opinions about your behavior patterns.

If the criteria for children are used for reference, your clinician can ask your parents questions from that list, using their memories of you as a child.

Potential factors

If your clinician determines that you didn’t display symptoms of ASD in childhood, but instead began experiencing symptoms as a teen or adult, you may be evaluated for other possible mental health or affective disorders.

It could be difficult to find a healthcare professional who will diagnose adults with the condition.

Is there a test for adult autism?

There are no medical tests for ASD, no matter your age. This means that ASD can’t be detected using methods like blood tests or imaging tests.

A doctor will review behaviors to make an diagnosis. This usually means an in-person visit with the doctor where he asks questions and evaluates how you respond. They will consider self- reported symptoms.

Many psychologists use the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2), a diagnostic assessment when assessing adults.

There are online questionnaires for adults. The tests include the AQ and derivatives like the AQ-20 and AQ-S. These tests are not the same as a professional evaluation.

A diagnosis of anASD as an adult could mean a better understanding of yourself and how you relate to the world. It can help you learn how to strengthen areas of your life that are impacted.

Getting diagnosed can help you understand your childhood better. It can help those around you understand and empathise with your unique characteristics.

A better understanding of your situation can help you find new and inventive ways to work with your strengths and qualities. You can work with your clinician and loved ones to find the right support for you.

Adults aren’t generally given the same support as children with ASD. Sometimes adults with ASD may be treated with cognitive, verbal, and applied behavioral therapy.

Note that certain therapies such as applied behavioral analysis (ABA) are controversial in autistic communities. Some advocacy groups such as the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network do not support the use of ABA.

You want to seek out support based on the impacts you are having. This could include anxiety, social isolation, relationship problems, or job difficulties.

Some possibilities are possible.

Psychiatrist or psychologist

A psychiatrist is a doctor and is qualified to make an official medical diagnosis of ASD. There are some psychiatrists that even specialize in ASD. Licensed psychologists (PhD) are also qualified to make these diagnoses, and may be more affordable in some areas.

In some states, other licensed mental health professionals such as social workers may also provide official ASD assessments.

An official diagnosis may be required to cover related expenses such as therapy through your health insurance provider. It may also help to qualify you for governmental protections and programs, though these can vary by state.


A psychiatrist may also prescribe you medication. This could help to alleviate symptoms of disorders like anxiety or depression, which sometimes occur alongside ASD.

Social worker

Social workers can help with the support of people with a neurological condition. They may know about self-advocacy groups. Social workers can help facilitate mental health and medical care.


There are many types of therapy that can be helpful for autistic adults, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), physical therapy, or occupational therapy.

A psychologist can provide general counseling or therapy either individually or in a group setting.

Vocational rehabilitation

A vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor can help evaluate your specific strengths and needs when it comes to working. They can then assist you in finding or retaining employment. This is a governmental service that varies by state.

Support groups

Many adults on the spectrum have found support through online groups and forums, as well as by connecting in person with other adults.

If you are diagnosed with the condition, it is possible to seek support that will help improve your quality of life. More adults are asking to be evaluated for the condition of the brain, which is called theautism spectrum disorders.

Getting a diagnosis can be a step towards positive outcomes such as accessing resources, understanding your own strengths, and building connections with other people with the same condition.