A new paper highlights the issue with geriatric populations in autism.
At present, one of the major challenges is that the majority of the currently older individuals with ASD has not received a formal diagnosis of ASD, and this would be dif?cult to establish using the currently recommended diagnostic assessments, because for many of them, neurodevelopmental history would be hard to obtain. The diagnosis of ASD in children involves both the parents and the child contributing…
You see, nobody working the field of geriatric psychology has any doubt that there is a large population of autistic people within the geriatric population:
Many adult and older subjects with ASD remain undiagnosed and thus are largely unknown to specialist services. [M]any have survived childhood and adulthood by either being fully supported by their family or holding jobs in
protected environment, enabling them to function ‘normally’, and thus escaping the ASD diagnosis. In support for this are the three recent case reports on diagnosing older people with ASD indicating that the standard clinical screenings used in childhood had to be modi?ed and adapted for ?rst?time diagnosis of ASD in older individuals.
As also published recently, it is becoming clearer that there is in fact, no ‘autism epidemic’ and that, in point of fact, research shows:
...nearly one percent of Britons older than 16 years have autism, a rate that is similar to that seen in children. Younger people were no more likely to be affected than older ones, however, which would have been expected if the condition were truly on the increase.
So what can we take from this? Being who I am and having the interests I have I take two main things:
1) Vaccines haven’t caused an epidemic of autism because an epidemic of autism does not in fact exist.
2) There is a large amount of undiagnosed adults with autism who need our help now. They are in community homes (group homes I believe they are referred to as in the US) or living with very elderly relatives. The majority are in situations where their autism is not recognised and not diagnosed. How do we help them?
The University of Newcastle held a Workshop Meeting‘to reach a consensus on he need for new initiatives in this area.’ and came away with the following points:
1 Prevalence rates of older people with ASD (a prerequisite for planning service needs and placements)
2 Determine life expectancy, behavioural changes and cognitive changes with ageing in ASD
3 Data regarding health problems common in ASD, clinical assessments and treatment of seriously medically ill and frail older individuals with ASD
4 Information whether and how the characteristic clinical symptomatology of ASD change with age
5 Problems diagnosing older individuals with ASD not known to services and development of diagnostic tools for this purpose
6 Diagnosing cognitive impairment and dealing with challenging behaviour in nursing homes
7 Increasing need for advocacy and mental capacity assessments
8 Need to identify services, support and resources for older people with ASD
9 Design of adequate environment for older individuals with ASD
10 Neuroimaging studies in older individuals with ASD
11 Biobanking facilities (cerebrospinal fluid, blood/blood derivates and brain donations) and facilitating research
We should all be aware of the needs of elderly autistic people and try and find a way to help I think. How we should do this is vital. The first step must be the recognition that the idea of an autism epidemic marginalises them.