How Autism Affects the Daily Lives of Adults

Explore how autism affects daily life in adults, from sensory issues to social interactions.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
April 25, 2024
6 min read
min read

Understanding Autism in Adults

Autism, a neurodevelopmental condition, affects individuals in different ways, influencing one's daily life and experiences. To understand how autism affects daily life in adults, it's essential to consider the unique challenges and experiences these individuals face, particularly in the realms of social interaction and emotional stress.

Social Interaction Challenges

Autistic individuals often approach relationships and social interactions differently than neurotypical people, which can lead to misunderstandings and frustrations for both parties involved. This divergence often stems from autistic individuals having a hard time reading social cues that are commonly understood by neurotypicals. Such difficulties can create barriers to effective communication and social interaction.

Additionally, autistic people often have a strong desire for consistency, which can clash with a neurotypical partner's sense of spontaneity. This desire for routine and predictability is a common trait in autism and can be a source of conflict in relationships if not understood and accommodated.

Loneliness and Emotional Stress

Autistic adults tend to experience higher levels of loneliness than their peers, largely due to the social interaction challenges mentioned earlier [1]. The inability to effectively communicate and connect with others can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Moreover, high levels of stress and anxiety are also common among autistic individuals, often resulting from the pressures of navigating a world designed for neurotypical individuals. This anxiety can lead to sleep difficulties and irritability, further impacting their relationships and overall quality of life [1].

Understanding these challenges is crucial for providing appropriate support and accommodations for adults with autism. It can also help neurotypical individuals better understand and empathize with the experiences of those on the autism spectrum, fostering more inclusive, understanding, and supportive environments.

Impact on Daily Life

Living with autism as an adult can lead to unique challenges that affect everyday activities. Understanding these challenges provides crucial insight into how autism affects daily life for adults. Let's dive into some key areas such as communication difficulties, sensory overload, and employment challenges.

Communication Difficulties

Autistic individuals may face significant communication obstacles. They may have a hard time interpreting social cues that neurotypical individuals consider commonplace, which can lead to misunderstandings( Furthermore, an autistic individual's desire for consistency can clash with a neurotypical individual's sense of spontaneity, potentially leading to tension in relationships(

Sensory Overload and Emotional Regulation

Autistic adults may also experience sensory overload and emotional regulation challenges. Sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body's senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. For example, autistic individuals may experience hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) or hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to stimuli such as bright lights, certain sounds, smells, textures, and tastes(Autism Speaks). This can lead to sensory avoidance behaviors, such as pulling away from physical touch or covering ears to avoid loud sounds, impacting relationships and daily activities(National Autistic Society).

Furthermore, high levels of stress and anxiety are often associated with autism, leading to difficulties in sleeping and heightened irritability. This emotional dysregulation can, in turn, affect relationships and daily functioning(

Employment Challenges

Employment can also be a challenge for many adults with autism. Autistic individuals may face difficulties in maintaining employment due to communication struggles, the need for a consistent routine, and issues with sensory overload in busy or loud environments. Additionally, many people with high-functioning autism struggle with executive functioning, like organizing and planning their lives, which can result in challenges in tasks like caring for living space or coping with schedule changes(Verywell Health).

Understanding these challenges can lead to more effective support and accommodations in the workplace, like quiet workspaces or clear, written communication, which can significantly improve the employment prospects and job satisfaction for adults living with autism.

In conclusion, while the daily life of an adult with autism can be challenging, understanding and accommodating these challenges can significantly enhance their quality of life.

Sensory Issues in Autism

Sensory issues are a prevalent aspect of how autism affects daily life for many adults. Understanding these issues can provide valuable insight into the experiences of individuals with autism, as well as guide efforts to create supportive and accommodating environments.

Hypersensitivity and Hyposensitivity

Autistic individuals can experience both hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) and hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to various stimuli. This includes, but is not limited to, bright lights, certain sounds, smells, textures, and tastes. As a result, sensory avoidance behaviors, such as pulling away from physical touch, covering ears to avoid loud sounds, or avoiding certain clothing textures, can be common among individuals with autism [2].

Understanding these sensitivities and their implications can help others better accommodate the needs of autistic individuals and contribute to a more inclusive environment.

Sensory Overload and Stimming Behavior

Sensory overload is another common experience for individuals with autism. This occurs when an individual is overwhelmed by sensory stimuli beyond their coping abilities. This overload can result from a single intense sensory event or by cumulative efforts to cope with sensory sensitivities in daily life [2].

To maintain sensory balance, autistic individuals may engage in stimming behavior, characterized by repetitive movements, sounds, or fidgeting. Stimming helps individuals with autism to stay calm, relieve stress, or block out uncomfortable sensory input. However, suppressing stimming can lead to difficulties in self-regulation, potentially resulting in sensory overload, exhaustion, or burnout [2].

Accommodating Sensory Needs

Accommodating sensory needs is crucial in ensuring that autistic individuals can lead comfortable and fulfilling lives. This can involve modifying the environment, using tools, strategies, or creating new habits to ease discomfort and enhance opportunities to learn, socialize, communicate, and engage with the community [2].

These accommodations might need to be tailored to each setting, considering the specific sensory needs of the individual. For instance, an individual might require certain lighting conditions at work or prefer to use specific utensils during meals.

Furthermore, autistic adults have the right to request reasonable accommodations at work and school to address their sensory needs. Self-advocacy for sensory issues involves understanding one's needs, making changes in the environment, trying new tools or strategies, and adjusting routines to better meet sensory requirements. The Autism Response Team can provide guidance on conducting a sensory scan and advocating for sensory needs in the workplace.

By recognizing and addressing sensory issues, society can better support autistic adults in their daily lives, fostering a more inclusive and understanding environment.

Transitioning to Adulthood with Autism

Adulthood comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities for individuals with autism. From navigating adult support services to exploring employment opportunities and implementing coping strategies, we will delve into the key aspects of transitioning to adulthood with autism.

Adult Support Services

When a person with disabilities turns 22, they are no longer covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). From this point on, adult services are not entitlements like school services, and their availability varies by location, impacting the support available for autistic adults in their job search process Verywell Health.

Most adult programs and services for disabled people are managed by the state, leading to substantial variability in offerings between states. Some states are more generous with their funding and have more disability-friendly employers than others Verywell Health.

Despite the challenges, there is hope as more resources and programs are becoming available for autistic adults as they transition into adulthood Verywell Health.

Employment Opportunities

As awareness and understanding of autism increase, many large corporations have started to see the value of hiring employees on the autism spectrum. For instance, Ernst & Young, SAP, Ford, and smaller companies like Rising Tide are creating programs focused on employing autistic individuals, highlighting new job opportunities for them Verywell Health.

It's important for individuals with autism to explore these opportunities and seek employment in supportive environments. Self-advocacy skills can also be highly beneficial in the workplace, allowing individuals to communicate their needs effectively.

Coping Strategies and Treatments

Transition planning, aimed at teaching strategies to cope with changes in environments and routines, helps build resilience and independence for individuals on the autism spectrum, reducing stress, anxiety, and preventing behavioral issues caused by change Autism Tasmania.

Visual strategies, including Social Stories™, social scripts, task lists, schedules, and calendars, are beneficial for individuals with autism to communicate and prepare for upcoming changes, especially as many have strong visual learning and thinking styles Autism Tasmania.

Autistic individuals have the right to request reasonable accommodations at work and school to address their sensory needs. Self-advocacy for sensory issues involves understanding one's needs, making changes in the environment, trying new tools or strategies, and adjusting routines to better meet sensory requirements Autism Speaks.

Accommodations for sensory issues, such as modifying the environment, using tools, strategies, or creating new habits, can help ease discomfort and enhance opportunities for autistic individuals to learn, socialize, communicate, and engage with the community Autism Speaks.

In conclusion, transitioning to adulthood with autism comes with its unique set of challenges. However, with the right support, resources, and coping strategies, adults with autism can lead successful, fulfilling lives.






steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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