foggy lake that is reflected like a mirror

Autism Doesn’t End at 18 – What Happens when Autistic Adults Age?

Despite what is represented in media, Autistic People don’t vanish at the age of 18, and we don’t become “less Autistic” as we age either.

Today is my birthday. I am 36 years old and, despite being Autistic all my life, this is only the 7th birthday I’ve known this truth.

ID: Lyric appears in all black. Leather jacket, leather pants, and tshirt with the word Autistic in a rainbow font. They are on a balcony, overlooking the Garden of the Gods Park

Autism is a lifelong difference, one of many NeuroTypes (or brain types) on the NeuroDivergent spectrum.

Though I didn’t know it, I was Autistic the first twenty-nine years of my life (even before being made aware of this fact). My life experiences are, and always have been, filtered through a NeuroDivergent lens.

Autistic and NeuroDivegent functioning fluctuates from day to day and throughout a person’s lifetime.

Like ALL PEOPLE, NeuroDivergent People can need more (or less) support from the outside world at different times in our lives.

Our ability to function (when compared to our NeuroTypical peers) can very depending on a number of factors, including the current amount of support we have in our lives, our current stress load, and the state of our mental health or any additional health conditions we may have.

Though my presentation and the ways in which I cope and interact with the world are sure to continue to change and evolve over years (regardless of how many coping skills I acquire, or how well I blend in, I will always be Autistic – and my ADHD isn’t going anywhere either).

I didn’t know I was NeuroDivergent for the first part of my life because NeuroDiversity is most often an invisible diversity, that can be easily overlooked by the untrained eye.

NeuroDivergent People’s brain differences are cognitive, which means our differences are frequently invisible, and impact the way we interpret the world, process information, and interact with others.

As we grow and age these differences will change and evolve.

I am not the same Autistic Person I was as a child, because, as an adult, I’ve gained many skills and abilities I didn’t have as a child.

Likewise, as I age I worry over the skills I see myself losing (at this point the decline seems to be more physical than mental, but it’s impossible to know if that will always be the case).

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4 thoughts on “Autism Doesn’t End at 18 – What Happens when Autistic Adults Age?

  1. Happy birthday to you! I didn’t realize we’re actually only 11 days apart in age – my 36th birthday was on the 18th.

    I had a slightly different experience from you as I was diagnosed as a teenager (despite always knowing on some level I was different, it took my parents awhile to come around). I think being male it was a little easier detected in me, as most professionals don’t know to look for autism in girls. Other than that, I can sympathize with the varying levels of function and differences in presentation. Neither of us fit a mold per se, and that’s OK.

    I hope your 36th trip around the sun is the best yet! Someone once told me everyone is doing the best with what they have to work with at any given time. That’s true for those of us on the spectrum too. Here’s hoping for a continued upward path!

  2. I discovered I am autistic at slightly more than twice the age at which you did – at the age of 60. That was 13 years ago, and it seems that it is only in recent years that I have come to understand the struggles I had in surviving in what I now realise is quite a hostile environment for all types of neurodivergent folk.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story and insights about neurodiversity. It’s important to recognize that everyone’s brain works differently and that these differences should be accepted and accommodated. Your perspective is valuable in raising awareness and understanding of neurodivergent individuals. Best wishes with your Substack!

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