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Behavior Characteristics of Adults with Autism

author image Marie Cheour
Marie Cheour had her first article published in 1995, and she has since published more than 40 articles in peer-reviewed publications such as "Nature" and "Nature Neuroscience." She has worked as a college professor in Europe and in the United States. Cheour has a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Helsinki.
Behavior Characteristics of Adults with Autism
An autistic man looks down at the ground. Photo Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Autism spectrum disorders are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect higher brain functions. Autism becomes apparent before the age of three when impairments start affecting multiple areas in a person's life, says the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. The characteristic problems autistic individuals suffer from are those found in their social relationships and language. Also, repetitive behaviors are also very typical for autistic people.

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Social Relationships

An autistic adult rarely seeks contact with other people. Thus, she is likely to have very few, if any, friends. Even when she is in contact with others, she typically does so to gain something. For example, she might ask a person to cook for her. It is quite typical for her to not show empathy and might seem cold or distant to other people. She does not take into account what kind of topics might interest other people, but keeps on talking about something that interests her when she engages in conversations. An autistic adult often avoids eye contact, making it difficult for her to function socially, says Dr. M. L. Spezio in a study published in Neuropsychologia in January 2007.

Repetitive Behaviors

Restricted, repetitive behaviors refer to a heterogeneous group of behaviors, ranging from repetitive body movements to more cognitive symptoms such as intense interests toward specific subjects. These kinds of behaviors are common in both children and adults with autism, but tends to grow less frequent with age, according to Dr. Anna J. Esbensen and her colleagues in a study published in the Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders in January 2009. However, other people are typically more tolerant toward odd behavior exhibited by children than by adults. Thus, an autistic adult tends to run into trouble and situations he is not fit to handle. Unfortunately, the frequency of self-injurious and compulsive behavior among autistic adults is the same as among autistic children, says Dr. Esbensen.

Intolerant Toward Change

An autistic patient typically dislikes change. She enjoys eating the same kind of food, likes to live in the same apartment and wants to have the same haircut every day. Any change in her daily routine is likely to make her upset and nervous. As the autistic person ages, she will become even less tolerant toward changes, says Dr. Esbensen. That is why any changes in an autistic person’s environment should be presented to her very slowly, giving ample time to adjust.

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