How Autism Affects Daily Life Adults

Explore how autism affects daily life for adults, from social challenges to unique traits and supports.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
June 18, 2024
Published On
June 18, 2024

Understanding Autism in Adults

When it comes to understanding how autism affects daily life for adults, two crucial aspects to consider are social relationships and anxiety. Both of these factors can significantly influence an autistic individual's experiences and interactions.

Challenges in Social Relationships

Autistic adults often face unique hardships in forming and maintaining social relationships. According to, despite the myths and misconceptions surrounding their ability to connect with others at an empathic level, autistic adults tend to experience higher levels of loneliness than their peers.

This difficulty in social relationships is often attributed to the challenges faced by autistic individuals in interpreting social cues that neurotypical people consider commonplace. These social interaction difficulties pose significant challenges for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), impacting their ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships.

According to a study by the University of Kansas, common difficulties include challenges with verbal and nonverbal communication, understanding social cues, empathy, and exhibiting repetitive behaviors. For instance, individuals with ASD may struggle with interpreting and using nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, gestures, and eye contact. These struggles can impact their ability to build relationships and understand others' emotions.

Impact of Anxiety

Anxiety is a common occurrence among autistic individuals, with it often leading to overanalysis of situations, worry about misunderstandings, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and mood swings. This anxiety can further complicate their social interactions and relationships, exacerbating their feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Understanding these challenges in social relationships and the impact of anxiety is crucial when evaluating how autism affects daily life for adults. By gaining a better understanding of these issues, it becomes possible to develop more effective strategies and support systems for autistic adults, enabling them to navigate their daily lives more comfortably and confidently.

Unique Traits and Interests

Understanding autism requires a deep dive into the unique traits and interests that mark the daily life of an adult with autism. This includes their special interests and the role of sensory sensitivities.

Special Interests and Prioritization

Many adults with autism have special interests that they may prioritize over other aspects of life. These interests can be incredibly diverse, ranging from specific academic subjects to particular hobbies or activities. While these interests can provide comfort and structure, they might also lead to prioritizing those interests over relationships. This can potentially cause annoyance or misunderstanding among their loved ones [1].

It's important to note that these special interests are often a fundamental part of their identity and can be a source of expertise, pride, and self-expression. However, the intense focus on these interests can sometimes interfere with the ability to balance other important aspects of daily life, such as maintaining relationships and fulfilling responsibilities at home or work.

Sensory Sensitivities

Sensory sensitivities significantly affect how autism impacts the daily life of adults. Individuals with autism may be hypersensitive (over-sensitive) or hyposensitive (under-sensitive) to sensory input, affecting senses including touch, taste, sound, smell, or sight.

Sensory sensitivities can lead to sensory overload, impacting routines, relationships, and the ability to perform daily tasks. Sensory overload can occur when intense sensory stimuli overwhelm an individual's coping abilities, leading to feelings of intense anxiety, a need to escape, or difficulty communicating [3].

Behaviors associated with sensory sensitivities can include covering ears, avoiding certain textures or foods, being sensitive to bright lights or loud noises, or experiencing challenges with personal grooming or hygiene routines.

Many individuals with autism also use stimming (repetitive movements, sounds, or fidgeting) as a form of sensory seeking to maintain balance in their sensory systems. While this can help in staying calm, relieving stress, or blocking out uncomfortable sensory input, constant movement may be perceived as inappropriate or disruptive in certain settings like the workplace. This can lead to the suppression of stimming, making self-regulation more challenging and potentially resulting in sensory overload, exhaustion, or burnout [3].

Navigating the world with these sensory sensitivities can be challenging, and each individual with autism may have unique ways of coping. Understanding these complexities is crucial for supporting adults with autism in their daily life.

Resources and Support for Autistic Adults

When discussing how autism affects daily life for adults, it's essential to address the available resources and support. With an estimated 1 in 45 adults in the U.S. having autism, the importance of effective resources and services to help them lead fulfilling lives can't be overstated [4].

Importance of Effective Resources

Proper resources and support systems play a crucial role in improving the quality of life for autistic adults. These resources can provide assistance in various aspects of life, including social relationships, employment, housing, and personal development. By accessing these resources, adults with autism can acquire useful tools and information to navigate their unique challenges and thrive in their daily lives. Effective resources also promote understanding and acceptance in society, further improving the well-being of autistic individuals.

Services Provided by Autism Organizations

Organizations like Autism Speaks work tirelessly to identify solutions that address the diverse needs of adults with autism. They offer a plethora of resources and services designed to assist in all facets of adult life [4].

Autism Speaks provides information on important topics for adults with autism, such as:

  • Understanding a new diagnosis
  • Knowing their rights
  • Navigating adult services
  • Exploring therapy options
  • Considerations for employment
  • Housing resources
  • Safety in the community

In addition, Autism Speaks offers support for job seekers, employers, parents, and the community. They provide resources for housing options, residential support, funding for housing, and discussions on housing and community living [4].

One of the key services provided by Autism Speaks is the Autism Response Team (ART). This team connects individuals with autism, their families, and caregivers to information, tools, and resources. By providing specialized support, ART plays a significant role in enhancing the lives of autistic adults.

In conclusion, resources and support play a critical role in addressing how autism affects the daily lives of adults. By leveraging these resources, adults with autism can better manage their unique challenges and lead fulfilling, productive lives.

Employment Challenges

One of the key areas where autism affects daily life for adults is in the realm of employment. Autistic adults often face unique challenges when it comes to job hunting and workplace discrimination.

Job Hunting Struggles

Job hunting can be particularly challenging for autistic adults. They may struggle with filling out applications, particularly with questionnaires that require selecting the best answer. Additionally, providing work history and references can also be a hurdle.

Interviews can pose additional challenges. Autistic adults may take questions too literally, have difficulty processing and understanding questions, experience anxiety, and struggle with unexpected questions. These factors can lead to a misinterpretation of their interest in the job or their ability to perform the job functions effectively.

These challenges, along with others, contribute to a high unemployment rate among autistic adults. Over 80% of autistic adults are unemployed, with only a small percentage of them working. This is due to various reasons such as lack of education on autism, difficulty in understanding the world, and challenges with adulting.

Workplace Discrimination

Even after securing a job, autistic adults may continue to face challenges. One significant issue is workplace discrimination. Autistic adults may face discrimination in the workplace, with closed-minded employers leading to short job stays or terminations upon revealing their autism diagnosis.

The job setting can also significantly impact the ability of autistic individuals to perform. Sensory issues like sensitivity to light, noise, and unwanted physical contact can make busy and fast-paced environments challenging for them.

These challenges underline the importance of creating inclusive workplaces and providing appropriate supports for autistic adults. It's crucial for employers to understand and accommodate the unique needs of their autistic employees. This not only benefits the individual but contributes to a more diverse and inclusive work environment overall.

Transitioning to Adulthood

Transitioning to adulthood is a significant phase in anyone's life. For adults with autism, this progression, also known as a vertical transition, can present unique challenges. Understanding these challenges and implementing appropriate strategies can help to ease the transition and foster resilience and independence.

Transition Planning and Strategies

Transition planning involves teaching coping strategies to manage changes in environments and routines. This is particularly beneficial for individuals on the autism spectrum, as they may find these changes overwhelming or anxiety-inducing [6]. As well as managing changes, transition planning also involves preparing for major life events and changes in status, such as moving from school to work or from living at home to independent living.

Research provides good practice guidelines for preparing for these major life transitions. These guidelines include understanding the individual's needs and strengths, involving them in decision-making, providing opportunities for skill development, and offering ongoing support and guidance. Implementing these strategies can help to smooth the transition process and support individuals with autism as they navigate their way into adulthood.

Legal Entitlements and Support Services

Legal entitlements for adults with autism spectrum disorder are covered under various laws in the US. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Medicaid Home- & Community-Based Services (HCBS), Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and Social Security benefits including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

However, it's important to note that while school services are covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), these services end when the person turns 22. Adult services are not entitlements, and transition-to-adulthood programs are limited. Therefore, parents and caregivers often need to provide direction and support to their adult children during this transition phase [8].

Having a documented diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can ensure access to the services and support available by law. These may include financial assistance, vocational therapy, tutors, and mental health services at a low cost.

In conclusion, transitioning to adulthood for individuals with autism involves careful planning, a clear understanding of legal entitlements, and accessing the right support services. With effective strategies and the right support, adults with autism can navigate this transition successfully.

Daily Life Challenges

Everyday life for an adult with autism can come with unique challenges. These can be broadly categorized into difficulties with social communication and sensory sensitivities.

Social Communication Difficulties

Individuals with autism often experience challenges in verbal and non-verbal communication. This can make understanding and interpreting social cues, gestures, and facial expressions complex and potentially overwhelming [2].

Understanding tone of voice, humor, sarcasm, and idiomatic expressions can be particularly difficult for individuals with autism. This can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings in social interactions, making daily life more stressful.

Additionally, social skills deficits are common, impacting the individual's ability to form and maintain relationships, understand nonverbal cues, and engage in back-and-forth interactions in daily life. Difficulties in joint attention, emotional regulation, and building relationships can make even simple social interactions challenging for individuals with autism.

To manage these challenges, explicit instruction, and support in understanding social cues and non-verbal communication can be helpful. Moreover, developing problem-solving skills and providing opportunities for social skills training can enhance social interaction abilities.

Sensory Sensitivities and Overload

Sensory sensitivities are another common challenge for individuals with autism, which can significantly impact daily life activities and interactions. Some individuals may be hypersensitive (over-sensitive) to sensory input, while others may be hyposensitive (under-sensitive). These sensitivities can affect various senses, including touch, taste, sound, smell, or sight [2].

Sensory sensitivities can lead to sensory overload and potential meltdowns, which can in turn disrupt routines and relationships. For instance, individuals with autism may exhibit behaviors such as covering their ears, avoiding certain textures or foods, being sensitive to bright lights or loud noises, or experiencing challenges with personal grooming or hygiene routines.

Understanding these sensory sensitivities and finding effective coping strategies, such as creating a sensory-friendly environment or using sensory tools, can help individuals with autism manage these challenges and improve their quality of life.

In conclusion, the daily life challenges faced by adults with autism can be extensive. However, with understanding, support, and appropriate resources, individuals with autism can navigate these challenges and lead fulfilling lives.