Helping Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Updated on October 16, 2017
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Christiansen's son, Jackie, is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She is the author of Planet A: A Mother's Memoir of ASD.

Adults With Autism Can Still Feel Isolated and Alone

Everyone Deserves Kindness and Respect

It’s easy to see a young child on the autism spectrum and feel empathy. Many of the behaviors that young ASD children exhibit are not far off from their peers. As an elementary school-aged child, my son was immature, silly and ego-centric. He also had sensory integration issues and preferred to play by himself rather than be a part of a big group. Accommodations were easily accessible when he was young and bullies were easily dealt with. But as my son got older, the gap between him and his peers began to grow. By high school, he felt alone and isolated. Others began to judge him. He was no longer a little kid, and physically, he was quickly becoming an adult.

When our ASD children reach adulthood, there seems to be an unspoken expectation from the typical world. There is no more tolerance for personal space issues or lags in one-sided conversations. It is easier for the typical world to be indifferent and to assume that an ASD adult doesn’t really experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. Just like ASD children, adults on the spectrum have difficulty expressing themselves. They still may not understand social boundaries or may feel nervous making the first move to develop a new relationship.

The truth is that many ASD adults are forced to live an isolated life. Finding jobs or housing can be a challenge. There are few outlets for socializing. My son cannot go to a restaurant because if the odors. He has a difficult time in any loud venue and cannot deal with crowds. It’s hard for him to be involved in sports and his music library is limited. He has one interest—the automotive industry—and it consumes him. He can lose track of time and be consumed by his computer for days. Yet, he wants to have friends and has been hurt repeatedly by the world constantly ignoring him, expecting him to meet their standards. I am always left questioning, as a society, where our moral compass lies.

In the battle that we all face with trying to fit in, living a comfortable lifestyle, and striving for more in every aspect of our lives, where does basic human empathy come into play? Are we so caught up in our own lives that we forget the idea of simple human kindness? Reaching out to touch another person’s life with kindness and understanding is the most basic and simple act that we can perform. Kindness is an easy concept to understand yet seemingly the most difficult to achieve. According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the leading cause of premature death of ASD adults is suicide. Young adults who are on the spectrum are attempting or contemplating suicide 28 times more than their typical peers. But here’s the important part of all the research: these suicidal actions were not a consequence of having autism, but instead a result of how people on the spectrum were treated over time.

We can change the lives of autistic adults. Kindness and understanding are the keys. Those of us with spectrum children constantly worry about what they will face once they are out in the real world. We rely on the typical world to show acceptance and compassion. In this type of relationship with a spectrum adult, you’ll have a loyal friend, co-worker, or neighbor, as well as a unique perspective on life.

There Is a Lack of Understanding

Misconceptions of ASD Bullying

Bullying would be less hurtful to a person on the spectrum, either because they would not care about being ostracized or because they don’t understand that they were being ostracized in the first place.

The makeup of a person on the autism spectrum would predispose them to suicide, regardless of the circumstances.


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