Understanding autism across the lifespan: Differences in children and adults

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), affects people of different ages, genders, shapes, and sizes, with one in every hundred people being on the autism spectrum.

But the understanding of how autism can be diagnosed at any age is often overlooked.

To best support an individual with autism, you need to understand the signs of autism, and how this differs in adults compared to children.

Autism in children

A diagnosis of ASD in children is usually developed during their early developmental years, often made when a child is two.

There are a few key features of autism that are prevalent in children, most noticeably challenges in social interaction and communication difficulties.

Your child with autism might also behave in a repetitive way, where any changes to their normal routine are prone to upset them, and they might also have restricted interests so are not interested in learning anything else other than what they already know.

Let’s look at how to best support a child with autism:

  1. Early diagnosis – It is crucial for children to receive timely support and care once they are diagnosed. It is worth noting that you (as parents and carers of the children) should watch out for the signs of autism. These include delayed speech, lack of eye contact, and difficulties in forming social relationships
  2. Educational support – Children with ASD often need specialised educational services; each child has different needs which is these support systems are tailored to suit them. Educators within these systems use Individual Education Plans (IEPs), which help to address specific challenges and capitalise on strengths
  3. Communication strategies – Visual aids, speech and language therapy, amongst other communication systems, are paramount in assisting and improving communication skills in your child
  4. Structured environment – Due to their restricted interests and routine, children with autism benefit from a structured and predictable environment. It is a good idea to consider sensory elements when creating environments

If you believe your child might be developing slower than others, because of ASD, a referral to your GP should be made; this helps to get a diagnosis as soon as any difficulties present themselves.


Autism in adults

Someone might enter adulthood already with an ASD diagnosis, or they may be diagnosed as an adult, despite having characteristics from a young age.

It is more challenging to diagnose an adult with autism; it can often go unnoticed especially if the traits of autism were not recognised during their childhood.

Whilst the core features remain, there are differences in how the features present themselves which you’ll need to know.

These include:

  1. Social challenges – Although older than a child, adults with autism might still face social interaction challenges as they progress. They might not interact with their peers as often, and could need further support in forming and maintaining relationships they create
  2. Independence and employment – Adulthood often involves aspirations of obtaining a job and independence as an adult; some adults with autism can gain independence and can obtain a stable job, but it is important to remember that some adults with autism may require ongoing support and vocational training to prepare them for this change in their routine
  3. Changing needs – As with children, the needs of an adult with ASD also change. They might develop new interests or skills, but support networks must adapt to these changes to benefit the client



At Synergy Complex Care, we understand the importance of getting the correct support for your loved ones who have been diagnosed with autism at any point in their life.

Our friendly team of Healthcare Support workers are specially trained to provide tailored care and support to give your loved one as much independence as possible; with Synergy Complex Care, they can learn, live, and work independently.

We have worked with the team at the Additional Support Unit in Exeter to develop our care systems even further, giving your loved one the best possible support.

Further information about autism is available from: Mencap, Autistica, and the National Autistic Society.

If you would like to know more about our care for those with autism, please get in touch with one of our friendly team members today.

Posted in Autism, Children.