Adult Autism Spectrum Clinic

At the Sydney Cognitive Development Centre we have one of the few adult autism spectrum clinics in NSW. Unfortunately most clinics stop treating patients once they are 18 years of age, and adult ASD is one of the most poorly treated syndromes in adulthood.

Common issues in Adult ASD

People with ASD have a wide range of strengths, weaknesses, skills and difficulties. Common characteristics include:
  • Social Issues: People with ASD often have difficulty in forming friendships, communication difficulties (such as a tendency to take things literally), and an inability to understand social rules and body language. They are often seen to be weak in empathy.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety symtpoms are very common in adults with ASD and issues coping with change and uncertainty are common.
  • Anger: Adults with ASD often get easily iritated with other people as they have poor theory of mind and cannot easily understand why people do certain things. They can appear very judgemental and criticise others for stupidity if things are not done in the way that they think things should be done.
  • Depression: As adults with ASD get older and realise that they are somewhat different from others, they can feel like they don’t fit in on this planet and often complain that they feel like “aliens”
  • Cognitive Flexibility: People with ASD often prefer routines and do not cope well with change
  • Strong obsessions: People with ASD often have strong areas of interest that they like to engage in or read about. They often like to talk to people about these areas and feel like they need to share this information, even if the other person is not interested.
  • Treatment options

    At the SCDC we offer the following types of therapy to help address the needs of adults with ASD:
    • Coping skills and resilience: coping with change and the anxiety it arouses
    • Social skill training and couples counselling (if the person is struggling in a relationship)
    • Anger & frustration management
    • Psychological therapy to address emotional issues such as depression
    • Improved cognitive flexibility

    ASD & relationships

    Some people with ASD can successfully maintain relationships, however this can be particularly challenging for both parties. A common issue is unfair distribution of household responsibilities. That is, the partner may start to do everything when it is just the two of them. However if they decide to have children, the partner may need practical and emotional support which the person with ASD may struggle to provide. When the partner becomes upset due to the lack of help, the person with ASD can be quite puzzled due to issues with theory of mind. Often things need to be discussed very explicitly with the person with ASD, and there is little point in assuming that the person with ASD will know what help is needed without being given explicit instructions. This can create tension. At the SCDC we have seen many cases where the adult’s diagnosis of ASD often follows their child’s diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. This can be extremely distressing to the partner who has to cope with both diagnoses simultaneously. Counselling, or joining a support group where they can talk with other people who face the same challenges, can be helpful.

    ASD & Work

    The government has funding to help people with ASD, and can also provide a range of specialist employment services. A person with ASD may find their job opportunities limited by their disability. It may help to choose a job that takes their issues into account, and maximises their strengths rather than their weaknesses.