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Understanding the Impact of an Adult Autism Diagnosis

Updated: May 16

In recent years, the understanding and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have significantly evolved. More adults are being diagnosed with autism, which can often bring clarity to lifelong challenges.

The impact of a late diagnosis of autism in adults can be profound, sometimes affecting an individual's work and personal life. While everyone experiences their world differently and no two stories are the same, this article aims to explore these impacts, offering insights and guidance for those navigating this journey. 

Unveiling a Hidden Identity

A young woman sitting on a rock at the water's edge looking into the distance

An ASD diagnosis in adulthood can be a revelation that redefines self-understanding. Many adults have spent their lives feeling "different" without knowing why. A diagnosis can provide a framework for understanding these differences, leading to a newfound sense of identity and self-compassion. It's common for individuals to retrospectively recognize autistic traits in their childhood, which can be both validating and emotive.

Read our blog Undiagnosed Female Autism and the Gender Bias in Autism Diagnoses to learn more about the hidden traits of female autism.

Challenges and Strengths in the Workplace

Autistic adults often possess unique skills and perspectives that can be highly beneficial in the workplace. These can include attention to detail, deep focus, and innovative thinking. However, workplace challenges such as sensory sensitivities, social communication differences, and a need for routine can pose significant barriers.

Employers and colleagues can play a crucial role in creating an inclusive environment. Simple adjustments like providing quiet workspaces, clear communication, and flexibility can make a substantial difference. Understanding and support from employers can also lead to improved job satisfaction and performance for autistic employees.

Read our blog Embracing Neurodiversity in the Modern Workplace for a detailed discussion neurodiversity in the workplace.

Navigating Social Relationships

Social interaction can be a complex area for autistic adults. Misunderstandings, emotion regulation and social fatigue are common challenges that may be experienced in varying degrees. An assessment and diagnosis can provide a framework for understanding these difficulties, leading to more effective coping strategies. A diagnosis can also inform intervention such as coaching in communication and social skills. It's important for individuals and their loved ones to recognize the need for clear communication and sometimes learn and embrace unconventional approaches to socialising and relationships.

Adult Autism Mental Health Considerations

Autistic adults are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, often exacerbated by a lifetime of misunderstood experiences and unmet needs. Post-diagnosis, individuals may require support to address these challenges. Therapy tailored to autistic individuals can be beneficial, focusing on strengths and coping mechanisms rather than trying to 'fix' autistic traits. Therapy can be in the form of individual sessions, group sessions or workshops, couples therapy or family therapy.

The Path to Self-Acceptance

One of the most significant impacts of a late diagnosis is the journey towards self-acceptance. Understanding one's autism can lead to embracing neurodiversity as a natural variation of the human experience. This acceptance is a crucial step in fostering self-esteem and improved emotional wellbeing. Embracing one’s unique and wonderful traits can also guide individuals into selecting preferred careers, fostering healthy relationships, establishing needs and identifying fulfilling goals.

Girl holding a lightstring heart self compassion smiling

What's Next?

Receiving an autism diagnosis in adulthood can be a life-changing event. It brings clarity, challenges, and opportunities for growth. As a society, we must continue to advocate for understanding, acceptance, and support for autistic individuals. By doing so, we not only reduce societal stigma around neurodivergence and support autistic adults to thrive, but also enrich our communities with diverse perspectives and talents.

As therapists, we understand that we have a vital role in providing support and guidance throughout this important journey. We continue to evolve our practices with compassion and humility to meet the unique needs of autistic individuals, helping them navigate both their personal and professional lives with confidence and self-compassion.

For more information, or to book an appointment with a therapist for adult or adolescent autism and neurodivergence support, please click below and visit our therapists' profiles:

bronwyn andersen, a general psychologist


Rhiannon Derrig, a psychosexual therapist


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