Aging with autism spectrum disorder: an emerging public health problem Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • From 1943, when Leo Kanner originally described autism, and to the first objective criteria for “infantile autism” in DSM-III and the inclusion of Asperger's disorder in DSM-IV, the subsequent classification scheme for autistic disorders has led to a substantial change with the 2013 issuance of the DSM-5 by including subcategories into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Baker, 2013). ASD is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder, characterized by social and communication impairments and restricted, stereotypical patterns of behavior (Baker, 2013). It is currently expected that most, or all of the actual cases of ASD, are identified in a timely way (i.e. in early childhood). However, there are many undiagnosed older adults who may have met the current diagnostic criteria for ASD as children, but never received such a diagnosis due to the fact it had yet to be established. In addition, some patients with relatively less impairing phenotypes may escape formal diagnosis in childhood, only to later be diagnosed in adulthood. Nevertheless, the first generation of diagnosed patients with ASD is now in old age. Many such ASD patients have needed family and institutional support for their lives subsequent to childhood diagnosis. Due to aging and death of their parents and other supportive figures leading to a loss of social structures, there is no better time than now for the medical community to act.

publication date

  • April 2017