How Can You Tell If Someone Has Autism?

Autism can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms can vary widely from person to person. However, there are some common signs that can indicate that someone may have autism.

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Published By Ruben Kesherim
January 29, 2024

How Can You Tell If Someone Has Autism?

Understanding Autism in Adults

To effectively spot signs of autism in adults, it's important to have a clear understanding of what autism is and how it presents in adults. Let's explore these concepts in more detail.

What is Autism?

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social communication, behavior, and sensory processing. It is typically diagnosed in early childhood, but it can also be identified in adults who may have gone undiagnosed or received a late diagnosis.

Autism is characterized by a combination of challenges, strengths, and differences in various areas of functioning. These can include difficulties with social interactions, communication, and engaging in repetitive behaviors. It's important to note that the severity and manifestation of autism can vary widely among individuals.

Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adults

Autism Spectrum Disorder encompasses a range of conditions that fall under the autism umbrella. In adults, the impact of autism can be diverse, with individuals experiencing different levels of impairment across various domains.

Adults with autism may exhibit challenges in social interactions, communication, and behavior regulation. They may struggle with understanding social cues, making eye contact, or engaging in reciprocal conversations. They may also exhibit repetitive behaviors or have intense and specific interests.

It's important to recognize that autism in adults can coexist with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. Additionally, individuals with autism may possess unique strengths, such as attention to detail, creativity, and analytical thinking.

Understanding the core features of autism in adults lays the foundation for identifying potential signs and symptoms. By recognizing these indicators, appropriate support and interventions can be provided to enhance the quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum.

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Signs and Symptoms of Autism in Adults

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of autism in adults is essential for early identification and support. Autism can manifest differently in adults compared to children, and it's important to be aware of the following key areas: social communication challenges, sensory sensitivities and repetitive behaviors, and difficulties with flexibility and routine.

Social Communication Challenges

Adults with autism often experience difficulties in social interactions and communication. They may struggle with understanding and interpreting nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language. It can be challenging for them to initiate and maintain conversations, and they may have difficulty understanding and using appropriate social norms.

Social Communication Challenges

  • Difficulty understanding nonverbal cues
  • Challenges initiating and maintaining conversations
  • Trouble comprehending social norms

Sensory Sensitivities and Repetitive Behaviors

Sensory sensitivities are common among adults with autism. They may be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to sensory stimuli, such as sound, touch, taste, or smell. Certain textures or loud noises may be overwhelming or cause discomfort. Repetitive behaviors, also known as stimming, are another hallmark of autism in adults. These behaviors serve as a way to self-regulate and manage sensory input.

Sensory Sensitivities and Repetitive Behaviors

  • Hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to sensory stimuli
  • Overwhelmed by certain textures, sounds, or smells
  • Engaging in repetitive behaviors for self-regulation

Difficulties with Flexibility and Routine

Adults with autism often struggle with flexibility and adapting to changes in routine. They may prefer sameness and have a strong need for predictability. Any disruptions to their routine or unexpected changes can cause distress and anxiety. Additionally, individuals with autism may have difficulty transitioning between tasks or shifting their focus from one activity to another.

Difficulties with Flexibility and Routine

  • Resistance to changes in routine
  • Need for predictability and sameness
  • Difficulty transitioning between tasks

Recognizing these signs and symptoms can help in identifying and understanding autism in adults. However, it's important to remember that every individual is unique, and the presence of these signs does not guarantee an autism diagnosis. If you suspect that someone may have autism, it is recommended to seek a professional evaluation to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Red Flags to Look Out For

When it comes to identifying signs of autism in adults, there are several red flags to be aware of. These red flags can help individuals and their loved ones recognize potential indications of autism and seek appropriate support and evaluation. Some key areas to pay attention to include challenges in social interactions, communication differences, and repetitive behaviors and restricted interests.

Challenges in Social Interactions

One of the primary indicators of autism in adults is difficulty with social interactions. Individuals with autism may struggle with understanding and interpreting social cues, leading to challenges in building and maintaining relationships. They may have difficulty with:

  • Initiating and sustaining conversations
  • Understanding nonverbal communication, such as body language and facial expressions
  • Recognizing and responding to social cues and norms
  • Showing interest in others or sharing their own experiences

It's important to remember that these challenges can vary in degree and may not be apparent in all individuals with autism. However, if you notice consistent difficulties in social interactions, it may be worth further exploration.

Communication Differences

Communication differences are another key area to observe when considering autism in adults. Individuals with autism may have unique communication styles and may display:

  • Delayed or atypical language development
  • Difficulty initiating or maintaining conversations
  • Literal interpretation of language, struggling with figurative language or sarcasm
  • Unusual tone, pitch, or volume of speech
  • Difficulty understanding and responding to questions or instructions

It's important to note that communication differences can be highly individualized and not all individuals with autism will exhibit the same patterns. However, if you notice consistent and significant differences in communication styles, it may be worth investigating further.

Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests

Repetitive behaviors and restricted interests are characteristic features of autism in adults. These behaviors and interests often manifest in specific ways, such as:

  • Engaging in repetitive movements, such as hand-flapping or rocking
  • Adhering to rigid routines or rituals
  • Having intense focus or preoccupation with specific topics or objects
  • Displaying resistance to change or difficulty adapting to new situations
  • Demonstrating highly specialized knowledge or skills in specific areas

While these behaviors and interests can be seen in individuals without autism, it is the combination and intensity of these traits that may suggest the presence of autism.

Understanding these red flags can help individuals and their loved ones recognize potential signs of autism in adults. However, it's important to remember that only a professional evaluation can lead to an official diagnosis. If you observe these red flags or have concerns about autism, it is recommended to seek a professional evaluation to obtain a comprehensive understanding and appropriate support.

Seeking a Diagnosis

When it comes to autism in adults, seeking a professional diagnosis is crucial for understanding and addressing the unique needs and challenges that individuals may face.

A comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional can provide valuable insights and guide appropriate support strategies. In this section, we will explore the importance of professional evaluation, the diagnostic process for adults, and the available resources and support.

Importance of Professional Evaluation

Obtaining a professional evaluation for autism in adults is essential for several reasons. Firstly, a thorough assessment by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or neurologist, can help determine whether the observed behaviors and challenges align with the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This evaluation takes into account various factors, including the individual's developmental history, current functioning, and behavioral observations.

Additionally, a professional evaluation can help rule out other potential causes for the observed behaviors and challenges.

The diagnostic process often involves gathering information from multiple sources, such as interviews with the individual and their family members, as well as the administration of standardized assessment tools. This comprehensive approach ensures an accurate diagnosis and prevents misinterpretation of symptoms.

Diagnostic Process for Adults

The diagnostic process for autism in adults typically involves multiple steps to gather comprehensive information and make an accurate assessment. It may include the following components:

  1. Initial Assessment: The initial evaluation involves gathering information about the individual's developmental history, medical background, and current challenges. This may include interviews with the individual and their family members or caregivers.
  2. Diagnostic Interviews: Structured interviews, such as the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), are often used to assess the individual's social communication skills, repetitive behaviors, and interests. These interviews provide standardized measures to aid in the diagnostic process.
  3. Behavioral Observations: Direct observations of the individual's behavior in different settings can provide valuable insights into their social interactions, communication patterns, and repetitive behaviors. This may involve observing the individual at home, school, or work environments.
  4. Psychological and Cognitive Assessments: Standardized assessments, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), may be conducted to further evaluate the individual's social communication skills and to assess cognitive functioning.
  5. Collaboration with Other Professionals: Depending on the individual's specific challenges and needs, collaboration with other healthcare professionals, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, or geneticists, may be necessary to gather additional information and ensure a comprehensive evaluation.

Available Resources and Support

Following a diagnosis of autism in adults, a range of resources and support services are available to help individuals and their families navigate the challenges associated with ASD. These resources may include:

  • Therapies and Interventions: Various evidence-based therapies, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), social skills training, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help individuals develop skills and strategies to enhance their social interactions, communication abilities, and overall well-being.
  • Support Groups and Community Organizations: Engaging with support groups and community organizations can provide individuals and their families with opportunities for connection, understanding, and access to valuable resources. These groups often offer a platform for sharing experiences, exchanging information, and seeking support from others who may be going through similar situations.
  • Educational and Employment Support: Educational support services, such as individualized education plans (IEPs) or accommodations in higher education settings, can help individuals with autism thrive academically. Employment support services, including vocational training, job coaching, and workplace accommodations, can assist individuals in finding and maintaining meaningful employment.
  • Advocacy and Legal Rights: Understanding legal rights and advocating for oneself or a loved one with autism is crucial. Awareness of available legal protections and supports, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), can help ensure equal opportunities and access to necessary accommodations.

By seeking a professional evaluation, individuals with autism can receive the appropriate diagnosis, paving the way for targeted interventions, support services, and community resources. The journey toward understanding and supporting individuals with autism is a collaborative effort involving healthcare professionals, families, and the community at large.

Supporting Individuals with Autism

Supporting individuals with autism is essential for their overall well-being and quality of life. By promoting acceptance and inclusion, building strong relationships, and accessing appropriate services and community support, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with autism.

Promoting Acceptance and Inclusion

Promoting acceptance and inclusion is crucial in creating a society that values and respects individuals with autism. By fostering understanding and empathy, we can break down barriers and create an environment where individuals with autism feel accepted and valued.

Strategies for Promoting Acceptance and Inclusion

  1. Educate yourself and others about autism
  2. Encourage open conversations and dispel misconceptions
  3. Foster inclusive environments in schools, workplaces, and communities
  4. Promote awareness campaigns and events

Building Strong Relationships

Building strong relationships is essential for individuals with autism to thrive. Supportive relationships provide a sense of belonging, understanding, and emotional support. By fostering positive connections with family, friends, peers, and professionals, individuals with autism can enhance their social and emotional well-being.

Tips for Building Strong Relationships

  • Practice active listening and empathy
  • Respect and value individual differences
  • Encourage open and honest communication
  • Provide opportunities for social interaction and shared activities

Accessing Services and Community Support

Accessing appropriate services and community support is crucial for individuals with autism to reach their full potential. There are various resources available that can provide assistance, guidance, and specialized interventions tailored to the unique needs of individuals with autism.

Types of Services and Community Support

  • Diagnostic and assessment services
  • Therapies (such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy)
  • Support groups for individuals with autism and their families
  • Special education programs and accommodations

It's important for individuals with autism and their families to be aware of the available resources and support networks in their communities. By accessing these services, individuals with autism can receive the necessary support to enhance their skills, independence, and overall quality of life.

By promoting acceptance and inclusion, building strong relationships, and accessing appropriate services and community support, we can create a more inclusive society where individuals with autism are empowered to thrive and reach their full potential.


At what age can autism be diagnosed?

Autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months, although most children are not diagnosed until after the age of 4. It's important to seek an evaluation if you have concerns about your child's development.

Are there any medical tests for autism?

There is no single medical test for autism. Diagnosis is typically based on a combination of behavioral observations, developmental history, and assessments by professionals.

Can adults be diagnosed with autism?

Yes, adults can be diagnosed with autism. Many people with autism are not diagnosed until adulthood. It's never too late to seek an evaluation and get support.

Is autism curable?

There is no cure for autism, but early intervention and appropriate treatment can help individuals with autism lead fulfilling lives. Treatment may include therapy, medication, and support services.

Is there a genetic component to autism?

There appears to be a genetic component to autism. Studies have shown that families with one child with autism have an increased risk of having another child with the disorder. However, not all cases of autism are inherited.


In conclusion, if you're wondering how to tell if someone has autism, there are a few signs that you can look out for. Autism is a spectrum disorder, so the symptoms can vary widely from person to person.

If you suspect that someone may have autism, it's important to seek a professional evaluation. Remember, people with autism are unique individuals with their own strengths and challenges, and it's important to treat them with kindness and respect.