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In This Issue
Autistic Seniors Wanted!



If you or a person you care for is on the autism spectrum and is 50 years of age or older, we hope you'll complete a new survey on quality-of-life issues associated with senior adults on the autism spectrum. 

We invite you to complete the survey on quality of life issues associated with senior adults on the autism spectrum. We hope the results from this survey will provide much insight about the needs and challenges faced by seniors with autism (ages 50 and older) and their support providers.  We anticipate that this study will also inspire others as well as better inform the autism community, government agencies, and other welfare and health-related organizations about such quality of life issues.

Once the data from this survey are collected and analyzed, we will contact those who completed the questionnaire and send them a summary report of the findings.


ASD in Mid and Later Life
- a New Book
Bringing together a wealth of professional and academic research, alongside personal insights into aging and autism, this edited sourcebook looks beyond the early years and transition into adulthood with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), to focus instead on the challenges facing individuals with ASDs who are middle aged or older. Learn More.

Learn the Steps, Get Employed
Friendly Online Course for Securing Employment
Beets & Jams
AGI's Own Nutrition Column
Cauliflower Rice Tabbouleh Stuffed Peppers 
Kelcey Hostetler Nutritionist
Summer is finally here and with it comes a plethora of exciting seasonal produce. I decided to create a recipe that is heavy on vegetables, while remaining refreshing for those hot summer days. This dish involves minimal cooking so you won't have to heat up your whole house while (or to make dinner) making dinner. As an additional bonus, these stuffed peppers are completely grain and gluten free, dairy free, soy free, and vegan! Garbanzo beans lend plenty of protein and the vegetables are high in fiber and vitamins, giving you a satisfying meal that will fill you up but won't weigh you down. The recipe makes more filling than you will need for the peppers. If you prepare this dish early in the week, use the leftovers for future meals to make weeknight dinners a breeze. I like to eat it on its own, but it is also delicious on top of a bed of mixed greens. Add some grilled meat or shrimp for added protein!
 
  
Ingredients:
  • 4 bell peppers
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ head cauliflower, grated or diced very small
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp. olive tapenade, or chopped olives
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Juice and zest from one lemon
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ tsp. Ground mustard
  • ½ tsp. Dried dill
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp. agave (optional)
 
Directions:
  1. Turn on grill to medium high heat. Once hot, place whole peppers on grill and cook turning peppers so each side becomes lightly charred, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Grate or dice your cauliflower and place in a bowl with minced garlic.
  3. Sauté onion in pan with oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add ground mustard, dill, salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Add cauliflower and garlic, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes to lightly cook cauliflower. Set aside to cool
  4. Meanwhile, chop cucumber and tomato; add to large bowl with drained garbanzo beans, olives and ½ of the parsley.
  5. Combine remaining parsley with lemon zest and juice, a dash of ground mustard and dried dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in olive oil, if needed add agave nectar to balance the dressing.
  6. Once cauliflower mixture cools, add to bowl with cucumber mixture and stir to combine. Toss mixture with lemon dressing and adjust seasonings as needed.
  7. Cut cooled peppers in half lengthwise; carefully remove the stem and seeds.
  8. Fill pepper halves with cauliflower mixture and serve.
  9. Optional: top with grilled shrimp and/or feta cheese
 
While the world of special diets and food allergies can be daunting, the ARI website has insightful information. Here are links to current and upcoming nutrition webinars.
 
 
Host AGI's Film, "Trauma Warriors", in Your Community



Many people with autism experience trauma. They are are bullied at school or as adults, harassed at the workplace or in public, often leading them down the difficult path of developing other disorders such as PTSD.
AGI has produced a 40-minute film that features adults with autism as they discuss the effects of trauma in childhood and their important survivorship stories as adults. To learn about how you can host the film in your community, email us at AGI@autism.com.

Autism Employment and Higher Education Survey

Dr. Jennifer Sarrett from Emory University (IRB #00087911) is conducting a study aimed at developing strategies for creating autism-friendly, neurodiverse workplaces and institutes of higher education. If you identify as being autistic, live in the United States, and are at least 18 years of age you are eligible to participate. Participation includes a short online survey about experiences in the workforce and/or with higher education (i.e., colleges/universities, vocational and technical schools, community college). These surveys will also ask your opinion on how to make these environments and opportunities more accessible and friendly to the autism community. 

The time this survey takes varies depending on how many open-ended questions you fill out and the details you provide. However, you may save and return to the survey at anytime. You will also be given the option to participate in a later, online focus group to gather more detailed information. If you would like to participate contact Dr. Sarrett at jsarret@emory.edu .
AGI Offers Free Leadership Curriculum
 
This curriculum shows participants how to host leadership summits in their communities. A free curriculum download provides you with all the tools you need to foster citizenship, self-advocacy, and giving back to your community. You may also access a previously recorded webinar that guides you through implementing the curriculum so that youth and adults with autism can develop self-advocacy and citizenship skills, while giving back to their communities. To learn more click here.

Colorado Disability Employment Law Signed
On June 10th 2016, Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado signed bill SB16-077, Employment First for People with Disabilities, into law.  AGI Director, Valerie Paradiz, joined other self-advocates and supporters of the bill in Governor Hickenlooper's chambers to celebrate the new legislation. The bill, sponsored by Colorado State Senator John Kefalas and Representatives Joann Ginal and Dianne Primavera, will improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities who are employed in Colorado.


Valerie Paradiz and Governor Hickenlooper
at the bill signing
Register Now for the Next
BILT™ Online Course for Direct Support: August 15 Start
Building Independence for Life Training (BILT™) is an online course that provides practical skills and tools that can be used in any setting: a private home, group residence, agency, university or workplace.

BILT provides caregivers with a strong foundation in effective strategies that can improve the quality of life for adults with autism, teaching to all core competencies for direct support recommended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Led by nationally renowned faculty specializing in autism and adult services, course participants will learn to identify challenges and support the independence of people on the spectrum by focusing on sensory regulation, communication, community living, safety, transportation, and health and wellness. 

BILT provides an entry point to a growth industry. Colleges and universities are embedding the BILT curriculum into the education of graduate and undergraduate students pursuing careers in health care.To learn more, go to BILT Course 

Contact Our Editorial Team
adultsebulletin@autism.com
Valerie Paradiz, PhD
Editor-in-Chief
Chloe Rothschild, Managing Editor
Kelcey Hostetler, Nutrition Editor
Greg Yates, Technical Editor
Make a Donation to AGI
 
In addition to her advocacy work, this month's eBulletin contributor, Michele Newman is an accomplished artist.
AGI eBulletin
Fostering the development of adults on the autism spectrum and those who work with and for them

Xenia Grant
Xenia Grant
Letter from the 
Guest Editor
 
I am Xenia Grant, Facilitator of the Englewood and Lakewood Global & Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) chapters in Colorado. I am this month's guest editor for the AGI E-Bulletin on the topic of Autism 30+. 
 
As a 51-year-old autistic woman, this issue is near and dear to my heart because autistic people my age have few to no services to assist in living our lives to the fullest. Sadly, our society focuses on those who are under 21, because of the 'quick fix' mentality that is pervasive in our society. And now in 2016, Americans are realizing that autistic people grow up and get old, and this calls for an understanding of how to best serve us as the people we are.

In this issue of the eBulletin, Michael Berg and Michele Newman, write about their recent experiences as autistic adults who are over 30, and researcher, Scott Wright, contextualizes their experiences within the fields of services, gerontology and the future we must all face as not only children with autism age, but as autism itself ages.
 
Michael Berg writes about his journey in obtaining employment in this century and the difficulties he encounters. Even though he is a Board member of the Autism Society of Colorado, he writes of the bias that workplaces, both management and workers, have when it comes to autism. Michele Newman writes about post-menopausal health issues and challenges for ASD women. Very little is written about autistic women and even less is out there about women with ASD over 30. In her article, Michele writes about her experience as a woman diagnosed in middle age and how misdiagnoses have affected her life, highlighting the limited understanding that medical personnel have when it comes to adult autism.

I hope that you will find this issue insightful and interesting. If you remember the Dr. Seuss animation, "Horton Hears a Who", I hope you'll also hear the message we relate in this issue about adults with autism who have moved into their 30s, 40s, 50, 60s, 70s and beyond: "We are here! We are here! We are here!"

Xenia Grant
Guest Editor

Autism and Employment,
one person's story
Mike Berg
When I was 14 years old and in 8th grade, I was diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome at Children's Hospital in Denver because my parents felt there was something wrong with me.
In high school, I managed to land part-time jobs at Chick-fil-A, King Soopers and Sports Authority.  At all these jobs, I faced enormous prejudice from both customers and staff.  After six months, I was fired from Sports Authority, due to the social struggles I faced on the job.

When I graduated high school, I was trying to get into college and being unsure of what direction I should take, I contacted Vocational Rehabilitation to be evaluated for what kind of skill set I possessed.  It was discovered that my skill set was best in the areas of data entry, numbers, and computers, so I enrolled in a program through the Community College of Denver West (CCD) called ROOTS. This program trained me in data entry and accounting. It was there where I learned how to use Microsoft Word, and once I graduated, I was encouraged to apply for internships through the Federal Government where I was told that there was a 90% success rate. I graduated in 2006 with a Certificate in Microsoft Office, but I continued to struggle in getting employment despite the fact that I had over twenty-five interviews with the city of Denver between September 2006 and April 2007. Finally, I landed a job as a dishwasher from October 2006 to April 2007 but was let go because a foreign exchange student replaced me.

In 2007, Voc Rehab referred me to Bayaud Enterprises, a job assessment and training program. I also was placed in an apartment complex and there encountered problems because of social struggles. Bayaud informed me that my testing period there was a complete failure. The following year, Voc Rehab made another try with Bayaud, and I became a mail clerk at a Veteran's Hospital. I had this job for six months instead of the usual three because I excelled there. Despite this success, after my training ended, Bayaud was unwilling to help me and further and refused to refer me to future jobs.
So, I chose to go to the Community College of Denver to finish my Associate's Degree and completed it in December 2009.  During that year, I worked for a month as a mail clerk for the VA and by February 2010, I was promoted to work for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).  It was not easy working there, because both the management and the employees harassed me. Not only that, I was suspended for three days because I was accused of stalking a female employee who was part of my team. I went to Bayaud and told the management there about this because I feared losing my job. They encouraged me to stay with CDOT.

From 2012 to the present day, it has not been easy for me. I still encounter difficulties with people.  I took a Taking Care of Business class for fifteen weeks and by April 2013, my not finding employment was frustrating Voc Rehab. Finally in May 2013, I started full-time at Goodwill Industries of Denver working in the E-Books division.  It was a 90-day trial period, and I was cut down from full to part-time. I started out processing books, but later I was switched to sorting or picking up books on carts. I never fit in well, partially because I had a hard time keeping my numbers up, even though at the end of my time there, I was reaching quota. I had to pick up 100 books per hour, and speed counted more than quality. Also, the quota was based on the speed of the fastest worker, who happened to pick about 140 books per hour. Regardless, I was still let go, despite many co-workers liking me as a worker and the fact that I did well at that job.

In 2014, Voc Rehab was not impressed that I failed at keeping another job. This job only lasted six weeks and it was working for Access-a-Ride (MV). This company is a compliment to RTD, Denver's public transit system, in that they pick up disabled people from all parts of Denver to get that person to their desired location. After losing this job, it took five months to get a job as a part-time mail clerk at the Century Link building in downtown Denver. I liked this job and was successful at completing the work. In November 2014, I had the opportunity to cross-train there but the sponsor did not like me from the beginning. I tried to be as professional as possible, but she did not like my appearance and that eventually caused problems between me, my supervisor, and management and that led to decreased productivity in my work. Issues with my appearance led me to a suspension in December, despite the fact that I had been dressing this way before without any complaints. In addition, they wrote me up for watching TV shows and movies during downtime, when other employees were doing the same thing. I felt bullied by the supervisors and in January 2015, I was let go because I botched a customer order.

Also in 2015, the Executive Director of the Autism Society of Colorado (ASC) offered me a temporary internship as an administrative assistant. I worked there for four months and was extremely productive. I helped promote Autism Awareness in Denver and encouraged families of newly diagnosed children because they felt hope and were encouraged that on the ASC staff was an adult autistic working.  Unfortunately, the internship ended and since my internship, there has not been another autistic adult working for a paid position for the ASC.

The rest of 2015 was not a good year in gaining employment.  So in the start of 2016, I found a job through another disability agency, Service Source. I applied for that job and two weeks later they contacted me. I told them about my diagnosis and put them in touch with one of my therapists. As of now, I am currently working full time as a general office clerk processing Air Force personnel paperwork.


Mike Berg is a native of Denver and
serves on the Board of Directors of the Autism Society of Colorado. His interests span popular culture, including attending Comicon and Star Trek conventions. He enjoys the occasional trip to places like Mt. Evans, Colorado's highest peak.


Autism Aging: Roadmap for Research and Policy
Scott D. Wright, PhD

A greater awareness is needed regarding the convergence of trends in relation to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and aging, especially in the demographic, social, economic, and health domains (Baxter et al., 2015; Buescher et al. 2014; Hirvikoski, Mittendorfer-Rutz, Boman, Larsson, Lichenstein, & Bölte, 2016; Kats et al., 2013; Nicolaidis et al., 2012; Nicolaidis et al., 2015; Piven & Rabins, 2011). Many questions need to be addressed, but there is little to show for it in terms of sustained research activity. Stuart-Hamilton and Morgan (2011) have succinctly asked: "What happens to people with autism spectrum disorders in middle age and beyond?" Perkins and Berkman (2012) referred to aging with autism as "into the unknown." Parsons (2014) asked, "Why are we an ignored group?" and Bennett (2016) framed the question this way: "What is life like in the twilight years?" And the answer was: 1) We don't know; and, 2) Why don't we? Michael (2016) flips all of the questioning on its head and provocatively wonders, "Why do I even need to argue the case for research into autism and ageing?" (p. 516). In addition, researchers emphasize that much knowledge is missing, the prevalence rates are underestimated, underreported, underdiagnosed, and effective interventions are long overdue (Brugha, Doos, Tempier, Einfeld, & Howlin, 2015; Lai & Baron-Cohen, 2015; Valkanova, Rhodes, & Allan, 2013; van Niekerk et al., 2011).

Many adults with autism, typically older than age 22, have "aged out" of the educational system and aged into a lifetime of challenges with too little in the way of resources and services (Lai & Baron-Cohen, 2015; Turcotte et al, 2016). "Aging out" and then growing old with autism is a missing piece of the landscape of books, journals, services, and programs on ASD (Howlin et al., 2015; Shattuck, 2016). It is also a growing concern and need for many practitioners who are interacting with an increasing number of adults with ASD in communities and clinical settings. "Aging out" is obviously an expression used by those who work with youth with ASD. In contrast, from a gerontological perspective, this is seen as just the beginning of  "aging into" adulthood and onward-for the long haul. In other words, autism is aging - in so many different ways (Wilson et al., 2013). While there has been some evidence in scholarship to bridge the gap, (Bailey, 2012; Howlin & Taylor, 2015; Howlin et al, 2015; McDougle, 2013; Tantum, 2011, 2014; Volkmar, Reichow, & McPartland, 2014), the increase is just the beginning.

Based on my review of the research on autism and aging issues, I can say that research on autism and the aging context is veritably absent. I note two exemplary exceptions associated with the biomedical field and geriatrics (see Piven & Rabins, 2011; Happé & Charlton, 2012) and other pertinent publications outside the primary professional journals on aging studies (Geurts & Visers, 2012; Lever & Geurts, 2016; Wright, 2016). The issues of autism associated with adulthood and aging, "have generated little interest among researchers, which is an unfortunate oversight" (Edwards et al., 2012, p.996). We consider the intersection of autism and aging issues as similar to the discovery of new territory slowly being mapped and catalogued (Lawson, 2015; Wright et al., 2014; Wright, 2016). However, a significant  "gap" still exists with the intersection of aging and autism issues. The gap in research is also associated with the challenges in making a diagnosis in adults (Lai & Baron-Cohen, 2015), but there are other macro-level factors involved as well. The research on autism is predominately child-centric, and now, focused on the transition years, and unfolding in a chronological fashion, by incrementally following the increasing numbers of children that were diagnosed with autism, then maturing and grown into, now, the emergent adulthood years ("transition years") (Gerhardt & Lanier, 2011; Senator, 2016). However, can we assume that research will continue to follow the maturing of autism cohorts beyond the first twenty years of life? If autism research is primarily geared at genetic or epigenetic factors, or focused on school and family based interventions, programs and services, then what about lifespan issues? Is there any interest or imperative for basic and applied research and implications for policy issues, and delivery of services and programs for the individual with autism who reaches adulthood - and into mid and later life? A "research blind spot" may continue to exist even after the projected lag effect of "epistemology following the epidemiology" takes place. A call to action should not be dependent on a "waiting game" for more numbers of individuals with autism to reach some sort of critical demographic threshold along the life course. The time to address the full measure of autism aging is now (see Edelson & Bauman, 2016; Leigh et al 2016).

The conceptual models, the theories, the methodologies, and the interventions and practice models that are associated with autism issues in the first twenty years of life, may not be optimal (nor even functional) into the adult years, and especially into mid and later life. Instead, we need to acknowledge the potential for a new and different set of perspectives that reflect the nuances of autism into adulthood and aging. The scope and heterogeneity of the life course from early adulthood and into the "old-old" (75+) years simply defies such a "kitchen sink" mentality of the aging experience for individuals with autism. For example, we need to consider the full array and diversity of personal and contextual issues of aging (Lehnhardt, Falter, Gawronski, Pfeiffer, Tepest, Franklin, & Vogeley, 2016; Wylie 2014). I propose that a robust "person-environment" conceptual model (see Wright, 2016), with an emphasis on temporal and cohort factors, is a good fit with the life course approach for autism aging and for structuring the contexts and interactions of various levels of family, community support, and policy developments at the national level (Bronfenbrenner, 2005; Diaz-Moore, 2014; Mazurek, 2015; Singh & Elsabbagh, 2014). This complements the great heterogeneity found within the broad autism phenotype, especially for aging individuals (Wallace, Budgett, & Charlton, 2016). The bioecological model can also help address the "research-to-practice gap" in autism interventions, especially as there is a premium on testing interventions in "real world settings" by emphasizing community-based participatory research (Nicolaidis et al., 2012). The complementary approaches of the ecological model recognize and support the meaningful participation of autistic individuals in the research process and application in community settings (Elsabbagh et al., 2014; Nicolaidis et al. 2012; Pellicano et al., 2014a; Pellicano, Dinsmore, & Charman, 2014b; Robertson, 2010). Contextual factors are important to consider at family, community, and social levels, which may either hinder or facilitate optimal functioning for individuals with autism conditions across the life course (D'Astous et al., 2014; Elsabbagh et al., 2014; Gray et al., 2014).

Autism is an unusual condition because a large proportion of spending for care is non-medical (Leigh, Grosse, Cassady, Melnikow, & Hertz-Picciotto, 2016). Until a significant effort is mobilized and implemented to address these issues, we face a daunting task ahead with the underfunding of research related to adults on the autism spectrum and lifespan issues. This assessment is based on the fact that although over $330 million dollars was spent on autism research (in 2012), only about 1% of that was spent on "lifespan" or adult issues (Office of Autism Research Coordination, 2016). Leigh and Du (2105) recommended an increased research investment and increased support services across the life course as the "...burden of ASD is significant for 2015, but alarming for 2025 and, in our opinion, invites debate about policy responses" (p. 4138).

What are services and programs available to assist and support older individuals with ASD at that point in their life? Although autism is indeed a lifelong condition, the research on autism, and the implementation of services and programs based on a life course trajectory into the aging domain has not followed suit (Griffith et al., 2011; Howlin & Moss, 2012; Jones et al., 2014; Leigh et al, 2016; Turcotte, Mathew, Shea, Brusilovskiy & Nonnemacher, 2016). As Lai & Baron-Cohen (2015) indicated there is a critical need in identifying and supporting a "lost generation of adults with autism" but at the same time the support after diagnosis remains insufficient in many areas. Most states have a primary focus on childhood and adolescent needs years, and may not have the capacity to fund and deliver the programs and services for aging individuals with autism beyond the transition years (Turcotte et al 2016). However, individuals with autism will spend the majority of lives in adulthood and this is where the largest components of costs will take place (Ganz, 2007).

Autism is a life course experience with both challenge and promise, but there are positive signs to indicate the way forward to reduce the challenges and optimize the promise of autism and aging. One example of the lived experience of autism and aging was captured by the scoping study of Elichaoff (2015) who asked in a qualitative study of older men and women, "What's it like to be you?" with autism conditions. There should be a greater inclusion of first-person perspectives of the lived experiences of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (DePape & Lindsay, 2016).
It is important to investigate the autism experience through the life-course with an interest in both the scientific and humanistic domains (Osteen, 2007; Rosqvist, 2012; Silberman, 2015; van Heijst & Geurts, 2015; White et al., 2012). Studies about autism and aging should look to and examine the totality of the autism experience as influenced by both the person and environments embedded in sociocultural meaning (Hacking, 2010; Lai & Baron-Cohen, 2015).

The foci of neuroscience and neurodevelopmental, psychiatric diagnostic, and potential intervention approaches of "early" autism (associated with the child development years) all have the capability to be transitioned, transformed, and adapted to the deeper, more complex, multidimensional, and nuanced layers of aging and autism that is very much an ecological process over time (see Anderson & Cushing, 2013; Grandin, 2012; Hacking, 2010; Lehnhardt et al., 2011; Kenny et al., 2015; Osteen, 2007; Wright, 2016).

Click here for article references.

Scott D. Wright PhD, is an associate professor in the Gerontology Interdisciplinary
Program at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has research and teaching interests in autism issues across the life course with a gerontological focus and with an emphasis on mid and later life contexts. The latest publication is the edited book - Autism Spectrum Disorder in Mid and Later Life (see sidebar above).

Challenges for Women with 
Late ASD Diagnosis
Michele M. Newman
Many adult women with ASD didn't receive their diagnosis as children. Increased awareness, diagnosis of one's child on the spectrum, or a major (traumatic) life event may have triggered the search for one's own diagnosis. For me, the trigger was a life-altering worker's comp lawsuit that eventually caused me to lose my home. My mother, who lived with me, was moved 1000 miles away, and my sister became her caretaker.
 
I was 51 when I completed menopause. Shortly afterward, I learned that many of my life's failures were the result of not knowing I had an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Following my fourth psych hospitalization and suicide attempt, I learned I might have Savant Syndrome. This came when I spent a week at a university teaching hospital, where staff and medical students observed me on daily rounds.
I'd heard the word "savant" before, but had no clue what it meant. My psychiatrist said I couldn't be a savant unless I had autism, and he was convinced I did not have autism - I "looked" normal.
 
Whenever a label is attached to define some aspect of myself, I need to perform due diligence on that label because it gives me greater "control" of my person, how it affects me, and anticipated prognosis.
The next year, I read whatever I could find about autism, and what it meant to be a savant. For the first time in half a century, I finally understood "why" I was minimally successful in many areas of my life: my life's decisions/actions finally made sense! I was my only family member to obtain a four-year college degree, yet always seemed to be missing the mark in many areas of my life.
 
Trusting my gut about what I'd just gleaned from all this research, I recognized I had been severely misdiagnosed, improperly treated, and heavily medicated for nearly 25 years. No wonder all the meds I received had minimal benefit towards the way I felt. Feeling my doctors didn't have my best interests in mind, I looked elsewhere for acceptance, understanding, and support. I found GRASP (Global Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership). In this peer-run organization, I found like-minded people who respected me - for me - whose desire was support and acceptance, not change.
 
This brief background paves the way to the meat of this story, and how my late ASD diagnosis has created greater lifespan and aging challenges, contributing to lower quality of life (QOL) post-menopause. As with every other person on the spectrum, my story is uniquely mine; however, as I've networked and discussed challenges we each face, similarities do exist.
 
Females present differently than our male counterparts do in their autism. We present differently socially, which is one of the primary diagnostic criteria for ASD. Female behavior tends to be less dynamic than the male. An introverted boy or man stands out in the crowd if he's quiet and prefers not to participate; whereas, this is more normal for girls and women. This more reserved or non-intrusive nature leads professionals to conclude a woman may be suffering from depression, and rarely do they look beyond that.
 
Small doses of anti-depressants can help individuals on the spectrum; however, knowing how vulnerable we are to environmental toxins and chemicals, I urge adult women (with ASD) to pursue a conservative approach to addressing challenges regarding autism and other health conditions.
In my desire to understand labels placed on me, I needed to know about the medications I was prescribed, especially the synthetic chemicals that might be contained in them. Before the Internet revolution, the best source for drug information was the PDR (Physician's Desk Reference). Whenever I looked up a new psych med, I began seeing a trend. Most included a drug performance description that went something like this: "this drug is designed to alter the chemistry and response of the central nervous system. It is not quite understood how the central nervous system reacts with this drug, but studies have indicated 'most' people have a positive response to the symptoms and treatment for...". This sent up red flags, but I was desperate to feel normal, so chose to "trust" my doctor in knowing what was best for me.
 
In hindsight (post-ASD diagnosis), it didn't matter how much due diligence I did towards treatments I received my first 50 years. Nothing prepared me for menopause and the long-term affects all those synthetic chemicals would have when my entire body chemistry did an about face. Science and medicine have done a disservice to the aging female ASD population by not conducting appropriate research on the older, adult ASD population to determine the aging, end-life, or QOL challenges we may be headed for.
 
Since 2006, when I officially completed menopause, I have gone from having only single drug sensitivity to four medications that cause severe reactions, and to 26-27 hypersensitivities so severe, I completely avoid those medications. Most were prescribed to me before age 40 and had minimal to no side effects.
 
The biggest regret I have for receiving my late ASD diagnosis is that when doctors were focused on my "mental illness", and I was rarely taken seriously when I had physical health complaints. At age 58, I was "finally" diagnosed with a lifelong metabolic/malabsorption disorder. At age 59, I added a genetic IgG immune deficiency. At age 60, I learned I have Pyro Luria. My body does not metabolize vitamin B6.
 
I have come to the conclusion that ASD, when triggered, is an 'allergic' reaction to some "unnatural" exposure within our environment. So many of us have "gut" (our largest immune system) issues and other comorbidities. I feel medicine needs to reclassify autism as an Autoimmune Disorder like Multiple Sclerosis or others that alter the neuro-muscular (brain) system within our bodies.

Michele M. Newman was born in Sheridan, WY, and has spent the past 40 years living independently in the Denver metro area. She holds a B.S. in Geography from Arizona State University and, at age 61, is now semi-retired from the energy/environ- mental industry, devoting much of her time to advocating for adults with ASD. She is also an accomplished artist.

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