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Comedian Amy Schumer revealed last week on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that her 42-year-old husband, chef Chris Fischer, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as an adult, which is helping raise awareness that the condition can also be diagnosed as we get older.
ASD ” … is a complex, lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation,” according to the Autism Society.
“It is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is often referred to as a ‘spectrum condition’ that affects people differently and to varying degrees.”
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Autism is often diagnosed in children around a toddler’s age, but “high-functioning” autism may not be diagnosed until adulthood, according to Healthline.
“Autism was seen as rare in the 1980’s and 1990’s, occurring in 3-7 children in 10,000, but now autism spectrum disorder is identified in 1 in 44 children. There are many genetic and developmental causes, but generally the cause is unknown,” Dr. Robert Diamond told Fox News.
Diamond’s a retired director of Kaiser Permanente Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinic in Rancho Cordova, Calif., with over 40 years of experience treating children and adults with ASD.
ASD is characterized by difficulty with social interactions, like difficulty making or keeping friends, avoiding eye contact with others, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors with extreme difficulty with change, according the American Psychiatric Association.
Some signs of autism in adults include: preferring to work or play by yourself, having rigid routines, making noises in usually quiet areas, having difficulty regulating emotions or being unable to read body language – like facial expressions when someone is happy or sad with you, according to Healthline.
“And people don’t know much about autism, they’re just like, ‘Oh does [my husband] love to count? Should we drop a bunch of straws on the floor?’ And I’m like, ‘No, actually do it, he’ll probably love it,’” the 40-year-old Schumer joked when speaking to Ellen DeGeneres.
In 2013, the formal diagnostic criteria for autism were broadened and changed in the diagnostic manual that many psychiatrists use to diagnose mental health conditions known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5, Diamond told Fox News.
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“The broadener ASD diagnosis has helped with understanding many atypical individuals whom we previously saw as eccentric, odd, reserved, shy, withdrawn, rigid, sensitive, ‘different,’ and now the ASD diagnosis gives them and their families, friends, co-workers and health care providers a way to understand and accept their behaviors and sometimes provide more support,” added Diamond.
“Everyone does not have to be the same. Our understanding and accepting atypical people of any age can protect them from bullying, rejection, failure and isolation and depression.”
There is no standard test to diagnose someone with ASD in adults, but many health care professionals use the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2), per Healthline.
Diamond noted that there is little proven about any effective treatment for those diagnosed as adults but recognizing underlying ASD may help with treatment.
“I really did find the best partner ever. … He’s actually diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and what happens when you get diagnosed with autism, it’s like getting a superpower. Like all of his behavior is kind of excused now,” the Manhattan-born Schumer said.
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“If somebody’s telling a long, boring story, he will straight up just walk away. He’ll just wander away, and then I’m just still stuck there.”
Click here for more resources on ASD from Autism Speaks and here for a list of signs and symptoms from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.