Adult Autism Spectrum Disorder

Awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in adults has grown dramatically in the recent years, reflecting an increase in diagnosis and the public’s understanding that, even later in life, a diagnosis can offer significant benefits and relief.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) occurs in all age, racial, ethnic, and in socioeconomic groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Autism is generally characterized by the social and communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors. Often, severe forms of autism spectrum disorder are diagnosed in the first two years of a child’s life, but high functioning individuals may not be diagnosed until much later in life.

Signs of autism appear in three main areas:

  • Social interactions
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors


Some adults with autism may have symptoms similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Others may experience symptoms such as impaired spoken language. Bottom line – autism in adults can manifest itself in different ways. Regardless of appearance or severity, ASD symptoms can present challenges in everyday life. And as our understanding of those challenges improves, more people are being diagnosed with autism than ever before.

Symptoms of autism in adults at home

Confused by the feelings of others you have a group of figurines on your desk that should be in the same order at all times. These and other common manifestations of autism spectrum disorder in adults may occur at home:

  • Your family members affectionately refer to you as the “eccentric professor” of the family, even though you don’t work in academia.
  • You’ve always wanted a best friend, but never found one.
  • You often invent your own words and phrases to describe things.
  • Even when you’re in a quiet place, like a library, you find yourself making involuntary noises like clearing your throat over and over again.
  • You follow the same schedule every day of the week, and you don’t like unexpected events.
  • Phrases like, “Curiosity killed the cat” or “Don’t count the chickens before they hatch” may be confusing to you.
  • You always bump into things and get stuck on your feet.
  • In your spare time, you prefer to play individual games and sports, such as golf, where everyone works for themselves rather than working toward a common goal in a team.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new alternative treatment. EMDR is an unconventional type of interactive psychotherapy. The treatment has grown in popularity to treat various disorders.

It is often used to help veterans and people who have had car accidents or experienced other types of trauma. EMDR therapy is widely used for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. However, this type of therapy may benefit people with autism spectrum disorder in adults.

What are the benefits of EMDR for people with autism spectrum disorder in adults?

EMDR is primarily used to treat trauma and anxiety-related disorders. However, the treatment may have benefits for adults with autism.

Doctors often ignore trauma-related symptoms in people with autism. Sometimes this is because symptoms of trauma can be masked by symptoms of autism. Symptoms such as avoidance, hyper vigilance, and reduced cognitive ability have been attributed to autism. However, these are also the hallmarks of the stress reactions.

Adults with autism with a history of adverse events were given an 8-week treatment program supplemented with EMDR. The researchers found that conventional treatments were most effective when supplemented with EMDR. In particular, adults showed a decrease in PTSD and psychiatric stress. Other hallmarks of autism were also improved.

What does an EMDR treatment session look like?

EMDR treatment sessions generally last between 60-90 minutes. During the meeting, the therapist will move his or her fingers horizontally in front of the patient’s face. The patient must follow these movements with his eyes.

As the patient follows movement, the EMDR therapist will begin to ask the person to remember a traumatic event. They ask questions about all the aspects of the event. This will include visual and audio details. They will also ask about the physical sensations that accompany the memory.

After this part of the treatment, the therapist will encourage the patient to leave their mind blank. During this period, some thoughts or feelings may appear to the patient. If this occurs, the therapist will ask the person to identify what these things are. The patient will then be instructed to refocus the negative memory or move on to another memory.

Throughout the session, the therapist will assist in any distress you are facing. Over time, the pain and disturbing feelings associated with the traumatic memories should fade.

After recalling the memories, the therapist will gradually guide the patient’s thoughts in a more positive direction. Before the end of the session, the patient’s opinions should move to more pleasant ones.

Instead of using their fingers, a therapist may choose to use hand tapping or auditory tones for some types of patients.

  • Personality Disorders

    Disruptive patterns in mood, behavior, communication with others, and thinking in general can cause significant stress and inability to function.
  • Adult Eating Disorders

    Adult eating disorders are typically triggered by past trauma deriving from a single event or the accumulation of many small traumatic events.
  • Obsessive Compulsive & Related Disorders

    Characterized by patters of unwanted fears and thoughts that lead to repetitive behavior, obsessive-compulsive disorder interfere heavily with daily activities.
  • Somatic Symptom Disorder

    The manifestation of physical symptoms due to mental trauma or illness is a serious matter. This includes the development of chronic pain leading to excessive levels of distress.
  • Social Communication Disorder

    Social communication disorders affect a large number of people today and can be as simple as difficulties in managing eye contact, facial expressions and body language.
  • Internet Gaming Disorder

    Many underlying issues can contribute to internet addiction and gaming disorders, and identifying the underlying issues is the first step in addressing the disorder.
  • Adult Sleep-Wake Disorders

    Issues with sleep are one of the most common clinical problems we face, and can greatly affect the overall health, safety, and quality of life.
  • Adult Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Typical symptoms blamed on autism such as avoidance, hyper vigilance and reduced cognitive ability can also be hallmarks of chronic stress reactions to past trauma.
  • Adult ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)

    EMDR Therapy is appropriate for adults wishing to treat Adult ADHD - the therapy is a treatment that helps you change your behavior by changing your troubling thought processes.

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) & Mental Health Service Provider (MHSP) in Tennessee

As a licensed Mental Health Services Provider (MHSP) in Tennessee, I work with a variety of adult patients currently experiencing mental health issues. For most clients, I typically recommend both traditional therapies as well as innovative treatment methods like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing. This type of treatment for mental health issues is safe, very effective and can change your life. 

Steven Lepley LPC, MHSP

Steven Lepley LPC, MHSP

Licensed in Tennessee

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, Mental Health Services Provider & EMDR Therapist offering virtual telemedicine appointments throughout all of Tennessee.

Ask me about my experience & how I can help you address the challenges you are facing. Call me or text me at 615.330.2659.