Updated: Nov 1
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects how people communicate, interact, and behave. It is usually diagnosed in childhood, but many adults may have undiagnosed autism. This is especially true for those who have masked their autistic traits to better fit in with the non-autistic majority population.
In this article, I will show you some evidence that suggests that many adults in New Jersey have undiagnosed ASD. I will also explain what ASD is, how it is diagnosed, and what challenges it can bring to those who have it.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how people perceive, process, and communicate with the world. It is not a disease or a disorder, but a spectrum of differences and diversity.
The Signs and Symptoms of Autism
ASD can manifest in different ways for different people. Some of the common signs of ASD are:
Difficulty with social skills, such as making eye contact, reading body language, or understanding sarcasm
Sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as sounds, lights, smells, or textures
Special interests or passions that you pursue with intensity and focus
Repetitive behaviors or movements, which may include arranging items in rows or patterns, preferring a limited range of repetitive activities, or experiencing the same book, song, video, etc. repeatedly
Desire for routine and structure and discomfort with change or unpredictability
Anxiety or stress in unfamiliar or challenging situations
The Strengths and Gifts of ASD
ASD can also bring some amazing abilities and gifts, such as:
Creative and original thinking, such as finding new solutions or perspectives
Exceptional memory or attention to detail, such as remembering facts or noticing patterns
Strong logic or reasoning skills, such as solving puzzles or analyzing data
Musical or artistic talent, such as playing an instrument or drawing
Strong loyalty and commitment to honesty, even when that might mean being more honest or open with your views than others might be
Kindness and empathy, such as caring for others or animals
Autism is not something that you have or that you suffer from. It is part of who you are and how you see the world.
How Many Adults Have Undiagnosed ASD in New Jersey?
One way to estimate how many adults have undiagnosed ASD is to look at the trends of ASD diagnosis in children over time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been tracking the prevalence of ASD among 8-year-old children in 11 states since 2000. New Jersey is one of those states.
The Evidence for Undiagnosed ASD in Adults
In recent years, the prevalence of ASD in children has been steadily rising, raising questions about undiagnosed cases in adults. It is easy to assume from the numbers that more people had ASD in the past than were identified. If so, these people were unidentified and thus not part of the number of people with ASD.
The chart below provides valuable insights:
The chart shows the increasing percentage of children identified with ASD from 2000 to 2018. Notably, the national average and New Jersey rates have both seen a consistent uptick. In 2018, New Jersey reported the highest rate among the 11 states, with 1 in 44 children (2.23%) having ASD.
But what does this mean for adults? To fully grasp the scope of undiagnosed ASD in adults, consider the gap between these lines on the chart, which may represent underdiagnosis in the past.
Let's examine this gap in two years to provide a glimpse into the potential numbers:
2000: The national ASD diagnosis rate was 0.67%, while New Jersey's rate stood at 0.94%. The difference, 0.27%, indicates the underdiagnosis gap. Applying this gap to New Jersey's adult population in 2000 (approximately 6.4 million), it suggests around 17,280 adults had undiagnosed ASD at that time.
2014: The national average was 1.69%, compared to New Jersey's 2.51%. A gap of 0.82% reveals that an estimated 56,580 adults in New Jersey had undiagnosed ASD in 2014.
Fast forward to today: New Jersey's current adult population is approximately 7 million, with a 2.23% ASD diagnosis rate. This indicates that there are approximately 156,100 adults with ASD in the state. However, many remain undiagnosed or may have been misdiagnosed, suggesting tens of thousands of adults in New Jersey may be living with undiagnosed ASD.
These numbers are rough estimates, relying on assumptions and extrapolations. Nevertheless, they shed light on the hidden population of adults with undiagnosed ASD, raising awareness about the need for diagnosis and support for these individuals.
What challenges does ASD bring?
ASD can bring many challenges to those who have it, especially if they are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Some of the common challenges that people with ASD face are:
Social isolation or rejection, due to difficulties in making or keeping friends, understanding social norms or cues, or expressing emotions or empathy without being misunderstood
Bullying or discrimination, due to being perceived as weird, rude, or different by others, or being targeted for their trusting nature or desire to please others
Anxiety or depression, due to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or unhappy with themselves or their situations, or having low self-esteem or confidence
Academic or occupational difficulties, due to having trouble with learning styles, expectations, deadlines, or feedback, or facing barriers or biases in education or employment
Relationship problems, due to having conflicts or misunderstandings with family members, partners, or coworkers, or facing challenges with intimacy or commitment
These challenges can harm the quality of life and well-being of people with ASD. They can also affect their potential and opportunities for growth and development.
However, these challenges are not inevitable or insurmountable. With the right support and strategies, people with ASD can face these challenges and achieve their goals and dreams.
Autism is a condition that affects how people communicate, interact, and behave. It is not a disease or a disorder, but a spectrum of differences and diversity.
Many adults have undiagnosed autism in New Jersey today. However, autism is not something to be ashamed of or afraid of. It is something to be proud of and celebrate. It is part of who you are and how you see the world.
I hope that by sharing this information with you, I can help you understand more about autism in your life!
You can find out more about me at www.autism-discovery.com. If you would like more information about autism or any service that I provide, message me at the email given at the bottom of the page.