How Autism Manifests in Adults

As you learn about autism and how it may apply to you, you will familiarize yourself with the diagnostic criteria and search for a diagnostician.  
You've likely already read the official diagnostic criteria, probably multiple times. It's cold medical jargon at best, a confusing collection of overly negative symptoms at worst. It also leaves out a lot of details, such as how it actually applies to real, live people.

Here, we’ve broken down the DSM’s diagnostic criteria and added in our interpretations gained through years of professional experience and autistic experiential expertise.

We’ve listed some helpful things to consider as well as some personal anecdotes from actual autistics that might help clarify how the diagnostic criteria actually apply to real people. We offer a way to personalize the medical jargon of the DSM's diagnostic criteria.
Compensation can make up for deficits, at great cost. Just because one can compensate for symptoms of autism, does not mean one does not experience them, and they should be considered during an evaluation. Women, in particular, have years of experience making up for their difficulties, and making sure no one sees them struggle.

What may look like “pretend play” may be rehashing or rehearsing real life
May replay/practice real life scenarios to understand them
May “make” friends by being “adopted” by others 
Challenges maintaining friendships due to forgetting or not realizing  need to “check in”.
2. repetitive behaviors
Do you get comfort from stimming? (This may be more subtle. It may help to think of it more as fidgeting.)
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Shamed/punished/trained out of these behaviors
May have learned well how to hide them
Subtle stimming: Tapping fingers to thumb, scratching finger print on fingernail
3. Routine behaviors
Do you have a need for sameness, routine, and rituals?
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Breaking rules (by self or by others) can be distressing
Situations that do not follow the rules can be hugely confusing/cause great anxiety
Off prepared script may lead to no idea how to prepare or react 
4. Social communication
Do you have issues with appropriate conversation? (Rather than lacking the ability to hold a conversation)

Do you have a hard time understanding the purpose of social communication?
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May tend to dominate a conversation
Let someone else (parent/friend/spouse) speak for you
May not understand the purpose of small talk
Expresses frustration or anxiety about small talk
5. Nonverbal communication
Do you have difficulties with nonverbal communication?

Have you learned the skills of nonverbal communication, though they are not intuitive?
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May under- or overuse nonverbal communication
Exaggerated gestures or facial expression, or lack thereof
Too much or too little eye contact
Extensive thought given to some or all aspects of nonverbal communication
Fatigue from thinking about and monitoring nonverbal communication
6. Special interests
Are you really interested in specific, unusual things?
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Topics might not be unusual, but depth and intensity makes notable
Special interests create calm
7. Current “supports”
Frequently these support systems fall into place so naturally that the people involved may not see them as unusual.

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Letting someone else order for you at the restaurant
“Mother hen” friend helps at school or work
Going to great lengths to avoid a phone call

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