Is it Possible for a Person to Develop Autism?

One of the most commonly asked questions is whether a person can develop autism later in their life. The answer is not as straightforward as a yes or no, as there are different forms of autism and various factors that can influence its development.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
July 3, 2024

Is it Possible for a Person to Develop Autism?

Understanding Autism

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects individuals in various ways. To gain a deeper understanding of this condition, it is important to explore what autism is and the common characteristics associated with it.

What is Autism?

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a lifelong condition that affects the way individuals interact, communicate, and perceive the world around them. It is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests or activities.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that it manifests differently in each individual. Some individuals with autism may have mild symptoms and be highly independent, while others may require more support due to severe impairments in daily functioning.

Common Characteristics of Autism

While autism can vary from person to person, there are some common characteristics that are often observed in individuals with autism. These include:

  • Social Communication Challenges: Difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication, such as maintaining eye contact, understanding social cues, and using appropriate gestures or facial expressions.
  • Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests: Engaging in repetitive movements or behaviors, such as hand-flapping or rocking. Individuals with autism often display intense interests in specific topics and may have difficulty adapting to changes in routine.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Heightened or reduced sensitivity to sensory input, such as noise, light, or certain textures. This can lead to sensory overload or avoidance of certain stimuli.
  • Difficulties with Transitions: Difficulty transitioning from one activity or environment to another. Changes in routine or unexpected events may cause distress or anxiety.
  • Strengths and Differences: Individuals with autism may have unique strengths and abilities, such as exceptional attention to detail, strong memory skills, or a talent for pattern recognition.

Understanding these common characteristics can help parents and caregivers better support individuals with autism. Early recognition and intervention are crucial in promoting positive outcomes for individuals with autism.

By gaining a deeper understanding of what autism is and the common characteristics associated with it, parents and caregivers can provide the necessary support and create an inclusive environment that allows individuals with autism to thrive. It is important to explore various autism treatment options and consult with healthcare professionals to develop an individualized plan that addresses the unique needs of each individual. Additionally, understanding the relationship between autism and brain development can provide further insight into the condition.

Autism as a Developmental Disorder

Autism is widely recognized as a developmental disorder that typically manifests early in life. Understanding the developmental nature of autism is essential in comprehending its characteristics and diagnosis.

Early Onset of Autism

Autism is characterized by early-onset symptoms that emerge during infancy or early childhood. Parents and caregivers may observe signs of autism in their child as early as 12 to 18 months of age. These signs can include delayed or limited speech and communication skills, repetitive behaviors, difficulties with social interaction, and sensory sensitivities.

Early-onset symptoms of autism are crucial indicators that prompt parents and healthcare professionals to seek a comprehensive evaluation. Identifying these symptoms at an early stage allows for early intervention and access to appropriate support services, which can greatly benefit the child's development.

Typical Age of Autism Diagnosis

The age at which autism is diagnosed can vary, but it is typically diagnosed during early childhood. According to research, the average age of autism diagnosis is around 4 years old. However, many children receive a diagnosis between the ages of 2 and 3, while some may be diagnosed as early as 18 months.

It's important to note that the age of diagnosis can be influenced by various factors, including the severity of symptoms, access to healthcare services, and awareness of developmental milestones among parents and healthcare providers. Timely diagnosis allows for early intervention and the implementation of effective treatment strategies.

Understanding that autism is primarily a developmental disorder helps dispel misconceptions about the possibility of late-onset autism. In the following section, we will explore why autism is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder with no reported cases of late-onset autism.

Can Autism Develop in Individuals?

Autism is widely recognized as a neurodevelopmental disorder that typically manifests in early childhood. However, it is important to understand that autism is not a condition that develops in individuals later in life.

Autism as a Neurodevelopmental Disorder

Autism is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning that it affects the way the brain develops and functions. The characteristics and symptoms of autism are typically present from early childhood and continue throughout a person's life. The exact causes of autism are still being researched, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that influence brain development.

No Late-Onset Autism Cases Reported

While there may be instances where individuals receive an autism diagnosis later in life, it is not a case of developing autism at that point. Late diagnoses can occur due to various reasons, such as milder symptoms in childhood that were overlooked or misinterpreted, or individuals who were able to compensate for their challenges until adulthood. However, it is important to note that these cases are not indicative of developing autism later in life. The underlying condition was present from early childhood, but the diagnosis was made at a later stage.

It's crucial to dispel any misconceptions that may suggest that autism can develop in individuals during their lifetime. Autism is a lifelong condition that is present from early childhood, and understanding this fact can help individuals and their families seek appropriate support and interventions. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be on the autism spectrum, it is advisable to seek a professional evaluation.

By gaining a better understanding of autism as a neurodevelopmental disorder and recognizing that it is not a condition that develops later in life, individuals and families can focus on accessing the necessary support and resources available. Early diagnosis and intervention play a crucial role in maximizing the potential of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Misconceptions and Late Diagnoses

Despite increased awareness and understanding of autism, there are still misconceptions surrounding the condition, leading to late diagnoses and misunderstandings. It is important to address these misconceptions and shed light on the late-onset autism-like symptoms that some individuals may experience.

Late Diagnoses and Misunderstanding

One common misconception about autism is that it only manifests during childhood and cannot develop later in life. While it is true that autism is typically diagnosed in early childhood, there are cases where individuals receive a diagnosis later in life. Late diagnoses can occur for various reasons, including milder symptoms that may have gone unnoticed or misattributed to other causes, such as shyness or social anxiety.

It is crucial to understand that autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder, and individuals who receive a late diagnosis can still benefit from support and interventions tailored to their needs.

Late-Onset Autism-Like Symptoms

Late-onset autism-like symptoms refer to the emergence of autism-like characteristics in individuals who did not previously exhibit them. It is important to note that these symptoms are not a result of the development of autism itself, but rather a manifestation of underlying conditions or factors.

In some cases, individuals may experience late-onset symptoms due to co-occurring conditions such as brain injury, neurodegenerative disorders, or mental health conditions. These conditions can affect brain functioning and lead to changes in behavior and social communication, resembling autism traits.

Environmental factors, such as significant life events, stress, or trauma, can also contribute to the development of late-onset symptoms that resemble autism. These factors may impact an individual's ability to appropriately process sensory input, regulate emotions, or engage in social interactions.

Understanding the distinction between late-onset autism-like symptoms and the development of autism itself is crucial in providing appropriate support and interventions. Seeking a professional evaluation is vital for accurate diagnosis and guidance. If you suspect late-onset symptoms or have concerns about autism in adulthood, consulting healthcare professionals who specialize in autism diagnosis in adults can provide the necessary expertise.

By dispelling misconceptions and increasing awareness, we can foster a better understanding of late-onset autism-like symptoms and support individuals who may experience these challenges. It is essential to approach each case with empathy, seeking professional evaluation and guidance to ensure individuals receive the appropriate support and resources they need for their unique situations.

Factors That Can Influence Late-Onset Symptoms

While autism is typically recognized in early childhood, there are instances where individuals may exhibit late-onset symptoms. Late-onset autism refers to the development of autism characteristics or traits later in life, after the typical age of diagnosis. Several factors can influence the manifestation of autism symptoms in individuals who did not show early signs. Two significant factors are co-occurring conditions and environmental factors.

Co-occurring Conditions

Co-occurring conditions, also known as comorbidities, can influence the emergence of autism symptoms in individuals later in life. Certain conditions, such as epilepsy, intellectual disabilities, and genetic disorders, have been found to be more prevalent in individuals with late-onset autism. The presence of these conditions can complicate the diagnosis and identification of autism symptoms, as the symptoms of these conditions may overlap with those of autism.

It is important to note that not all individuals with co-occurring conditions will develop late-onset autism. However, understanding the potential impact of these conditions can aid healthcare professionals in accurately assessing and diagnosing individuals who present with autism-like symptoms later in life.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can also play a role in the development of late-onset autism symptoms. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, exposure to certain environmental factors during adulthood or later stages of development has been suggested to contribute to the emergence of autism characteristics.

These environmental factors may include prenatal exposure to toxins, viral infections, trauma, or significant life events. However, it is important to emphasize that the influence of environmental factors on late-onset autism symptoms is still being studied, and more research is needed to establish definitive causal relationships.

Understanding the potential impact of co-occurring conditions and environmental factors can aid healthcare professionals in evaluating individuals with late-onset autism symptoms. By considering these factors and conducting comprehensive assessments, accurate diagnoses can be made, leading to appropriate treatment strategies.

It is important for parents and individuals alike to seek professional evaluation and guidance when late-onset autism symptoms are suspected. Consulting healthcare professionals who specialize in autism diagnosis and treatment can provide invaluable support and guidance, ensuring that individuals receive the appropriate care and interventions.

Seeking Professional Evaluation

When it comes to autism, seeking professional evaluation is essential for accurate diagnosis and appropriate support. Early diagnosis plays a crucial role in ensuring individuals with autism receive the necessary interventions and therapies to help them thrive. Consulting healthcare professionals who specialize in autism can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the evaluation process.

Importance of Early Diagnosis

Early diagnosis of autism is highly beneficial for both the individual and their family. It allows for the early implementation of interventions and therapies that can positively impact the developmental trajectory of the individual. Early intervention programs, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), speech therapy, and occupational therapy, can help address core areas of difficulty associated with autism, such as communication, social skills, and behavior management.

Research has shown that early intervention can lead to significant improvements in language development, cognitive abilities, and adaptive skills for individuals with autism. It can also enhance their overall quality of life and increase their chances of achieving positive outcomes in various areas of development.

Consulting Healthcare Professionals

If you suspect that you or your child may be exhibiting signs of autism, it is crucial to consult with healthcare professionals who specialize in autism spectrum disorders. These professionals may include pediatricians, developmental pediatricians, child psychologists, and child psychiatrists. They have the expertise to conduct comprehensive evaluations and assessments to determine if autism is present.

During the evaluation process, healthcare professionals will typically gather information through interviews, observations, and standardized assessments. They will assess various areas of development, including social skills, communication abilities, repetitive behaviors, and sensory sensitivities. The evaluation may also involve gathering information from parents, caregivers, and educators who interact regularly with the individual.

Once a diagnosis is made, healthcare professionals can guide individuals and their families in understanding the diagnosis, explaining the range of treatment options available, and providing resources for support. They can also offer recommendations for evidence-based interventions and therapies tailored to the individual's specific needs.

Remember, seeking professional evaluation is a crucial step in understanding and addressing the challenges associated with autism. It is important to consult with healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about autism spectrum disorders and can provide the necessary guidance and support.


Can vaccines cause autism?

No, vaccines do not cause autism. Multiple studies have shown that there is no link between vaccines and the development of ASD.

Is autism curable?

There is no cure for autism, but early intervention and therapy can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with ASD. Treatment options may include behavioral therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and medication.

Can adults be diagnosed with autism?

Yes, adults can be diagnosed with autism. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have ASD, it is essential to talk to a healthcare provider who can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Is there a genetic component to autism?

Yes, research has shown that genetics play a role in the development of ASD. Studies have found that families with one child with ASD are more likely to have another child with the disorder.

How can I support someone with autism?

If you know someone with ASD, there are many ways you can support them. Some tips include being patient and understanding, communicating clearly and directly, respecting their boundaries and preferences, and advocating for their needs.


In conclusion, while a person may not receive a diagnosis of autism until later in life, the condition is present from birth and does not develop later in life. The causes of autism are complex and multifaceted, and research is ongoing to better understand the disorder.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of autism, it is essential to seek professional medical advice and support. With early intervention and appropriate treatment, individuals with ASD can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.