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‘Suddenly the first fifty years of my life made sense’: Experiences of older people with autism

Hickey, A; Crabtree, J; Stott, JCH; (2017) ‘Suddenly the first fifty years of my life made sense’: Experiences of older people with autism. Autism , 22 (3) pp. 357-367. 10.1177/1362361316680914. Green open access

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Abstract

Research on the experience of growing older with autism is very limited. In this study, 13 people with autism aged over 50 years participated in semi-structured interviews about their experiences of diagnosis, social support and getting older. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Three overarching themes were generated: difference, life review and longing for connection. Prior to diagnosis, individuals had awareness of their difficulties, attributed these to intrinsic difference and engaged in a deliberate process of reducing the visibility of this difference. Diagnosis prompted a process of life review and externalisation, whereby past negative experiences were reattributed to autism as opposed to the self. Loneliness, isolation and yearning for interpersonal connection were ubiquitous and longstanding. Autism support and social groups were highly valued, offering opportunities for belonging, acceptance and social comparison. Results highlight the similarity to younger age groups in terms of lived experience and need for greater support, particularly with respect to reducing isolation and improving access to diagnosis.

Type: Article
Title: ‘Suddenly the first fifty years of my life made sense’: Experiences of older people with autism
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/1362361316680914
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361316680914
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Adults, autism spectrum disorders, diagnosis, qualitative research, ageing
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1551545
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