Adults may have autism symptoms that could have been missed as children, neurologist suggests

autism diagnosis 2.png
Posted at 2:46 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 16:51:57-05

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- Alana Nelson, a local mother, has felt feelings of seclusion since childhood, saying she did not know what was causing her to feel that way.

"I always felt like I was on an island, isolated, and observing, stuck in,” Nelson described.

She went to her doctor for an ADHD evaluation in November. She was diagnosed with ADHD, but was also diagnosed with autism, a neurological disorder.

The Chesapeake mother said she did not have ill-feelings toward the diagnosis.

"It was very freeing for me because for the first time I was able to, instead of feeling like there was something wrong with me,” Nelson explained, “, instead I'm just on a completely different operating system."

Some of those feelings are common among people with autism. Other symptoms may include repetitive behaviors and speech, according to pediatric neurologist Dr. Sarah Chagnon.

"It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that presents its symptoms early on in childhood,” Chagnon said.

She explained that because autism was not as well-known as it is today, adults now may have had those symptoms but were missed.

"Adults are recognizing these symptoms in themselves,” Chagnon said, “because they see it in their children or they see it in another child and the child get diagnosed."

Nelson said she can relate because her daughter was diagnosed with autism at the age of seven.

Chagnon suggested adults wanting to get diagnosed for autism can start with their primary care doctor. She added it could be a difficult process compared with children."

"Physicians like myself or developmental pediatricians and neurologists,” Chagnon said, “are specially-trained in identifying this and adult doctors aren't always."

Dr. Chagnon says resources are available through organizations like the Tidewater Autism Society.

As for Nelson, she is getting therapy to cope with her autism.

"I think it's a matter of teaching the world to make room for us,” Nelson said, “and not that we need to be fixed, we just need a place."