The answer is, not always. If there was adequate intervention early on in the adult’s life and they were diagnosed with autism when they were little, then many symptoms can get better. For instance, say a child had a lot of aggression when he was little. If there were treatments and approaches used from second or third grade on, or earlier, the aggression can be nipped in the bud. This is because he was taught how to cope with his anger in a more effective manner rather than physically lashing out. IF the child with autism wasn’t caught early enough, say he was diagnosed at age twelve or later right when puberty hit, it’s going to be a long, hard road to avoid physically hurting others.
Other behaviors such as nervous ticks, repetitive chewing or picking, may get worse because there is very little in the way of non-medicinal substitutes that can stop these behaviors. The child and the adult with autism find these things very soothing, and they can’t stop something that soothes them without having an equally acceptable and comforting replacement. Anti-anxiety medications may work, but prepubescent children aren’t allowed to take anti-anxiety meds unless the behaviors are seriously disruptive to himself and those in his environment.
Really old age brings new challenges because of dementia and changes in the brain chemistry. Although this hasn’t been proven yet because we don’t really have patients with autism in the septuagenarian or octogenarian decades, it’s merely theoretical at this time. In another thirty or forty years, there will more than likely be a study on adults with autism that have reached these ages. Because kids with autism already have altered brains and brain chemistry within utero, it will be a very interesting time to be alive and see what new secrets unfold about autism.