A survey by the National Autistic Society (NAS) has found 59% of adults over the age of 45 with autism don't receive enough support to meet their needs while 71% say their needs have never even been assessed since they reached adulthood.

There is growing concern among those in the sector that adults with autism who reach middle or old age are not receiving adequate help from their local authority. As a result, the NAS is conducting research into how to improve awareness and understanding of the issues older adults face and thus enable local authorities and social services to deliver quality support.

Carol Povey, director of the Centre for Autism at the NAS, said: “For too long there has been a tendency to view autism as a condition solely affecting children despite it being a lifelong condition, which affects as many adults as children.

"The NAS has seen a dramatic increase in people in their 40s, 50s and even older being diagnosed for the first time, in line with an increased public awareness of autism. This means that a large group of adults have been, and are being, overlooked by the Government and health services."

On the back of this, the NAS has called on local authorities and health services take the following steps to ensure they are providing adequate support for ageing adults:
• Ageing adults with autism must have their needs assessed more regularly to ensure they have the right support to meet their changing needs
• When developing local plans on services needed for adults with autism in line with the Autism Act 2009, age appropriate services must be included
• Local authorities must proactively seek out parents and siblings who are carers to adults with autism and ensure they undergo a carer’s assessment and are aware of their rights and entitlements.

Freddie, an elderly adult with autism told the NAS: “I'm 70 now, and wasn't diagnosed with Asperger syndrome until I was 67. I was not offered any assessment of my needs and the local authority and health service have never been in contact with me about my Asperger syndrome, so I don’t know whether I should get support to meet my needs.

“A year after my diagnosis, when I raised the question of isolation and loneliness associated with Asperger syndrome, my GP suggested I contact the nearest autism group, which I've done, but it is 170 miles away - rather a long way to go! I don’t think he understands my needs as a person with Asperger syndrome at all.”

For more information on the NAS’s Autism in Maturity project please visit www.autism.org.uk/maturity