Please help me. I have to know this character inside-out, and both the intarwebz and the written word are failing me good and hard. He has autism. I think.
At the moment I've googled "low-functioning autism in adults," "low-functioning adult autism," "autism in adults," and combinations of those words with and without brackets, substituting phrases including "autistic spectrum disorders" and "pervasive developmental disorders." Nothing! I've looked at every autism support group, for parents and patients, that I could find, I've been through basically every community on Livejournal with "autism" listed in their interests, and I've read every book on the subject from the local library. Nothing! I even spoke to my local health professional. My local health professional knew nothing about autism - I love rural Australia - but recommended that I watch Rain Man for research. I sighed. It's one of my favourite movies, but... you know.
I've found some hugely useful tidbits on low-functioning autism in children, but the basic theme seems to be that low-functioning children either grow up into adults with Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism and an ability to communicate almost perfectly, or they disappear entirely. This is understandable, because autism has only started to really get attention in the past twenty years so of course most of the literature will be concerned with patients under twenty, but it doesn't help me much. There have been a few offhand references to low-functioning adults who remain low-functioning often having to be institutionalised, but no real detail. And I've found one case study. One!
My character isn't actually low-functioning. I don't think so, anyway. However, he is incapable of living independently, and searching for high-functioning autism tends to return pages on people who are much more competent than I imagine my character as being, probably because those blogs are, a) trying to dispel the myth that all autistics are mentally retarded savants by showing how intelligent they can be (which I wholly agree with! But the negative aspects are sometimes downplayed.) and b) are written by people who are either very high-functioning or have Asperger's Syndrome, which, in this case, I'm treating as a disorder that is definitely autism but doesn't apply to my character.
My character is a roleplay character. (Please don't smack me. I know the public opinion on roleplaying mentally handicapped characters. But for me, roleplaying is practice for actually writing about these people, because it forces me to really get into their skin - and, if I'm lucky, I get running feedback on whether they're believable. However, you may smack me for the huge amount of useless information I'm about to pour on you.)
He is in his mid-forties. The setting is a standard cliched medieval-type world. There are no institutions; he lives with a long-suffering but devoted parent. So, that means he recieved no early intervention, no special education, no particularly kind treatment from society. Also, he was kidnapped by his psychotic mother and locked in a room from age eleven through to twenty, while she and a... friend... of hers tried to exorcise him. Oh, and conducted magical experiments on him. They reasoned that nobody would miss him. I guess this is also a question about autism and trauma, then.
Character in question, as a child, had autism. His functioning level was, at a guess, moderate to high - he eventually learnt to speak, although it took a long time, and was not mentally retarded. His problems were mostly tied up in communication and a lack of emotional inhibition; he wasn't able to really express himself verbally until he was almost nine, was extremely sensorily oversensitive, especially to touch, light and sound, and was prone to public panic attacks, huge explosive tantrums, hysterical screaming to communicate all emotions, frenzied stereotypies that turned self-abusive in times of stress, and running around naked, smearing olive oil on things. (He liked olive oil. It was slippery.) I won't go into a huge amount of detail here, because this is teal deer country - I'm happy to specify things later, though.
Okay. That's my character as a child. He was born, upset his mother, endeared himself to his father somehow, was toilet-trained in record time, started using words when he was about six and sentences at nine, and had no self-control but started gaining that later.
Then his mother abused him severely for nine years and kept him isolated from other people. First question - would it be reasonable to assume that such treatment from a trusted figure, especially of this severity and length of time, would cause significant regression and exacerbate his symptoms all over again? That's how I'm playing it at the moment. Being separated from people just as he was learning to communicate caused a setback in his developing social skills. He retained his ability to speak, but, for a while after his father rescued him, chose not to.
Now, his father rescued him, took him home, and started patiently rearing him all over again. Considering that his father was an unnaturally patient man and that there was twenty-six years between the rescue and the present day, let's just say that he managed to coax the child back into going out and practicing socialising, as well as reteaching him language skills.
Still, although people with autism don't tend to slide happily up and down the spectrum depending on what happens to them - is it feasible that the interruption to his normal education, at a crucial point, and also the omgtrauma of it all would reduce him to being essentially low-functioning? I'm not talking vegetable-in-a-corner, although he was a bit like that at first; I'm thinking, at forty-six years old, verbal but nervous about speaking in case he messes up, eager to learn how to interact with others but also very timid around them, still very emotionally unstable, still prone to stereotyping and random fits of hysteria, completely reliant on routine, rather immature, refuses to try many new things, deals terribly with change, easily sensorily overloaded. That's how I play him. He functions, but not overly well. Does it work? With that background and at that age, could he actually be like that?
A Slight Distillation: The problem with this is: my research seemed to suggest that adults with autism are either high-functioning, in which case they have learnt to deal with their autism and can control the symptoms very effectively - and more power to them! But I think that's unreasonable for my particular character, as the help available to modern autism patients is not available to him - or completely incapable of everyday life. When it comes to my character, I sort of want him in the middle somewhere, but I don't know if that can be done. He is not high-functioning in the independent-living sense, nor is he particularly low-functioning. Also, I read on one of the websites, this one an autistic blog, that "autistic adults are not like autistic children." Given the special circumstances... my autistic adult is like an autistic child. Could this work, or am I just perpetuating stereotypes?
This was a huge, confused mess of information. Basically, what I'm asking is, could he be like that? How else might he act? Do you have any experience with adults with autism that are not high-functioning enough to live in the wider community, but can still... function? And, most importantly, could you please direct me to any sites that may be useful? I do want to do my own research, but autism is a big tangled thing, and it's just so wildly varied that finding information that pertains to this particular scenario is very difficult. What I was looking for was a parent's guide to coping with adult autistic children who cannot live alone - they seem to be the most useful, and the clearest - but there are none. Do you know of any?
Thankyou! I'm sorry I couldn't be any clearer! If you say "WTF," I will try to clarify.
You know what? People like you are why I love the internet. Now, a lot of you are giving me similar or related (extremely useful) information pretty much simultaneously and there are a lot of comments here, so I can't respond to all of them individually, but thankyou so much for all the assistance! I was worried that I would offend someone (and probably some-more-than-one) but you're all so tolerant and informative and ahhh! *squee*
Er. Sorry. It's just nice to be getting some answers. Anyway! My apologies for misusing the terms relating to functioning; I'd seen them used quite a bit in psychology articles so I'd assumed they were correct, but now I see that they really are just too subjective and flexible to work with. I'll leave them in because most people seem to know what I mean. And I'm also sorry if some of my comments/ideas were stereotypical, generalised or insensitive, and thankyou for pointing that out! It's precisely what I want to avoid, you see.
Thankyou all so much! *loves you all like cake* *goes to look at the provided links*