Folks who adhere to the “autism epidemic” as a new phenomenon confined only to our youngest generation are fond of asserting that no older autistic people exist. Typically, their evidence for the claim comes only from their personal experience, as they ask, “Where are all the older autistic people? I can’t find them!” Their comments conjure an image of their wandering the town square, tapping people on the shoulder, and asking them, “Are you autistic?” as a form of data gathering.
In spite of the inability of some to find autistic people in their 50s, 60s, and older, investigations performed in a more methodical manner have identified where the older autistic people are. These studies also underscore the fact that frequently, diagnoses of “mental retardation” in previous generations–labels that sometimes led to institutionalization–would be autism diagnoses today.