Women and girls on the spectrum have been misunderstood and misdiagnosed for years. This is because autistic traits often present differently in females. It’s only beginning to be discussed and researched so we thought we’d share 5 things you should know about Autism in girls!
Many girls and women on the spectrum are able to fly under the radar when it comes to social skills in particular. This is often the result of ‘Masking’ – a way of consciously or unconsciously ‘pretending’ that socialising is easy. Girls from a young age show the ability to watch and learn from other girls how to socialise. They are then able to copy these skills and fool everyone into thinking they are as socially developed as all of their friends.
So how can we spot someone is masking? It’s very difficult as the whole point of masking is to blend in! But tell-tale signs of masking in social situations include :
A lot of people nowadays still associate Autism with having no friends. This is sometimes the case but lots of girls and women on the spectrum can maintain seemingly normal friendships. It’s very common for girls on the spectrum to have a small group of friends. They may also find making friends easy but keeping friends a challenge. Despite this, many girls and women on the spectrum have found themselves in unhealthy friendships or have been taken advantage of as they do not understand what makes a good friend.
Top Tip: Have a chat with your loved one about what it means to be a friend and how friends should treat each other. Many autistic girls will stay in unhealthy friendships as they are scared of losing friends or cannot see they are being mistreated.
It’s very common for people on the spectrum to have special interests and girls and women are no exception to this! However, it can be very easy to miss special interests in females as they often do not present in the ‘typical’ way. Special interests in girls are often intense but short-lived and forever changing. They can also be harder to spot as they are often age and gender appropriate. So definitely keep an eye out for fleeting obsessions and intense interests (even if they seem normal for their age!).
Top Tip: Try not to use the removal of special interest as a form of punishment. Often this interest is of huge importance and comfort to a person on the spectrum and taking that away can result in huge anxiety.
Like with friendship, people associate Autism with a lack of imagination. This is often not the case for many girls and women on the spectrum. They can often engage effectively in imaginative play and enjoy making up stories and games.
Unfortunately, Autism in females is often heavily associated with Mental Health issues including Anxiety, Depression, OCD and Eating Disorders. It’s important to be aware that as many girls and women on the spectrum are extremely self-aware, this can result in poor mental health due to blaming themselves for any problems they may have. Many Autistic Females are actually diagnosed in Mental Health Services or as a result of Mental Health investigation. We recommend having some knowledge of Mental Health in general in order to help notice in your loved ones or yourself any potential problems that may be tell-tale signs of Mental Health Problems.
Great resources for learning more :
If you’d like to know more about Autism in females and how it can present differently, we’d recommend popping over to our Sensory Support Facebook Page as we have many people in our community who are very experienced in this area.
We’d also recommend the following books :
Odd Girl Out by Laura James
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