Women and Girls
Although we know that that more boys than girls are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, it is becoming increasingly clear that women and girls could be missing a diagnosis because they don’t fit a ‘male pattern’ of autism
Judith Gould refers to this as ‘missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis’ (Gould, 2011). Women and girls on the spectrum may be overlooked for several reasons – females are often inherently more social; they are more likely to verbalise emotion; they tend to ‘act out’ less aggressively in the school environment, making them less of a ‘problem’ for teachers – but also making their autism more difficult for teachers to spot.
And not only that – girls on the spectrum can often expertly mimic and copy their peers and may even develop a social ‘persona’ based on one or several people that they have encountered in real life. They may also engage in some imaginative play that looks (from a distance) to be shared with other children – when in fact we find that they often need to be in control of the ‘direction’ of the play in order to be able to take part.
At Spectrum North West, we have developed an expertise in the diagnosis of girls and women on the spectrum. Our clients are overwhelmingly female, due to having had difficulty accessing diagnostic services as a result of the stereotypes about autism that still exist today. Some of our clients are women who have received diagnoses of mental health disorders that have never seemed to ‘fit’ with their experience of the world.
We have never met a woman, or man, who has received a diagnosis of autism and who has not felt relieved or empowered by having an explanation for their difficulties that finally makes sense to them – and this drives our passion, both personal and professional, for assessing women and girls – as well as men and boys – who are suspected of being on the autism spectrum.