Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition affecting many areas of development including how a person:
- Communicates with other people
- Relates to other people
- Relates to the World around them
Autism is called a spectrum disorder because it affects people in different ways and to different degrees. Whilst many autistic people can lead independent lives with jobs, relationships, and social lives they may still encounter difficulties which will require additional support. On the other end of the spectrum many will require more intensive support throughout their lives, particularly if their autism is accompanied by an additional learning or mental health difficulty.
Many more boys than girls are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Rates of autism prevalence suggest that boys are, on average, 4 times more likely to have autism than girls. But this figure may hide the true incidence of autism in girls and women, with some estimates ranging from 7:1 to as low as 2:1 (that is, 2 boys for every girl).
With the diagnostic criteria for ASD based largely in how autism presents in males, girls can often ‘slip under the radar’ or get misdiagnosed. Girls with ASD seem to have less restricted and repetitive behaviours than boys, but it’s also possible that some of these behaviours go unrecognised — for example, an obsessive interest in collecting dolls may be misinterpreted as pretend play.
Although every person with autism is different, here are some common characteristics in women and girls with autism:
- A special interest in animals, music, art, and literature
- A strong imagination (might escape into the worlds of nature or fiction)
- A desire to arrange and organise objects
- A lack of empathy
- A feeling of displacement or not fitting in
- Not wanting to play cooperatively with female peers (for example, wanting to dictate the rules of play or preferring to play alone to maintain control)
- A tendency to ‘mimic’ others in social situations in order to blend in
- An ability to hold their emotions in check at school/college/work, but be prone to meltdowns or explosive behaviour at home
- Strong sensory sensitivities, especially to sounds and touch (for example, clothing tags, socks or even deodorant).
There are many adults on the autism spectrum who have gone through life without a diagnosis and have found their symptoms manageable but as they come into adulthood and have more responsibilities, they find it harder to cope.
ISLTS Ltd therapists are trained in the assessment, identification, and management of ASD in women and girls, working with individuals, families and other professionals, depending on the unique needs of the person.
More information on ASD can be found at https://www.autism.org.uk/