The typical stereotype is that men are far more likely to be autistic than females, with a ratio of 3:1. However, the truth is that women are often misdiagnosed. Females display different symptoms than their male counterparts and end up being diagnosed as having borderline, avoidant, and schizoid personality disorders. Researchers and advocates are working hard to educate professionals and perform studies to increase awareness of autistic characteristics in females.
This article will cover how autism is seen in women, why it is hard to diagnose in females and the stigma of being an autistic woman in today’s day and age.
Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD)
This is a condition that affects how people behave, socialize, and interact or communicate with others. There are different subtypes of this disorder, but it is treated as a spectrum disorder with different levels of severity.
In a study by Autism Parenting Magazine, Autism in Women is less common than it is in boys, and this could be due to the differences in symptoms and severity between the sexes, which lead to misdiagnosis in girls.
Signs and symptoms
By the age of 2, children usually show symptoms of autism. In the past, autistic individuals were seen as having behavioral problems or just being developmentally behind. Many autistic individuals have sensory issues. Here are some symptoms to look for in children:
- Unable to recognize simple social cues
- Prefers being alone
- Does not respond to their name, does not make eye contact
- Speech problems
- Food preferences or aversions to certain textures
- Fixation or objects or activities
- Performs repetitive movements such as rocking back and forth, spinning in circles
- Biting and head-banging
- Routines that cannot be disrupted
- Arm flapping when frustrated or excited
- Regression in developmental skills does not wave bye or point to things after 15 months
Females with ASD exhibit the following symptoms:
- inability to adapt
- Difficulties with social interaction
- Does not become hyper-focused on subject or activity
- Emotional, cognitive, and language problems
- Behavioral issues, such as acting out and aggression
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Sensitivity to fabrics, textures, tags, and comfort.
Why it is unnoticed in females
Camouflaging is a way that autistic individuals are able to fly under the radar and the symptoms go unnoticed. Experts say that females are more likely to use a form of camouflaging than males.
Forms of camouflaging, include the following:
- Forcing eye contact during conversations with others
- Mimicking and imitating social behavior, expressions, and gestures
- Having jokes or phrases readily available to use in conversations
Is it trending?
Studies show that 1 in 54 children have autism. Most people would determine that the prevalence of ASD has become an increasing trend over the years. However, studies are being done to determine if the increase is due to environmental factors or diagnostic practices.
For years, it was perceived that females don’t have autism, it was considered a male disorder. This has been a continuous struggle for autistic women because they are often diagnosed late in adulthood. Researchers stated that the way ASD manifests in females differs greatly from the way it does in males.
The pressure that autistic women face to mask their traits and fit in is exhausting. Medical professionals are trained to recognize the autistic trait in males rather than females. This can be frustrating to a woman with an Asperger profile because she has to continue putting on a mask every day to be accepted in society.
Receiving a diagnosis and support
Studies have shown that 70% of individuals with autism are high functioning. Meaning that they have normal to superior levels of intelligence. However, even if a woman were to be diagnosed as a high-functioning autistic person as a child, it would explain how their mind works. Instead, women are seen as being either awkward, bipolar, or eccentric.
Autistic women and girls are now receiving the support they need to understand and embrace their autism. Researchers are modifying the way they perform studies on autism to include females so that they will have a better understanding of certain characteristics of ASD in women. This is not always so simple but in the first instance, it is possible get an indicative result by taking an online autism test or by visiting your GP
Females with ASD have become masters of disguises as they cope with autism. They feel that they have to constantly push themselves to be socially accepted. However, as researchers begin to include female subjects in their studies of ASD, more women and girls will be diagnosed correctly, which will eliminate the need for the masks.