Everything You Should Know About Autism in Girls
Autism in girls is less frequently diagnosed to their male counterparts. But why is that? And what are the key differences in presentation that parents should be aware of? In this article, we’re going to explore some of the most important information about autism in girls so that you can learn how to best support your loved ones.
What is Autism?
Autism is a developmental condition that results in differences in the way an individual interacts with others, thinks, feels, and experiences the environment around them. Autism occurs on a spectrum, with each neurodiverse individual experiencing the world around them and engaging with others differently to the next neurodiverse individual. Meeting one autistic person is literally meeting one autistic person – it doesn’t mean the next person with autism that you meet will be the same.
Autistic people can have a great quality of life and when supported by their family and community, their strengths and personality can really shine through. Speech Pathologists play an important role in supporting Autistic children, teenagers and adults in advocating for themselves and enhancing their social communication skills.
What is Different About Autism in Girls?
As we’ve mentioned, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a spectrum – with characteristics presenting differently in different individuals. While there aren’t any major developmental differences that would impact girls less than boys when it comes to Autism, girls tend to be diagnosed later in life.
Something you may already know (or have noticed!) is that girls in general tend to use a larger vocabulary and have more advanced language skills compared to boys. This can impact how Autism in girls presents as their higher verbal language abilities can make early identification and diagnosis more difficult to achieve.
In a 2005 study at Standford University, Autistic girls were also found to exhibit less repetitive and restricted behaviour compared to boys. This is a characteristic that, if missed, could make it more difficult for clinicians to make a clear diagnosis.
Recent research has also found that Autistic girls tend to be good at (and more frequent users of) masking their symptoms to appear more neurotypical in social situations. Although this behaviour is a reality, it is sad to think about – we want everyone to feel comfortable being who they are! This is a reason why mental health challenges can affect Autistic girls more than their male counterparts. Our Core Purpose is for people to shout to the world who they are, and this includes the incredible Autistic people we have the pleasure of working with.
What Happens When Autism in Girls is Missed?
As we’ve already highlighted, mental health challenges can arise for Autistic girls especially when they’re unaware of the reasons behind why they may be feeling and behaving differently from their peers. Differences in social communication style can really make an impact during the school-aged years, so it’s important for Autistic girls to get access to a timely and accurate diagnosis, (as well as consistent and informed support), to help them to thrive.
Where to Start with Autism in Girls
If you’ve noticed behaviours that lead you to thinking a loved one may need to seek a professional assessment, we’d recommend getting started as soon as you can. Autism can be diagnosed from 12-18 months of age but is most typically diagnosed around 2 years of age. A paediatrician, psychologist, or Speech Pathologist can usually perform the assessments required to confirm a diagnosis.