Girls on the Autism Spectrum
Research shows that the average age of being diagnosed with ASD Level 1 for boys worldwide is approximately 8 years of age, in contrast, for girls the age is approximately 13 years of age. In recent years however, professionals working with children and adolescents are increasingly receiving referrals for diagnostic assessments of girls due to more awareness that girls on the spectrum may present very differently than males.
The most common reason why girls receive a late diagnosis is mainly due to their ability to successfully camouflage their autism. Girls and women on the spectrum are often missed on standardised measures for autism and in clinical settings due to their camouflaging ability which allows them to hide some of the characteristics of autism. Instead, they would rely on observing people in their social world including peers, by analysing and mimicking the observed social rules and conventions. In this way, they can acquire social and interpersonal abilities successfully.
Whilst camouflaging may assist in 'bending in' with peers and the social world, it has also been shown to be associated with poorer mental health and wellbeing outcomes including; anxiety, depression and low self esteem. In addition, camouflaging often delays the diagnosis of autism and thus accessing appropriate support and intervention that is individually tailored to ASD individuals.
Pathways to diagnosis for girls and women with ASD may include; an initial diagnosis of social anxiety, ADD/ ADHD, selective mutism, depression or bipolar disorder, gender dysphoria, OCD or even anorexia nervosa. Another common pathway for girls is searching on the internet and discovering that they resonate with a description of Asperger's Syndrome. Another common pathway for women in particular is reflection following a diagnosis in one of their children or another family member.
Regardless of when or how diagnosis is sought, at ACPC we believe that the main underlying reason for diagnosis is for the individual to further understand their strengths and difficulties when it comes to abilities including intellectual, language, learning, social and emotional development, which in turn can contribute to increased self identity and promote self acceptance to be able to live fulfilling lives! We support autistic individuals including girls through different therapy modalities to embrace their autism and in coping with some of the challenges they may come across.
For further reading on autism in girls, please see links below: