Changing the face of autism: here come the girls

Many girls with autism go undiagnosed, perhaps because they’re good at camouflaging their autistic traits.

Historically, autism has been characterised as a male disorder, four or more times more common in boys than girls, although at the more impaired end of the spectrum the quoted ratio is more like 2:1. This is often how people think of autism, of the “nerdy” male, quite socially impaired and with strange and quirky special skills. This is supported in research by the existence of theories such as the “extreme male brain”, where it is suggested that ASD is an exaggerated manifestation of “systemising”, a particular male way of thinking associated with a very focused interest in, and need for, predictable rules and systems.

But there is increasing awareness that the apparent maleness of the condition may be more to do with the failure to recognise autism in girls and women who, at the less impaired end of the spectrum, manage to fly under the diagnostic radar, and are spotted much later than boys.

Here Come the Girls, a film by autism researcher, Hannah Belcher, shows how different the female experience of autism is compared with the male experience. A common thread is how much harder women find it to get their difficulties recognised (“you can’t be autistic, because you make eye contact”) or how much older they are before they are diagnosed.

Read the rest of the article here: Changing the face of autism: here come the girls

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