Diagnosing/Recognising High Functioning Autism in Adult Females: Challenging Stereotypes | Open Access Journals

side-by-side pictures of a woman standing with an umbrella - on the left gray and burred, on the right, clear and sharp and colored
Autism researchers and clinicians see us in a gray blur, focusing on the wrong things – believing our coping strategies are our “default state” – when something completely different is true.

I’m breaking my September Silence briefly for this important paper. Check out this phenomenal work on autistic women who get missed in diagnosis. I find some of the language problematic — “women with autism” as well as “high-functioning autism” — but it’s easy to overlook these, given the overall quality and ultimate usefulness of the paper. Nicely done! Read, read, read!


The apparent global rise in Autism has led many to describe it as an epidemic and a major public health concern [14]. The extraordinary claim of an epidemic has, however, been widely refuted [5]. Most recently DSM-V unified the four DSM-IV diagnostic categories of Autistic Disorder (“previously referred to as “Autism”), Asperger’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, into the single category of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. This shift in diagnostic criteria will change the landscape of autism further, in terms of its presentation, prevalence, and treatment. However, in order to ensure appropriate in diagnosis and treatment/intervention across the spectrum, it is necessary to address some of the mis-understandings and stereotypes that plague diagnostic and research endeavours with regards autism.

The Nexus of Gender, Age and Ability

Since its original conception in the 1940’s autism has been dominated by a focus on males. Indeed, epidemiological data has consistently highlighted a greater prevalence among males than females, with diagnosis four times more common in males [68]. This has led to the notion that Autism is a male disorder, popularised in the “extreme male brain” hypothesis of autism underpinned by the systemiser-empathizer dichotomy [9]. However, since the 1980s, the gender bias in autism has been steadily gaining traction [10,11]. Indeed, Attwood [12] contends that “life on the autism spectrum is not easy for girls and women”, who often adjust to the classic profile of autism characteristics differently to males, resulting in a disparate presentation of the condition.

Read the rest of the paper here: Diagnosing/Recognising High Functioning Autism in Adult Females: Challenging Stereotypes | Open Access Journals


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