In August, the National Autistic Society called on medical professionals to change the way they diagnose women and girls with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Ever since the term autism was first coined by Hans Asperger in 1944, it has remained predominantly, if anecdotally, associated with men and boys. As a result, women with the condition may be being overlooked, even as the public becomes increasingly aware of its existence.
I know this from firsthand experience. As someone who was diagnosed with ASD as a child and has written about it extensively, the majority of other people I’ve met with official diagnoses were male like myself.
“I believe that my experiences as an autistic person has definitely been affected by my gender and race,” says Morenike Giwa Onaiwu of the Autism Women’s Network. “Many characteristics that I possess that are clearly autistic were instead attributed to my race or gender. As a result, not only was I deprived of supports that would have been helpful, I was misunderstood and also, at times, mistreated.”