Historically, ASD has mainly been associated with more males than females, but new research is showing that girls present with autism in different ways and, until now, their symptoms have largely been dismissed or misdiagnosed.
According to the CDC, one in every hundred children had an ASD diagnosis in 2022, and this figure is expected to rise in 2023. Since 2000, Autism prevalence has climbed by 178% and these statistics state that Autism is detected in roughly four times more boys than girls.
Females are better at masking their behaviours to fit in with society which often leads to a diagnosis much later in life, as the usual Autism checklists have been designed to capture behaviours most displayed by males, hence the under-reporting of autistic traits in girls at school.
Clinicians are now re-writing checklists to include the female profile, such as their social experiences and their planning skills.
People with ASD are at a higher risk of suicide than most groups which is why it is urgent that females are brought into the discussions around Autism to avoid the unnecessary confusion and mental suffering which has previously resulted from their gender being virtually eliminated from this subject.
Males with Autism often show quieter, more anxious behaviour, but have severe meltdowns when presented with triggers, while girls may shutdown and are harder to read.
There are still clinicians, even today, who insist that Autism is a male-only developmental disorder, and this assumption is narrow-minded and dangerously exclusive to girls who clearly suffer the sense of fear and isolation that can come from a misdiagnosis.
Assessment of female-ASD is still patchy across the UK, demonstrating a level of informality on the subject and until all experts are convinced of this gender bias and create a consolidated diagnostic criteria which they can all work from, girls will continue to slip through the net.
Expert ASD diagnosis is important as it opens doors to funding and support in the patient’s local area. Correct diagnosis brings self-understanding and relief that there is a real and acknowledged condition which is shared by millions of others around the world, and for which there is support. Better self-esteem, mental health and general well-being can then begin to unfurl within the individual and their families, as the mystery behind their behaviours is unpacked and finally understood.
The understanding around ASD is rapidly changing as more resources are being given to studying the growing category of people who present with symptoms of this developmental disorder. Diagnostic processes are expanding and improving too, but we still have a long way to go before full equality is achieved.
‘Individually we are One Drop,
Together, we are a Ocean’
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