You’ve likely had that moment, scanning the headlines on your feed while sipping your morning coffee, and you come across an article on autism in children. But have you noticed that most of the articles and studies focus primarily on boys? It’s no secret that boys receive autism diagnoses more often than girls, but what about the girls who fly under the medical radar? Why do so many girls with autism go undiagnosed?
There are a few different reasons for this phenomenon. Learn more about them below.
Girls’ Unique Autism Presentation
The signs and symptoms of autism in girls are often more subtle than in boys, primarily due to their heightened adaptability and coping abilities. In many cases, girls with autism are the masters of camouflaging; they have an uncanny knack for blending into social settings and mirroring the behavior of their neurotypical peers. This common ability can make it difficult to identify and diagnose female autism.
If you suspect your daughter is on the spectrum, pay close attention to her social interactions, especially when she’s around other girls. Look for nuanced differences in her behavior that might indicate an underlying struggle to fit in.
Gender Bias in the Perception of Autism
The diagnostic criteria for autism have historically centered around research done on boys, resulting in a skewed perception of the disorder. This gender bias contributes to the underdiagnosis of girls with autism. Girls exhibit different traits and symptoms, which many professionals and parents can miss.
For instance, while boys with autism might have limited or obsessive interests, girls tend to have more varied and less overt fixations. They might express strong passions for animals, characters from books and movies, or relationships—interests that some deem typical for young girls. However, the intensity of these interests may differentiate them from their non-autistic peers.
Listen and observe your daughter’s engagement with her interests. If her devotion is more intense compared to her peers, it might be worth discussing this excitement with a professional.
Parental Education and Advocacy: The Key To Unlocking Support
While there is a growing awareness of autism in girls, it’s vital that parents play an active role in advocating for their daughters. If you suspect your child may be on the autism spectrum, talk to your pediatrician, seek out specialized professionals, and share your observations with them.
Remember that the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome for children with autism. Understanding their unique needs and learning styles can unlock the potential for improved mental health, social skills, and overall well-being.
Why do so many autistic girls go undiagnosed? It’s not an intentional oversight; it’s rooted in outdated perceptions and inadequate information. As autism advocacy progresses, we need to continue spotlighting and championing the unique journeys of autistic girls and support them in reaching their full potential. Together, we can change the narrative and ensure that all girls on the spectrum get the recognition and resources they deserve.