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Autism in girls might have a different appearance than autism in boys

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

By DiverseMinds Research Team

Reading time 5 minutes ⏰



Is it possible that your daughter or another young girl in your life suffers from autism? If you didn't have a son, the solution might not be as apparent. This is because the symptoms of autism in girls and women differ from those in boys and men. They're easy to overlook, especially in those with high-functioning autism.


This article provides an opportunity to examine some of the indications and symptoms that may indicate that autism is or was a reality in a girl's life. It also discusses why these signals are sometimes overlooked, as well as what to do next.


Why Do Girls Get Underdiagnosed?

Self-stimulating activities (stims) or severe speech and language difficulties are common among girls with autism. Their social communication or cognitive difficulties are clear, and they are frequently referred for treatment and identified at a young age.


However, autism in females with modest symptoms or intellect that permits them to disguise symptoms may only be discovered in their pre-teens or teens.


Because many girls are considered to be quieter and less outspoken than boys, our society may be partly to blame.


This implies that a female who appears shy and withdrawn may be perceived as "feminine," but a boy who exhibits the same traits is perceived as distinct in a way that is addressed. A female who appears "spacey" and unengaged is typically referred to as a "dreamer" in a favourable light, whereas the same traits lead to autism treatment for boys.


Signs That a Girl Might Have Autism

There is no one symptom that may be used to diagnose autism. Furthermore, while certain symptoms become apparent as a girl grows older, you may discover that they have been there since she was a child.


Keep in mind that the symptoms of autism should be severe enough to interfere with daily activities. To put it another way, if a girl exhibits one or two of the characteristics of autism but is otherwise well-adjusted and successful, she is unlikely to be autistic. Here are some of the symptoms of autism in females.


  • During the school day, she relies on other children (typically females) to lead and speak for her.

  • Her passions are strong, but her interests are narrow. They're rather little and constrained. A girl with autism, for example, may chat incessantly about TV programme characters, locales, props, or actors yet know very nothing about the show itself.

  • She is extremely sensitive to sensory stimuli such as loud noise, bright lights, and strong odours. This is a symptom that both males and girls experience.

  • Her discourse is restricted to the issues that she is passionate about. She may share her emphasis on a single topic with you, but she seems unconcerned with the reaction of others. This might make it difficult for her to join groups or establish acquaintances.

  • She has a low degree of frustration and finds it difficult to control her emotions when she gets irritated. She may experience "meltdowns" that are inappropriate for her age. When teachers and other adults establish restrictions, this may be disruptive at school and result in detentions or even suspension.

  • She suffers from severe sadness, anxiety, or moodiness. These are not autism-specific symptoms, although they have been related to mood problems and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Other symptoms may appear to be related to a girl's personality or how she interacts with others. These, too, might be non-obvious indicators of autism in females. They are as follows:


  • She has a difficult difficulty forming and maintaining friendships. She may appear to be oblivious to nonverbal social cues. She may also struggle to "fit in" with the way the females around her act, as well as their hair and dress choices.

  • In school and other social situations, she is said to as "quiet" or "shy." In other circumstances, that isn't autism. However, language barriers might make it difficult to join in conversations with friends, raise your hand in class, or reply swiftly in social situations.

  • She has an exceptionally meek demeanour. Some autistic persons are quite forceful. Passive habits are still rewarded for how well students perform at school, but they don't always work. They might indicate that she is unsure about what to do or say and has chosen to do or say as little as possible.

  • She appears to be growing normally as a little girl, but social contact becomes increasingly challenging as she approaches adolescence. Early on, girls with high-functioning autism may learn to disguise and live with it. However, once social expectations grow more sophisticated in early adolescence, the issue becomes obvious.

  • She suffers from epileptic seizures. In one study, epilepsy was shown to be more prevalent in girls with autism than in boys.

A word from us

If you care for a girl with autism, you should be aware that there are a variety of therapies available. You may need to make educational decisions based on her needs and obstacles.
Many public schools can benefit from customised special-needs strategies. Because autistic girls frequently perform better in smaller settings, you might want to examine private or charter choices.

Citation

Werling DM, Geschwind DH. Sex differences in autism spectrum disorders. Curr Opin Neurol. 2013;26(2):146-53. doi:10.1097/WCO.0b013e32835ee548

Green RM, Travers AM, Howe Y, Mcdougle CJ. Women and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Diagnosis and Implications for Treatment of Adolescents and Adults. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019;21(4):22. doi:10.1007/s11920-019-1006-3

Navot N, Jorgenson AG, Webb SJ. Maternal experience raising girls with autism spectrum disorder: a qualitative study. Child Care Health Dev. 2017;43(4):536-545. doi:10.1111/cch.12470

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