Brittany is a special needs mother, law enforcement wife, and self-published poet.
Let me start off by saying I am not a professional doctor, and this article is not an indicator that you may have autism spectrum disorder if you identify with any of the traits that are listed. I have neither been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Anything I share is from experiences parenting a son who is on the spectrum, families I know who are considered special needs, my own research regarding the disorder, and any identifying traits I have because I am considered an introvert. With that being said, let's get into what autism actually is.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is considered a developmental disorder that affects the ability to communicate and interact with others. The severity can range drastically for each individual. Symptoms can include trouble communicating, awkward social interactions, obsessive interests, and repetitive behaviors. Autism spectrum disorder also impacts the nervous system. Autism is more prominent in boys and can typically be noticed before age three. There is not a cure for autism, but early intervention has been known to improve cases.
Differences Between Boys and Girls
Girls with autism typically show less repetitive behaviors than boys. In a study that was published online called Molecular Autism explains that boys and girls display the developmental disorder differently. The researchers used two databases to examine 800 children with high functioning forms of autism in the United States. Repetitive and restricted behaviors were the most recognizable of the three features of autism.
Boys outnumber girls with autism four to one. I personally think girls are better at masking their symptoms, making it more challenging for a doctor to give a proper diagnosis. Oftentimes, girls can be misdiagnosed with other mental disabilities such as anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder. "The discovery of gender differences in both behavioral and brain measures suggests that clinics may want to focus diagnosis and treatments for autistic girls differently than boys," Supekar stated.
Possible Traits in Women
Realistically, women's symptoms aren't that different from males. However, researchers believe females are better at camouflaging their symptoms. This seems to be the most accurate for females who are on the high-functioning end of the spectrum.
Common forms females hide may include:
-forcing eye contact
-preparing jokes/phrases ahead of time for a conversation
-mimicking social behaviors
One of the largest studies done on autism suggests that women will have more social difficulties and interacting, less of an ability to adapt, less likely to become super focused on a subject or activity, more emotional, more cognitive and language issues, and more behavioral problems such as aggression and lashing out.
Autism can look like anxiety or shyness. Because of this, many females who are diagnosed with autism happen later in life or not at all. Shyness is considered acceptable for many females, and many women with autism do not catch on to social cues. This makes women on the spectrum avoid social environments. Nobody want to experience an uncomfortable social gathering.
Girls have a higher expectation to use manners than boys. This means girls will most likely have more training in using manners. This can help them fit in better.
Bullying can cause depression in autistic girls as well as feeling alone. The symptoms of anxiety and depression can overshadow their autism causing a mood disorder diagnosis by a professional doctor.
Autism in Females
If you think you may have autism spectrum disorder, talk to your family doctor. Getting an autism diagnosis may be more challenging as an adult, but not impossible. Also, getting a diagnosis may be time consuming and a bit pricey. If you feel the diagnosis will help you with your day to day activities, then schedule an appointment with your doctor. You have to decide if the diagnosis is worth the hassle and if the diagnosis will actually help you. For more information about autism, please visit Autism Speaks or the Autism Society of America.