When we talk about autism spectrum disorders (ASD) the focus is typically on boys. Autism affects 1 in 68 children, and affects boys four times more often than girls. Despite increased awareness, there continues to be a group that is under looked- GIRLS. Recent studies suggest that girls, especially those that are verbal and of average intellect, are often overlooked and under-diagnosed.
These girls present with different signs. Autism does not manifest in girls in the same manner. Teachers, parents, therapists, and even doctors may overlook the subtle signs because they are not as apparent as in boys. Simply put - autism does not look the same in girls.
According to researchers, the current ASD diagnostic tools were not designed with girls in mind, so some girls- especially high-functioning girls, may be not be identified. Girls may be overlooked or misdiagnosed with other conditions "...such as obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, depression and bipolar disorder. They’re prescribed medications, given treatments and sometimes even institutionalized ." Autism experts find that these girls are typically more socially motivated and will try harder to fit in, often hiding the very behaviors that could help in diagnosis. Adapted from "Invisible Girls" ASHA Leader April 2018
What does this information mean for parents? It means that you must be vigilant and advocate for your child. It means that you may need to get second - even third or fourth opinions. It also means eliminating bias or the notion that verbal, high-functioning girls cannot have ASD. Typical signs may not be present, but that does not mean that an impairment does not exist. Remember- earlier diagnosis means earlier intervention. To read more about how women and girls experience autism, visit the National Autistic Society.