Have you ever wondered why Autism seems to be more common in boys than girls? In truth, girls are just as likely to be Autistic, but their symptoms often go unnoticed.
Unraveling the unique traits of Autism in girls can be a challenge, but with knowledge and understanding, we can ensure that no girl goes unnoticed from here on out.
My blog post aims to shed light on how Autism manifests in girls, helping parents, educators, and health professionals recognize the possible signs using an Autism in Girls Checklist.
- Autism is being diagnosed in 1 out of 36 children, but boys are 4X more likely to be diagnosed than girls despite likely having the same odds at a young age.
- There is a significant amount of Autistic girls being undiagnosed due to societal expectations and their ability to mask symptoms.
- Autistic traits in girls may present differently than in boys, with subtle signs like sensory overloading, shyness, and high empathy, making diagnosis more challenging.
- Some may struggle with many potentially co-occurring mental health problems like anxiety and depression, which could also keep them from getting diagnosed.
- Early diagnosis and tailored support strategies both at home and school are essential for improving the life quality and development of Autistic girls as they transition through life stages.
- Follow along with my checklist to have an idea of Autistic traits that might be going on- but seek professional information and diagnosis to get a plan in place for her.
Autism In Girls Checklist
This checklist outlines common Autism traits and behaviors that may suggest Autism in girls based on scientific research.
It’s important to note that individuals with Autism tend to exhibit different symptoms and behaviors, so this list should be used as a reference rather than a definitive diagnosis.
Common Signs Of Autism In Girls
Autism isn’t a one-size-fits-all condition. It manifests differently in each individual, especially across genders.
What might you notice as common indicators of Autism in young girls? By examining each sign in detail, we can better understand how Autism manifests in girls.
Imagine being in a room where every light is too bright, every sound too loud, and even the touch of a cotton t-shirt is unbearable.
This is the reality for many Autistic girls dealing with sensory overload. Autistic people tend to overload quicker and have a harder time overcoming those feelings.
Shy Around Others
Shyness is often mistaken for being introverted or having a quiet personality. However, for Autistic girls, it goes deeper than that.
Beyond the usual discomfort or nervousness from social interaction, they may struggle to express their emotions, further complicating their interactions with others.
However, keep in mind that not every Autistic girl is shy or introverted; the presentation of Autism varies from individual to individual.
Trouble With Class Activities
Group projects, class presentations, and even simple classroom activities can pose significant challenges for Autistic people.
They might struggle with these things overall and in the classroom:
- Sensory issues
- Understanding verbal instructions
- Organizing tasks
- Social communication
Feel Judged By Others/Are Bullied
The school environment can be a harsh place for anyone who stands out from the crowd, especially for Autistic girls.
Their differences may make them targets for bullying or make them feel judged by their peers. This can significantly affect their self-esteem and social development.
Autistic girls often learn to mask what makes them “weird” to bullies, leading to fewer social difficulties but putting off a diagnosis because they interact “normally” with masking.
Avoid Social Interactions/Withdraw Around Others
Autistic people may avoid social interactions or withdraw from others due to challenges with social cues communication and facial expressions and misinterpreting body language.
These social difficulties could result in them preferring solitary activities or choosing not to participate in group settings.
Yet, this avoidance can intensify feelings of anxiety and loneliness, which further affects their social skills and motivation.
Problems With Executive Functioning
Executive functioning is like the CEO of the brain. It’s responsible for skills like planning, organizing, and time management.
For Autistic girls, this CEO might not always be at its best, making it challenging for them to manage daily tasks and activities.
For instance, they might find it challenging to organize their day, gauge the duration of tasks, efficiently manage their time, or lose things they just had.
Can’t Always Identify Social Cues
Social cues are an unspoken language that can be challenging for Autistic girls; it’s difficult to pick up on cues like tone of voice, body language, or facial expressions.
This difficulty in body language or voice tone can lead to misunderstandings and make social interactions more challenging.
Comorbidity- Other Mental Health Problems
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) doesn’t always come alone and has comorbidity with other conditions and disorders.
Many Autistic people may also experience other mental health issues, such as:
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Struggle With Emotional Regulation
Emotional regulation is about managing and responding to an emotional experience in a socially acceptable way. For Autistic girls, this can be quite challenging.
They may experience intense emotions and have difficulty calming down, leading to meltdowns or emotional outbursts not just at a young age but through teenage years and adulthood.
Contrary to popular belief, many Autistic girls exhibit high empathy. They can intensely feel the emotions of others, often to the point of being overwhelmed or walking on eggshells.
Feeling what they feel, however, isn’t understanding the situation; all those feelings can be mentally/emotionally exhausting and lead to them avoiding social interaction.
Situational mutism is a condition where an individual is unable to speak in certain situations or environments.
Creating a secure and supportive environment where they can comfortably express themselves is fundamental, particularly a love interest.
Many Autistic Girls & Women Go Undiagnosed
Despite the prevalence of Autism, many Autistic girls and Autistic women go undiagnosed. This is due to a combination of societal expectations and the unique ways Autism presents in girls.
Frequently, Autistic people mask their symptoms or “push through,” and don’t see a professional to discuss the issues they face.
When to Seek a Formal Diagnosis
Knowing when to seek a formal diagnosis can be a challenge for parents or caregivers.
Remember, early diagnosis can pave the way for access to required interventions and support, thereby enhancing the life quality of individuals with Autism significantly.
The Role of Professionals
The role of health professionals in diagnosing Autism is crucial. Developmental pediatricians to child psychologists are trained to identify the signs of Autism.
They can give an official diagnosis and provide suitable support and treatment for your child.
Impact of a Diagnosis on Life
A formal Autism diagnosis can substantially impact an individual’s life, offering clarity and helping them understand their unique behaviors and challenges.
It can also open doors to necessary support and accommodations to enhance their daily functioning and quality of life.
Strategies for Support at Home and School
To support an Autistic girl at home and school, one needs an in-depth understanding of her presenting Autistic traits, distinct needs, and the capacity to provide suitable accommodations.
From breaking down tasks into smaller steps to providing quiet spaces for work, these strategies can significantly enhance her learning experience and overall well-being.
For Autistic girls, growing up and school transitions can be particularly intimidating, especially when they have been diagnosed at a very young age.
Early intervention, understanding their unique needs, and providing appropriate support can help them navigate these life stages with confidence and resilience.
What are some signs of Autism in girls?
Autism in girls can present in various ways. Some signs include difficulty with social skills, communication challenges, and repetitive behaviors.
They might also have unique Autistic traits such as high empathy and problems with social communication or heightened sensitivity to struggling with intense emotions.
Are there different Autistic traits between girls and boys?
Girls often have more subtle traits and are better at masking their symptoms, which can make it more difficult to diagnose them.
They may also show less repetitive behavior than boys. But every Autistic individual is different and can exhibit some Autistic traits and not others- hence the Spectrum!
How do we get an official Autism diagnosis for my child?
Getting an official Autism diagnosis involves a behavioral evaluation process with a health professional (especially in adolescent psychiatry), often using a book called the DSM-5.
Testing includes a screening to assess if the child might be at risk for Autism, followed by a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation if needed.
Can adult women be diagnosed with Autism later in life, too?
Yes, adults can be diagnosed with Autism later in life. In fact, it’s not common for adults to look back at their childhood and realize certain behaviors were Autistic traits.
It’s never too late to seek a diagnosis and get the support you need.
I’ve covered a lot of ground in this blog post, from understanding the signs of Autism in girls to navigating the diagnostic process and taking the next steps with a health professional.
Every Autistic girl is unique, and understanding her individual needs is the first step towards providing her with the support she needs to thrive.
Never be afraid to ask questions and be an advocate for your child- make a positive impact on how she moves through the world!
So, take this checklist, ask those questions, and move towards more understanding as a family.