Below wording from National Autistic Society.

In the past, it was assumed that autistic people were overwhelmingly men and boys, and only very rarely women and girls. This is wrong. There are many women, girls and non-binary people on the autism spectrum.

Although we now know much more about the experiences of autistic women and girls, society’s understanding of autism has been limited by outdated stereotypes and incorrect assumptions. Although autism research and professional practice are slowly catching up to the realities of life for autistic women and girls, many barriers to diagnosis and support remain.

Does autism present differently in women and girls?

It is important that autistic women and girls receive a diagnosis (or recognise that they are autistic) so they can understand themselves and access support. However, because of stereotyped ideas about what autism looks like and who can be autistic, many autistic women and girls struggle to get a diagnosis, receive a diagnosis late in life or are misdiagnosed with conditions other than autism.

Autistic characteristics in women and girls may differ from those of other autistic people. They might seem to have fewer social difficulties than autistic men and boys, but this could be because they are more likely to ‘mask’ their autistic traits (though the stress of doing so can result in anxiety and overwhelm). At school, autistic girls may be more likely to be part of a friendship group and this could be a reason that teachers don’t notice their differences. They may also be missed if their academic achievement masks difficulties they are facing in other areas.

Some of the core characteristics of autism are having ‘repetitive behaviours’ and highly-focused interests. Stereotyped examples of these include rocking backwards and forwards, and a fascination with trains. However, in autistic women and girls these behaviours and interests may be similar to those of non-autistic women and girls, such as twirling hair and reading books, and as such may go unnoticed despite the greater intensity or focus typical for autistic people.

Doctors and other healthcare professionals can lack knowledge about how autism may present differently in women and girls. This means women and girls may be misdiagnosed with mental health issues or their autistic traits may be missed amid the symptoms of co-occurring conditions. Some tools used to diagnose autism are designed to identify autistic characteristics that may be more common in autistic men and boys. This means the process may not be as sensitive to characteristics more commonly found in autistic women and girls.

What next?

  • We’ll be updating this page on a regular basis with new resources and information.
  • In International Women’s Week 2023, we shone a spotlight on the gender inequality that exists for autistic and neurodivergent women (see below), and how a lack of understanding is impacting women across all aspects of life, including education, the workplace, misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, mental wellbeing and limited access to suitable support. We look forward to sharing our consultation findings with you, and detailing next steps.

Useful Resources – gathered by the Daisy Chain team

Autistic Girls Network – Autism, Girls, & Keeping It All Inside

Autistic women, pregnancy and motherhood

BROOK: Sexuality as a neurodiverse person: Sian’s story

“You don’t look autistic” – Stereotypes and late diagnosis

Diagnosis advice – adults and children

Event / March 2023 / Exposing Gender Bias: Women, Autism and Neurodivergence

During International Women’s Week 2023, we shone a spotlight on the gender inequality that exists for autistic and neurodivergent women, and how a lack of understanding is impacting women across all aspects of life, including education, the workplace, misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, mental wellbeing and limited access to suitable support.

Over 100 changemakers from across the North East joined us at Acklam Hall, Middlesbrough on Tuesday 7th March to listen to a diverse range of esteemed speakers who presented lived-experienced insights and up-to-date academic research exploring the reasons behind this gender bias and what needs to change, including:

  • Introduction from Clara Govier, Managing Director at People’s Postcode Lottery.
  • Chloë Clover, Co-Founder and CEO of the award-winning company Wander Films.
  • Professor Francesca Happé (PhD), Professor of Neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and neuroscience, King’s College London.

This event was aimed at key decision makers, senior leaders, and those leading on equality within the workforce, who wanted to learn more about this important issue and be part of meaningful change not just in the Tees Valley, but nationwide.

 

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