Autism in girls and boys:
While some girls may have clear symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) like having trouble in language or communication, it may be harder to see the signs in others. It is particularly common among females at the high-functioning end of the spectrum. Though symptoms of autism in girls are not very different from those in boys, girls are more likely to camouflage or hide their symptoms.
Moreover, autistic boys and autistic girls may have the same symptoms like difficulty in communication, stimming or struggling with speech. It is not necessary that boys and girls on the spectrum have the same symptoms, however, girls are less likely to be diagnosed as autistic.
Why autistic girls may be underdiagnosed
Girls are underdiagnosed for a variety of reasons. They may be able to mask or camouflage their symptoms.
- They may mimic the social behavior of others
- Force themselves to make eye contact during conversations
- Imitate gestures and expressions
- May prepare a conversation or a joke ahead of interacting with people
Their symptoms may also be misinterpreted as something else or stereotypes may get in the way of recognition. Girls are more likely to control their behavior in public.
Moreover, findings suggest that there are differences in the brains of girls and boys on the spectrum. Brain imaging shows that autistic girls seem to have less of a disruption in the area of the brain that processes social information. That is, they are more likely to understand social expectations, even if they cannot fully meet them. Girls put more time and energy into learning social norms.
A girl who seems shy and withdrawn may be seen as feminine, but the same would be taken as a sign in boys.
Another example is if a girl seems unengaged, she is often called a “dreamer”, but the same behaviors lead to autism help for boys.
Signs of autism in girls:
- Love routines
- Low frustration level
- Sensitive to sensory challenges
- Struggles with communication
- Intense interests
- High Depression
- Hard time fitting in
- Sleep issues
Autistic girls love routines. Any kind of deviation from routine may leave them stressed or confused. They may carry routines such as reading for 20 minutes before bedtime or they may develop their own routines. Routine is a way for them to manage stress and is also a way for them to take control of their surroundings.
Low frustration level
An autistic female may find it hard to manage feelings and may be calm one second and, in a rage, the next. She can get easily overwhelmed and frustrated. She may have sudden tantrums or meltdowns, when she is stressed or feels she does not have enough time to finish what she wants.
Sensitive to sensory challenges
An autistic girl may be highly sensitive to her environment. She may be unusually sensitive to sensory challenges such as bright lights, strong smells or loud noise. Sensations that others may not even notice such as sounds of lawnmowers or washing machines, or the smell of perfume or food items may be difficult for her to just ignore.
Struggles with communication
An autistic girl may find communication to be increasingly difficult. She may lack skills involved with social communication such as hand gestures, making eye contact or understanding whether someone is serious or just joking. Due to his, she may have a hard time making friends or interacting with people.
However, they engage in social camouflaging when they are having difficulty and mimic how other girls interact.
Girls on the spectrum have intense interests. She may be able to deliver an in-depth monologue about a topic that holds her interest, it may be a song, a book or a TV show. These intense interests are more socially acceptable, hence this symptom is more likely to go un-noticed.
An autistic girl has intense emotions. When she is happy, she is delirious and when she is stressed, she may tend to have a meltdown. Girls on the spectrum may have unusually intense emotional reactions compared to others. They tend to have extreme emotional reactions to situations that may result in losing their temper or going into shutdown mode.
An autistic girl has a high degree of moodiness, depression and anxiety. Though these are not symptoms, they are unique to autism. Their anxiety can be caused by different factors.
Hard time fitting in
An autistic girl may have a hard time making friends or interacting with people. She may be clueless when it comes to nonverbal social cues, she may not understand how other girls behave, their fashion and interest.
Autistic girls may have difficulty sleeping. It may be due to sensory issues, or the presence of another person. Girls on the spectrum may have trouble sleeping if people are breathing in the same room.
Stimming or self-stimulating behaviour means repetitive behaviours. This may include hand flapping, repetition of words, rocking or spinning. For girls, other stimming behaviours may include hair twirling, skin picking, feet rubbing, or pacing. For them stimming is a self-regulation tool.
A girl on the spectrum may have epileptic seizures. Signs of epilepsy may include contraction and jerking of muscles, weakness, loss of consciousness or staring into space. Epilepsy may be more common among autistic girls than boys.
The bottom line
ASD in girls and in boys may not always look like the same thing, it may not get noticed in girls until later teen or pre-teen years. The diagnosis happens when it becomes harder for a girl to cover up her autism-related issues. Autistic women may still face challenges getting a diagnosis and finding support. However, there are several online resources that may be useful to them in their quest to learn more about autism.