For decades, healthcare was based on viewing men as the ‘standard’ body type. Many studies, areas of research and assessments weren’t separated by gender which meant much of healthcare focused on how disabilities, diseases and treatments impacted men. However, we now know that heart attacks and strokes, for example, impact men differently to women, therefore this gap in knowledge can have devastating consequences for women.
Many studies about Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has shown that autism presents itself different in women compared to men (by “women”, we are referring to anyone born as a female). This blog aims to outline what we understand about autism in women, including typical signs of autism in adults, common traits and getting a diagnosis.
Typical signs of autism in adults
- Getting anxious within social situations
- Finding it hard to make friends
- Finding it difficult to understand what others are thinking
- Finding it difficult to express how you feel
- Having a daily routine and getting anxious if it changes
Autism in females
- Autism is more commonly diagnosed in men than in women. It is said that three men receive an autism diagnosis for every one woman.
- Women have been found to be diagnosed with ASD at a significant later age and experience longer diagnosis times.
- Researchers believe that women and girls are more likely to camouflage or hide their symptoms, by forcing themselves to make eye contact or mimicking the social behaviour of others.
How does ASD present itself in women?
While every girl and woman with ASD is unique and have their own individual traits, there is often some common shared experiences. These include:
- Prefer only having one or two friends.
- Have an appreciation or certain focus for specific interests.
- Work hard to ‘camouflage’ their symptoms through imitation or staying on the periphery of social activity.
- Be more prone to releasing bottled up energy through meltdowns.
- Be sensitive to textures and prefer to wear comfortable clothing.
Why women are less likely to be diagnosed
- Research and surveys are often focused around the male characteristics of autism. To this date there is comparatively little research that focuses on autistic women.
- The diagnostic criteria is based on the characteristics of males.
- Autistic females can be better at masking their symptoms.
Famous women on the autistic spectrum
- Dr Temple Grandin is a leading scientist in the human livestock handling industry best known for providing insights into how the autistic brain works. Her research and books have helped tear down the stigma around autism by helping others better understand how autistic people see the world.
- Courtney Love singer of Hole, was diagnosed as ‘mildly autistic’ when she was a young girl.
- Daryl Hannah is an American actress who starred in Splash and Kill Bill. She said her autism has made her incredibly shy and fearful of large events.
- Maisie Hill is the author of Period Power. She has said her autism diagnosis has helped her make “so much sense of my life”.
- Anne Hegerty is an English TV quiz personality and a ‘chaser’ on ITV game show The Chase.
- Susan Boyle is a Scottish singer, who rose to fame after appearing as a contestant on the third series of Britains Got Talent.