Diagnosis for women and girls
Autism was once thought to be a difference only seen in boys. As a result, tests were designed around a specific presentation more commonly seen in boys. This meant that many autistic girls, who often present differently, were missed. In recent years, there has been a great amount of research into how and why autism can look so different in girls and women.
We have learnt that girls tend to be more socially driven - they want to have friends and fit in. To do this they ‘mask’ (hide) their autistic differences, meaning that autism is harder to spot. Because diagnostic tests were designed based on the traditional male profile, autism in girls was missed and girls were often misdiagnosed with anxiety or other mental health conditions. It’s important to note that some boys also have this presentation, and it is also seen at higher rates in trans and non-binary people.
Women in their 40s currently make up the biggest proportion of people receiving an autism diagnosis. Autistic women speaking about their lived experience - explaining how they felt different and what coping strategies they used - has been vital in helping us understand how to look for it.
Need for different assessments
To ensure we don’t miss autistic girls and women, diagnostic assessments are being adapted and specialists have learnt what to look for and how to ask girls and women about their differences.
Find out more about diagnosis in women and girls by clicking on the links below.