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Girls with Autism—How Are They Different to Boys?

by on 15/02/2021 4453

Have you ever wondered if your daughter has autism, although her symptoms don’t match those typically associated with the disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects 1 in 68 children. It is more commonly diagnosed in males, where research has shown that boys are 4 times more likely to have ASD than girls.

There is a belief that misdiagnosis and underdiagnosis happens frequently with girls on the spectrum, as some studies suggest that autism appears differently in females.

Let’s look further into how this happens.

Wait, How Could Girls Get Underdiagnosed?

Girls with Autism—How Are They Different to Boys?

The criteria used to diagnose autism is actually based on data that comes almost entirely from studying boys. This means that we know a lot more about how males (rather than females) present the features of the disorder.

Many females who have been diagnosed with autism at a young age tend to show very severe symptoms (such as overtly difficult behaviours), which means we could be missing the more mild or subtle signs of girls on the spectrum. This is supported by several studies that imply most girls get diagnosed later in life than boys.

Another interesting thing to note is that researchers have observed that different areas of the brain of people with autism light up (when processing social information), depending on their sex. Still, there is much to be discovered and understood when it comes to how girls on the spectrum differ to boys.

Signs of Autism in Girls

Girls with Autism—How Are They Different to Boys?

Girls with mild symptoms of autism tend to be able to mask them. Masking means hiding their symptoms by acting out socially-appropriate behaviour or hiding improper behaviour. Masking, for a child with autism, can be exhausting and may lead to burnout or meltdowns.

A girl with autism may be masking if she:

  • Forces facial expressions

  • Depends on other kids for guidance

  • Imitates people’s gestures and social behaviours

  • Spends times preparing phrases or topics of conversation in advance

If a girl is on the spectrum, she may also:

  • Have a restricted set of hobbies or interests

  • Demonstrate a lot of knowledge on specific topics

  • Be very sensitive to sensory stimuli

  • Find it challenging to make or keep friends

  • Be labelled as “shy” or “quiet”

  • Be prone to depression or anxiety

Although a lot of further studies need to be carried out for us to understand this disorder better, it is always best to bring your daughter to an expert if you suspect she may have it.

Find out about the common myths associated with autism here.