How Is Autism In Women Treated
While theres no cure for autism, medications can help to manage certain related symptoms or disorders that may co-occur.
But medication is only one aspect of autism support. There are many types of physical, occupational, and talk therapies that can help you better interact with the world around you and manage your symptoms.
Autistic Girls Pass At Least For A While
Another reason girls may not be diagnosed is because theyre able to pass.
Girls tend to get by, Dr. Epstein says. They might not understand whats going on but theyll try to just go along and imitate what they see. And they may get away with it to third grade or fifth grade, but once they get to junior high and high school, it shows as a problem.
This has been the case for Lisa, now 13. Melissa says of her daughter, She is less mature than her typical peers, and girls are so intricate in how they behave socially. Its very difficult for her to maintain friendships because of this and, let me tell you, 13-year-old girls are not very accepting of someone different.
Signs Of Autism In Adults
Autism spectrum disorder is a lifelong condition and some people with autism spectrum disorder are not diagnosed until they are adults. This could be because they fall into the higher functioning range of the autism spectrum and their symptoms are less severe, or because they were misdiagnosed with a condition such as or .
Although treatment can improve some outward symptoms, people with autism will always process sensations such as sound, sight, touch and smell in different ways.
Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that adults will have different experiences of day-to-day living. An adult with mild symptoms, who is towards the higher functioning range of the autism spectrum, may:
- Have difficulties with social interactions
- Avoid making eye contact
- Not understand nonverbal facial or body gestures, such as frowning or shrugging
- Not understand changes in tone of voice, such as sarcasm
- Be comforted by rules and routine
- Get upset at changes to routines
- Be under- or over-sensitive to loud noises, strong smells or tastes
- Engage in repetitive behaviors, such as pacing or hand flapping
- Have a narrow range of interests
- Have a good memory and recall of facts
An adult who is towards the lower functioning range of the autism spectrum may:
Employment may present a challenge for adults with autism. People with autism are likely to need adjustments to be able to work productively, such as lights that do not flicker or a quiet space to work in.
How Does Autism Present Itself Differently In Females
It appears that women are under-diagnosed when it comes to autism. In the past, its been suggested that the behavioural characteristics of autistic females vary greatly compared to those of autistic men.
However, as highlighted by the Autistic Girls Network, rather than thinking in gendered terms, it can be more useful to think in terms of external and internal presentations. Females are more likely to exhibit an internal presentation, but so do some autistic males and non-binary individuals.
The fact that females are more likely to receive a diagnosis later in childhood or into adulthood, or receive a different initial diagnosis, may be down to autistic traits being overlooked or missed due to an internal presentation.
Where Can I Find Support
Given that women tend to be better at masking their symptoms, being an autistic woman can feel particularly isolating. For many women, its an emotional process that involves revisiting childhood behavior and social problems.
Consider reaching out to other autistic women. The Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting women and gender-nonconforming autistic people.
Even if youre not ready to interact with someone, you can find blog posts, first-person stories, and doctor recommendations online.
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Deliberately Controlling Your Facial Expression Or Body Language
People on the autism spectrum are sometimes described as having an expressionless face, neutral tone of voice, or flat affect because they don’t have the same automatic social behavior others do. Therefore, those with autism, particularly women, may deliberately perform certain actions, like smiling and nodding, in order to fit in.
“Women with ASD, compared to their male counterparts, seem to land on better compensatory strategies for veiling their autism traits, such as nodding and smiling when they dont understand the nuances of a social interaction,” says Oswald. “Maybe they develop better compensatory strategies because women are held to a higher standard to be socially aware, and so are given more implicit and explicit social training.”
Autism In Women: Accommodations And Treatment
There is no universally prescribed medication for people on the autism spectrum. Prescription treatments more often address a comorbid condition, such as anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, or seizures.
However, almost all autistic people are encouraged to try cognitive behavioral therapy . This talk-based counseling can help autistic adults identify and process the ways they experience the world differently. A therapist can help an autistic patient develop an understanding of social rules or learn how to advocate for themselves in a work setting.
It is important to note that an adult with autism can determine which new skills they want to learn and which personal differences they want to keep or change. By contrast, many young children placed in Applied Behavior Analysis therapy are trained to behave less autistic while still too young to parse out how being on the spectrum affects their sense of self.
Accommodations for people with autism include creating sensory-friendly spaces, establishing clearly defined social rules, and holding neurodiversity-based autism education in the community. In a work-place, there might be the provision of a job mentor or the flexibility to work from home.
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Physical And Mental Effects
Tiredness and fatigue are common issues older women deal with.
But along with the general physical tiredness, many women with autism report a tiredness of pretending to be someone else and masking their autism. They simple cant do it anymore
Other physical limitations that could be experienced involve memory and a feeling of reduced brain-processing ability and speed.
Other issues include eyesight and hearing problems, which can greatly increase anxiety of not being able to recognize visual cues and make the individual reluctant to leave the house and maintain an active life.
Why Does Autism Seem More Common In Males
Being female does appear to protect the brain from many developmental disabilities, not just autism. There is emerging evidence that girls with autism need more extreme genetic mutations than boys to develop autism.
However, there is a growing body of work that indicates that autism just presents differently in girls and therefore often goes unrecognised, especially in verbally fluent girls with normal intelligence. Girls with autism also appear to be better at âcamouflagingâ their symptoms in order to fit in.
With the diagnostic criteria for ASD based largely in how autism presents in males, girls can often âslip under the radarâ or get misdiagnosed. Girls with ASD seem to have less restricted and repetitive behaviours than boys, but itâs also possible that some of these behaviours go unrecognised â for example, an obsessive interest in collecting dolls may be misinterpreted as pretend play.
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Strong Dislike Of Change
Many people with high-functioning ASD have strong negative reactions to changes in their environment. They might become anxious if something new happens, even if it’s positive. They might also be unable to cope with sudden changes in plans or schedules. For example, if they are forced to choose a different brand than their usual cereal provider, they might become highly activated and irritated.
Women With Aspergers Syndrome
We can say that the diagnosis of women with Aspergers syndrome is almost the same as the diagnosis of women with autism. The probability of being misdiagnosed is equally high. In addition to this, many professionals working in the field of autism also recognize Aspergers syndrome as more difficult in women because they are more experts in autism in men.
Many doctors and professionals working with autism are trying to improve themselves in this regard. Although this way has been shortened by developing technology, increasing resources, and information redundancy, there is still a long way to go.
As with autism, the main features of the Asperger profile do not differ between the sexes. It is just that women may react differently to this situation. Since they show different external reactions, their diagnosis becomes difficult or delayed. Although every individual and every woman with an Aspergers profile is unique, it is inevitable that they will share more or less the same experiences.
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First What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder
Lets backtrack: What exactly is autism? Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by differences in social communication and the presence of repetitive and focused interests and behaviors, says Earl. It is important to note as the name describes, that ASD is a spectrum disorder, meaning that symptoms will vary in presentation and severity between individuals.
Allergies Intolerances And Sensitivities
It is widely recognized that individuals with autism experience differences in tolerance for various stimuli, including light, sound, smell, and a wider range of substances, such as chemicals, medication, caffeine, fabric, air fresheners, air conditioning, etc.
These womens reaction may appearhypochondriacs, but the sensitivity is very real.
MearsIrlens Syndrome, also known as Scotopic Sensitivity, affects visual perception and light and contrast sensitivity. Specialist opticians may provide individually tailored colored lenses in glasses that can relieve many of the symptoms.
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Potential Partner As Intense Interest
Some women with ASD become infatuated with their partner, thinking about them constantly, wanting to know everything about them, what they did and where they were, etc.
This is partly due to their intense interest in people rather than objects, whether in pursuing passions or in relationships.
This is why these women need support to understand their strong feelings for someone, learn how to put them in perspective, and learn what socially acceptable behavior is and what may be considered scary and weird.
Activity Choice And Interests
Research into sex differences in children with autism found that girls with autism do not have the same stereotypical interests as boys with autism have.
Although the choice of interest varies, repetitive and restricted behaviors were the norm for these girls. These behaviors may include watching the same TV/video/DVD program, reading the same book, collecting, coloring, etc.
But unlike repetitive behavior observed in boys with autism, the girls activities generally involve people, rather than objects.
Their interest quality not being unusual for the typical girl is yet another reason why these girls can go undiagnosed.
Despite their interest not being unusual for a typical girl, the narrowness of the topic and the intensity of the interest can be an indicator of autism.
Girls with ASD generally have extensive knowledge of their interests and might think or speak about them for an extended period of time, without necessarily having a desire to live it out.
For instance, a girl who speaks of nothing but cats may not actually want one and simply enjoys talking about it.
Having such intense interests may be a way to find predictability and have an escape from the chaotic real world.
Most girls with autism have a preference for toys designed for doing, rather than imagining or pretending. Other girls may prefer being outside and active rather than playing with toys.
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Why Doctors Might Miss Autism In Girls
Doctors more commonly diagnose autism in boys than in girls. This can mean that parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals may be less likely to look for symptoms of autism in girls.
Stereotypes about typical male and female behaviors may cause some people to miss symptoms. Many people think of girls as naturally quieter or more content to play alone than boys. However, speaking less and preferring to spend time alone can both be symptoms of autism.
There is some evidence to suggest that certain symptoms of autism are more common in boys than in girls. For example, repetitive behaviors and difficulty with impulse control may appear more often in autistic boys than autistic girls. These symptoms can be easier to spot than difficulties with communicating or socializing.
Girls and boys may deal with the symptoms of autism differently. Girls may hide their symptoms or put more time and energy into learning social norms. Autistic girls are also more likely to be able to form friendships than autistic boys. This can mask autism because many people see difficulty socializing as one of the key symptoms.
A common misdiagnosis of autism is a mental health issue. Mental health issues can also occur alongside autism. Anxiety, depression, and personality disorders can all share some symptoms with autism, which may cause a doctor to misdiagnose it.
However, this research used a cohort containing only 14 women, so this experience may not be a common one.
What Autistic Women Have To Say
Many of the autistic women weve spoken to have talked about getting a late diagnosis, or have had difficulty getting the support they need.
As part of our Stories from the Spectrum series, we interviewed several women and girls, who shared their experiences with us.
“I feel autistic women are more likely to be described as anxious and an autism diagnosis overlooked, since it can challenge gender stereotypes.” Dr Camilla Pang
Sara Gibbs, autistic comedy writer, told us: “I think there is a lack of understanding of how autism can present in girls, who are often socialised differently.”
Charl Davies, autistic tattoo artist, said: “I find that being a female I am expected to behave a certain way to fit in socially which is why I have spent so much time masking.”
Dr Camilla Pang, autistic scientist and author, explained: “I feel autistic women are more likely to be described as anxious and an autism diagnosis overlooked, since it can challenge gender stereotypes.”
Dr Kate Fox, autistic poet and comedian, said:“I dont think theres an inherent difference between autistic men and women. What there is a difference in, is how society treats and socialises males and females.”
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Autism In Women: Dispelling Myths
The medical establishment has been slow to develop an accurate profile of autism in women with low support needs.
Though our knowledge of autism, especially in women, is increasing, it has been slow to make its way into the mainstream. Its why common myths like the following persist, and why we must work to raise awareness:
1. Is ADHD on the autism spectrum? No. there is a clear distinction between the two. ADHD and autism are separate neurological differences that can both exist in the same person. Scientists have suggested that the two conditions have a biological connection, which causes a high rate of comorbidity.
2. Autistic people feel little or no empathy. This is categorically untrue. Some autistic people report feeling their emotions more intensely than most. This stereotype seems more connected to the social nuance used to convey emotion/empathy than to the actual experience of it.
3. You can immediately tell if someone is autistic. There is no way to know whether someone is autistic just by looking at or talking to them. Still, many people cant accept the fact that someone who isnt obviously disabled could be on the spectrum. In fact, I often hear people say to me, You dont look autistic!
Even though we have a long way to go toward neurodiversity empowerment, I encourage potentially autistic women to explore the possibility. As our ranks grow, perhaps the worlds understanding of us will grow as well.
Autism In Women Symptoms: What Does Autism Look Like In Women And Girls
In this post, youre going to find out what does autism look like in women and girls and discover autism in women symptoms that are often missed/overlooked.
Theres a misconception that autism is predominantly a male condition.
The classic pattern of behavior in autism can be clear in girls and women who were intellectually disabled.
But those who were more verbal and intellectually able would often go undiagnosed.
It is only in recent years that the female presentation of behaviors in autism has begun to receive recognition.
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Is There A Test For Autism In Women
Theres no medical test that can diagnose autism. It can be a difficult process that often requires visiting several types of doctors.
If you believe your child could be on the autism spectrum, make an appointment with their doctor. Depending on your childs symptoms, their doctor may refer them to a child psychologist or pediatric neurologist.
If you suspect that you may have undiagnosed autism, start by talking to your primary care doctor. A psychologist can also help you evaluate your symptoms and rule out other potential causes. Learn more about the process of working with a doctor to get an autism diagnosis.
Autism can be very hard to diagnose in adults. You may need to visit a few doctors before you find one who understands your symptoms and concerns.
If possible, try to ask close family members about any potential signs or symptoms you might have displayed as a child. This can help to give your doctor a better idea of your childhood development.
Throughout the process, remember that you are your most important advocate. If you feel your doctor isnt taking your concerns seriously, speak up or get a second opinion. Seeking a second opinion is common, and you shouldnt feel uncomfortable doing so.
Autism Symptoms In Adults
Classic symptoms of autism in children are not always present in adults on the spectrum, especially in those underdiagnosed as children . Adults on the spectrum commonly exhibit symptoms related to social and communication difficulties, repetitive behaviors, sensory processing difficulties, and issues with executive function and theory of mind. Short descriptions and lists of common symptoms in adults are listed below .