A Life Starts To Unravel
Jessica had seemed to bounce back through her teens.
She had been involved in Scouts for 10 years and travelled to national events, joining in activities and more readily connecting with her peers than she had done at school.
Beyond school, Jessica achieved a Certificate IV in design at TAFE and was granted a place at university to continue her studies.
But then her life began to unravel.
She was living away from home and recovering from a highly damaging relationship, which compounded years of deleterious school life.
She fell into deep depression, coupled with high anxiety, ultimately leading to two suicide attempts .
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- QLife on 1800 184 527
Fiercely determined to make her own way through her nightmare, we were unaware of the trauma and confusion Jessica was enduring and powerless to help.
Her volatile behaviour and dysfunction were extremely difficult to understand. We had no access to what was now, as an adult, her private life.
When we finally coaxed her home and supported her accessing mental health care, she was highly reactive and desperately fragile.
She could be hostile one minute and heartbreakingly despairing the next.
The Secret Lives Of Girls With High Functioning Autism
Hannah tells us what it can be like to have a disorder thats often hidden in plain sight
Girls with autism are hidden almost as much as we hide our disorder. When such a key part of our identities is resented and relentlessly misunderstood, showing a true reflection of ourselves is often totally out of the question. Many with high functioning autism have the ability to express themselves, but lack the amplification to be heard. We want to identify with the experiences of others, and to be able to resonate with other people in a way that enables us to feel less lost and lonely. Our need for representation is vital.
Many with high functioning autism have the ability to express themselves, but lack the amplification to be heard.
We are in danger of adhering to a perspective that largely erases us, and attaches the viewpoint of such a complex disorder to only that of a stereotypical male protagonist.
While I slightly envy those who fit the mould, I dont want to become anyone else I just want to continue learning to manage my methods of doing things in a way that suits me best, while being accepted for being who I am.
After mastering the art of hiding our autism, us autistic girls might appear no different to anyone else in class or at work, but this superficial mask can only go so far, and used persistently, can be utterly draining.
Do you relate to Hannahs experience? Let us know in the comments.
Help Her Find An Autistic Community
My wish for young autistic women is that their parents listen to them and facilitate friendships with whomever they want to hang out with. But I think it is so important that these girls are given opportunities to build relationships with other autistic girls. There is so much that autistic women and girls can give to each other. Navigating the complicated social rules of girls and women is so very difficult. Doing it with a friend or two who truly understands and likes you for who you are make it if not easier at least less painful. Autistic peers and older role models can do so much to help young girls with their self-esteem, self-awareness, and feelings of safety. Jean Winegardner
Don’t Miss: Is Pinching A Sign Of Autism
Masking: The Reason Girls Are Missed For Asd Diagnosis
Some research suggests the reason girls are typically under diagnosed for autism spectrum disorder is that the current diagnostic criteria does not meet the expression of autism in girls.
Current studies cite that at least three males receive an autism diagnosis for every one female. Two current arguments suggest an explanation the first argues the reason for this occurrence is that girls have an inherent trait that protects them from the likelihood of developing autism. While the second argument is that more girls are likely to develop autism than current data estimates, the limiting factor is that diagnostic bias and variations in the expression of autism in girls limit the positive diagnosis.
Out of these two arguments, the second is much more favored than the other. The main issue with the current diagnostic criteria is that behavioral maskers that are used as criteria for diagnosing autism are based on pre-existing conceptions of what autism looks like. These are predominantly based on male population samples previously diagnosed with autism.
Girls are often able to mask their autism traits and the behavioral maskers used as diagnosis criteria are therefore not so apparent but what does this mean?
The Potential For Seizures Can Increase During Puberty
The chance of your autistic teen having seizures during puberty is four to one. The cause is not known but is believed to be brought about by hormonal changes in the body.
Teens with autism might also experience subclinical seizures during puberty. Subclinical seizures are seizures that are too faint that they can go unnoticed. Several diagnostic tests can be done to find out if a teen with autism is experiencing seizures so if you have a concern, contact your childs doctor.
You May Like: Symmetra Comic Autism
Some Teens Are Overlooked
How do teens end up with a diagnosis so late in life if autism doesn’t develop during adolescence? Researchers work hard to answer that question, and there’s a lot at stake.
We know that early interventions, including appropriate therapy, can help to ensure a healthy and happy life for people with autism. The sooner we know, the better. But some cases are simply passed by.
Research suggests that cases are missed due to:
- Parental concern. Many parents dont see an issue. When parents worry over their children, and they press for answers from medical professionals, they tend to get earlier diagnoses than children of parents who don’t make waves.
- Economics. Children from wealthy families tend to get a diagnosis earlier than children from poorer families.
- Symptom severity. Children with autism signs that are hard to ignore are easier to diagnose than children with mild or moderate symptoms.
Put all of this research together, and it suggests that some children could pass through their early years with autism signs that go unrecognized. When that happens, they could enter one of the most difficult moments of life without the help they need to thrive.
What Are The Signs Of Autism In Girls
Autism spectrum disorder is often described as a boy thing as there are more boys with a diagnosis than girls this could be because the diagnostic criteria for autism is fundamentally based on research performed in boys diagnosed with autism rather than females. As a result, many girls are not diagnosed until adolescence.
In many cases, girls with autism at a younger age show more capacity, in comparison to boys, to interact in social settings and they are often able to make and maintain friendships at a young age. This characteristic disadvantages girls with undiagnosed autism because, according to diagnostic criteria, autistic individuals lack the capacity for social interaction and communication. However, if undiagnosed, traits of autism become more evident as they reach adolescence as the need for complex social interaction capacity is heightened.
The autism diagnosis is a spectrum of different phenotypic expressions across every individual carrying the trait. It includes different types of autism, from high functioning to more severe or low functioning, types which are easier to diagnose.
Although autism is more difficult to spot in girls than boys, there are some signs you can look out for.
Read Also: What Is The Best Pet For An Autistic Child
What Other Conditions Can Be Mistaken For Aspergers
Obsessive compulsive disorder , attention deficit hyperactivity disorder , and social anxiety disorder all can look similar to Aspergers, says Eric Hollander, MD, director of the Autism and Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
For example, a child with ADHD, due to distractibility, may display inconsistent eye contact and not be entirely responsive to directives. So in that sense, a child with ADHD may appear similar to a child with Aspergers but the underlying reasons for the issues are far different, says John Carosso, PsyD, a child psychologist and certified school psychologist at Community Psychiatric Centers at the Autism Center of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So Aspergers can be a challenging diagnosis to make.
Autism In Teenage Girls
A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concluded that autistic symptoms in girls could go unnoticed.
Girls who have normal intelligence levels can mask their symptoms. Because they are of average or above-average IQ, girls with autism can appear neurotypical even though they have poor verbal and non-verbal skills.
Another contributing factor is culture. A girl who is quiet and non-responsive can be considered feminine and well-behaved, while a boy who is quiet can be seen as unusual or different.
Don’t Miss: Jeff Wittek Social Blade
Educate Yourself About Autism
New resources for understanding and living with autism appear seemingly every day.
Talk to doctors, researchers, or speech pathologists with expertise in autism to learn:
- more about autism and how it works
- whats happening in a neurodivergent brain
- how you can advocate for your teen when others dont understand or accept who they are
Read plenty of books and visit online resources, too. Here are just a few:
Common Signs Of Autism In Teens
Your child can’t grow out of autism. If the disorder is present at birth, it’s likely to persist throughout their lifespan, but symptoms can morph and change as your child does. The signs parents look for in their infants are very different from those you might see in adolescence.
Signs of autism in teens include those relating to:
- Verbal communication. Your child might struggle with taking turns during a conversation, using sarcasm, or using a typical tone of voice.
- Nonverbal communication. Your child might resist eye contact. Understanding how people feel by looking at them could also be challenging.
- Relationships. Your child may have few or no real friends. Your child may prefer to be alone or with younger children.
- Repetitive behavior. Your child might be unusually attached to objects, including collecting specific types of things or statistics. Your child might also feel most comfortable when routines are consistent.
- Sensory input. Your child might struggle with bright light or loud noises.
Teen peers including siblings, cousins, and friends may also notice some unusual attributes in your child. They may tell you that your child:
- Behaves strangely during a conversation. They may stand too close or speak too loudly. They may stick to one topic while talking instead of shifting to things others might like to discuss.
Recommended Reading: Is Dr Shaun Murphy Really Autistic
Autism Develops Early In Life
There’s a lot researchers don’t know about autism. How much responsibility sits with genes? How much comes from the environment? Studies are ongoing, and we all hope the answers will come soon. Experts agree that autism symptoms stem from issues that begin long before adolescence.
An autism expert explains it this way: Genetic mutations and the environment combine to cause autism-related difficulties. The brain can compensate to a point. But when the brain can no longer overcome the deficiencies, symptoms either appear or become more prominent.
Research backs up this interpretation. For example, in a 2017 study, researchers found brain scan differences in very small children that predicted an autism diagnosis. When the scans showed these abnormalities, the children had autism. When the scans were clear, the children did not have autism.
Studies like this suggest that autism starts very early in life, but most parents don’t notice autism symptoms until a child is older. Childhood autism symptoms rely on communication and behavior, and babies rarely speak or act independently. When the child begins to grow, parents may notice:
- Difficulties with eye contact.
- Few spoken words.
- Low responses to body language, including pointing.
Experts say most children with autism aren’t diagnosed until after age 3, even though their parents may see problems much earlier.
School Her In Social Skills
Girls on the spectrum are even more likely to be pushed socially than their brothers, if they are even identified. In addition, the huge amount of energy it takes to behave in the social butterfly mode is often ignored or overlooked. It is no accident that autistic girls are more often labeled with depression or eating disorders than with their real neurodivergent natures. When you live from early childhood out of sync with social norms and expectations, its easy to feel as if you are alien, wrong, and bad. In such a situation, one would have to be catatonic not to be at least a little depressed. There are a number of things I wish my parents had known and had been able to teach me. These include how to make friends, how to tell if people really are friends, how to deal with bullies and bullying , and that it is okay not to live in herds.
You May Like: What Is Autism Urban Dictionary
How To Test A Child For Autism
You may ask your childs healthcare provider to periodically check your child for signs of autism with a developmental screening test. A screening test alone will not result in a diagnosis but can indicate if your child should see a specialist. A developmental pediatrician, child psychologist or psychiatrist, pediatric neurologist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or other specialist can conduct a formal developmental evaluation.
Who Is This Childhood Asperger Syndrome Quiz For
Below is a list of questions that relate to life experiences common among children with Asperger syndrome , a less severe form of autism spectrum disorder . Children or teenagers with Aspergers have difficulties relating to others socially and understanding social situations and subtle forms of communication like body language. This quiz is designed to be taken by parents who are concerned that their child might have Aspergers.
Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often your child has experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months. Please be aware that some behaviors are developmentally appropriate for young children and not signs of autism.
You May Like: How To Make A Visual Schedule For Autism
Signs Of Asperger Syndrome
People with Asperger syndrome are generally considered to be on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum. It is still a form of autism and is a lifelong condition.
Signs and symptoms that are typical of people with Asperger syndrome include:
- Very narrow and highly focused interests
- Great importance on rules and routines
- High standard of language skills, potentially very formal in expression
- Monotonous or repetitive speech
- Making the same noise repeatedly
These behaviors provide the person with a form of sensory input that the person finds appealing or helpful. There are various reasons why someone could be engaging in self-stimulatory behavior:
- They find it enjoyable
- It provides something to focus on, thereby reducing the effects of other, nearby stimuli
- It is soothing and helps with anxiety
Girls With Asd Present Differently Than Boys
In the last decade or so, Rouch noted that there has been a rise in autism diagnoses for girls who have strong intelligence and fewer behavior challenges, but still present with social interaction difficulties, a key symptom of autism. And recent data about girls with ASD, although still limited, suggests that these diagnoses are often being made in early adolescence.
The limited research we do have seems to suggest that girls are not diagnosed until adolescence because they may present with less pronounced symptoms in early childhood and they may have ability to mask symptoms in middle childhood, Rouch said. It seems that girls with ASD are more likely to find strategies to compensate for some of the core challenges with basic social communication that we see in boys.
For example, girls might teach themselves to look at someone between the eyes to mimic eye contact. This has been referred to as camouflaging symptoms the idea that girls are able to look around, see what their peers are doing, and mimic that to some extent but it may not be totally natural for them.
Recommended Reading: Is The Good Doctor Offensive
When Do These Signs Typically Begin To Appear
Signs of ASD can change from childhood to adulthood. In many cases, autism cant by definition be diagnosed unless its signs are present when your child is young so that a pattern of behavior can be established.
Of course, theres no exact time when these signs of autism will become noticeable in your teen.
But as with many teens, you may start to see behavioral and emotional changes happen when they hit puberty, usually at 11 to 13 years old.
Signs of autism may also become more noticeable when they start attending middle and high school, where social relationships often become more central to a teens life.