Why Are Fewer Women Diagnosed With Autism
Despite there being no clear-cut reason why women are less likely to be affected by autism than men, the research presents us with a number of ideas that could help us to understand why women with the condition are less likely to be diagnosed:
Research and surveys are often focussed around the male characteristics of autism. To this date, there is comparatively little research that focusses specifically on autistic women, largely because the condition is seen as more common in boys than girls, and so boys are routinely only included in research projects. The National Autistic Society says that because of the male gender bias, women are less likely to be diagnosed with the condition, even if their symptoms are equally as severe.
The diagnostic criteria for Asperger Syndrome are based on the characteristic of males. During childhood boys are often more disruptive than girls, meaning that theyre more likely to receive attention. However, this can lead to girls going un-noticed as their behavioural characteristics are seen to be less of a problem that needs investigating.
Females with autism are better at masking their symptoms. In general, girls are more skilled at fitting in with their peers and those with autism may try to repress their behaviour so that they dont stand out. Not only does this lead to symptoms not being spotted but it can also cause mental health issues or cause the girl to act out and let go once they get home.
Speech And Language Difficulties May Present As Early Signs Of Autism
Children with ASD may have a hard time speaking and communicating at the expected level for their age.
Even during infancy, you might notice that your child does not babble or coo in response when you talk and attempt to interact. By their first birthday, most toddlers can speak a word or two, but autism symptoms in children often include delayed speech.
Sometimes, children with ASD babble and coo in the first few months of life, and then cease to communicate altogether. In these cases, all forms of verbal communication and normal language development and experimentation with speech abruptly stop. This can be disconcerting for parents and is often a sign of autism in young children and an indicator that its time to investigate further by seeking professional help.
Even in cases where autistic children do speak and demonstrate pretty typical signs of normal language development, they often repeat unrelated words and phrases over and over and, in essence, speaking without really communicating or conveying a feeling, thought or desire.
Early intervention is key to helping autistic children learn to communicate, whether it is through spoken language, or in more extreme cases, through sign language or even an alternative augmentative communication device.
Fixation On Particular Subjects Or Ideas
Continually discussing the same topics in conversation, obsessively playing the same song repeatedly, or reading every article written about a certain topic are some ways that autistic fixations can manifest. These interests can be negative if they take over the individuals life or interfere with their relationships with others. Of course, these obsessive tendencies can also be helpful Dan Aykroyd, writer and star in the hit film Ghostbusters, was inspired by his focus on ghosts and the paranormal. Many other high-functioning autistic individuals have used their focus on mathematics, biology, or writing to inspire successful careers.
Also Check: Autism Visual Aid
Autism Signs By 3 Months
- They don’t follow moving objects with their eyes: “Babies at high risk for autism don’t follow caregivers as they move in the visual field,” says Dr. Frazier. “They may be more intrigued by something like a blanket.”
- They don’t respond to loud noises.
- They don’t grasp and hold objects.
RELATED:Signs of Autism in Toddlers
How Can You Tell If You Have Autism
Signs of autism in adultsfinding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling.getting very anxious about social situations.finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own.seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to.finding it hard to say how you feel.More items
Read Also: Autism Cognition
Common Signs Of Autism In Girls:
- A desire to interact with others
- A tendency to mimic others in social situations
- Passivity, often perceived as “just being shy”
- One or few close friendships
- A tendency to “camouflage” difficulties
- Developmentally appropriate language skills
- A vivid imagination
- Less severe and frequent repetitive behaviours
She says undiagnosed autistic girls are often unaware that others don’t have to engage in that same social masking process.
This is because girls are more motivated to “fit in” socially and are societally conditioned from an early age to be more compliant, polite and passive.
Dr Campbell says social masking can sometimes conceal the classic obsessive interests associated with autism spectrum disorder, as well as the issue with eye contact.
“Rather than talking obsessively about something they’re interested in, they may wait until they get home and then research it on their computer,” she says.
“So they might well be engaging in intense or fixated interests, but perhaps in a less public manner”.
Those interests are often more closely aligned to those of peers animals, celebrity, music so again, there were no red flags with Jess.
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.
Don’t Miss: How To Discipline Autistic Children Effectively
Overreaction Or No Reaction To Sensory Stimuli May Be One Of The Early Signs Of Autism
Many autistic individuals have trouble processing sensory information and can become easily overwhelmed, even on an outing to a restaurant or grocery store. Sights, sounds and movements, even tastes and smells, can all be overwhelming to the autistic child, especially in combination with one another.
This may present itself as one of two extremes: you may notice either an observable overreaction or an under-reaction to stimuli.
In the case of an overreaction, an autistic child may flinch away from touch, even something as gentle and unthreatening as a pat on the head or a touch on the arm. Others may throw a fit when getting dressed because the tactile sensation of the clothing creates a feeling of anxiety.
Some children with hypersensitivity to noise and other stimuli may react in the opposite waythey may show no response at all to sounds and visual stimuli, even things that would usually startle or surprise a child. This might strike you as so unusual that it causes you to wonder if your child is having difficulty hearing. An autistic child may also have no reaction to sensory stimuli that would ordinarily be fun, curious and exiting, something that can be just as disconcerting for a concerned parent.
ABA therapy can do wonders for sensory processing disorders, which are often a part of ASD, but also may affect neurotypical children.
How To Spot Signs Of Autism In Teenagers
This article was co-authored by George Sachs, PsyD. George Sachs is a Licensed Psychologist and the Owner of Sachs Center based in New York, New York. With over ten years of experience, Dr. Sachs specializes in treating ADD/ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders in children, teens, and adults. He holds a BS in Psychology from Emory University. Dr. Sachs earned his Doctorate of Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology, Chicago. He completed his clinical training in Chicago at Cook County Hospital, Mt. Sinai Hospital, and the Child Study Center. Dr. Sachs completed his internship and postdoctoral work at the Childrens Institute in Los Angeles, where he supervised and trained therapists in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy . He has been trained as a Gestalt Therapist and certified by the Gestalt Associates Training Program of Los Angeles. Dr. Sachs is the author of The Adult ADD Solution, Helping the Traumatized Child, and Helping Your Husband with Adult ADD. He has appeared on the Huffington Post, NBC Nightly News, CBS, and WPIX discussing his holistic approach to ADD/ADHD treatment.There are 32 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 94,460 times.
Recommended Reading: What Color Is The Autism Ribbon
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?
Read Books And Articles About The Female Experience Of Autism
- There are a number of books written by individuals with special needs or more specifically with ASD. You may find the answers youre looking for in these
- The Spectrum Girls Survival Guide How to grow up Awesome and Autistic is written by Siena Castellon a girl with autism who, at a young age, is using her platform to give a voice to autistic girls around the world
You May Like: What Is The Life Expectancy Of People With Autism
Adhd Vs Autism: Similarities And Differences
Autistic women and women with ADHD can share the following traits:
ADHD is diagnosed when a patient has symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. For an ASD diagnosis, however, the patient must have clinically significant difficulty with social interaction or communication, and unusually restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or interests. In fact, many autistic people have a special interest a topic or subject that they are heavily invested in and are more knowledgeable about than most.
Autistic individuals are also more likely to have sensory processing disorder, discomfort making/maintaining eye contact, and hyper-logical methods of thinking, with a tendency to be extremely literal.
Prenatal Factors That May Contribute To Autism
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy, especially in the first 3 months.
Nutritional deficiencies early in pregnancy, particularly not getting enough folic acid.
The age of the mother and father
Complications at or shortly after birth, including very low birth weight and neonatal anemia
Maternal infections during pregnancy.
Exposure to chemical pollutants, such as metals and pesticides, while pregnant.
More research on these prenatal risk factors is needed, but if youre pregnant or trying to conceive, it cant hurt to take steps now to reduce your babys risk of autism.
Reducing the risk of autism: Tips for expectant mothers
Take a multivitamin. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Its not clear whether this will also help reduce risk of autism, but taking the vitamins cant hurt.
Ask about SSRIs. Women who are taking an SSRI should talk with a clinician about all the risks and benefits of these drugs. Untreated depression in a mother can also affect her childs well-being later on, so this is not a simple decision to make.
Practice prenatal care. Eating nutritious food, trying to avoid infections, and seeing a clinician for regular check-ups can increase the chances of giving birth to a healthy child.
Source: Harvard Health Publications
Read Also: Low Functioning Autism Symptoms
Development Of Repetitive Or Restrictive Habits
Repetitive habits are another sign of high-functioning autism. Those habits could interfere with the persons ability to do what they need to do or what others want them to do. One type of repetitive habit might be related to movement. The individual might have to tie and untie their shoes multiple times before they are satisfied and are able to start walking or leave the house. Some people develop restrictive habits that interfere with socially accepted living. For example, an individual might refuse to wear any other kind of shirt than a tee shirt. This could impact their health and well-being if they live in a place with cold weather.
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.
You May Like: What Does It Mean To Be Mildly Autistic
Other Issues Associated With Autism
Older autistic children and teenagers often have other issues as well. These might include:
- difficulty with sleep for example, they might have difficulty falling asleep, or might regularly wake up or have broken sleep patterns
- anxiety or feeling overwhelmed for example, they might feel anxious about going to new places, or being in social situations
- depression older autistic children and teenagers who are aware of their differences are also often aware of how others see them and can feel like outsiders. These feelings of low mood might be intensified by changing hormone levels during puberty
- aggressive behaviour they often have sensory sensitivities that can lead to sudden aggressive behaviour. They might have difficulty understanding whats going on around them, which can lead to frustration building up
- eating disorders for example, they might have difficulty moving to secondary school and might develop an eating disorder to cope with feelings of anxiety
- difficulty with organisational skills they might find the increase in complexity at secondary school hard to manage
- school refusal they might feel overwhelmed or confused at school. They might also be vulnerable to bullying at school
- gender dysphoria autistic children and teenagers can be more likely than other children and teenagers to identify as a gender thats different from the sex they were assigned at birth. If they feel distressed about this its called gender dysphoria.
Early Signs Of Autism In A 5 Year Old
Once your toddler grows up, certain signs can be missed or confused with signs of growing up. You may want to consult your childs doctor if you see the following signs, which may mean your child has a developmental delay:
- Shows extreme behaviors like unusually aggressive, shy, or sad
- Doesnt show a wide range of emotions
- Usually isnt active
- Has trouble focusing on one activity for extended periods of time
- Doesnt respond to people
- Cant understand the difference between real and make-believe
- Doesnt play with peers
- Doesnt use grammar correctly
- Doesnt talk about daily activities
- Loses skills they once had
Read Also: How To Self Diagnose Autism
For Anxiety And Depression
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are prescribed for anxiety, depression, and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder , which may accompany autism spectrum disorders. SSRIs include the following:
- Prozac has an FDA indication for both depression in children age 8 and older and OCD in children 7 and older.
- Lexapro is approved by the FDA for kids with depression that are age 12 or older.
- Luvox is FDA-approved for kids age 8 and older with OCD.
- Zoloft is FDA-approved for children age 6 and older with OCD.
- Anafranil is FDA-approved for kids age 10 and older with OCD.
Wellbutrin works differently than SSRIs and may be prescribed for adults with depression and other symptoms, but is not approved for pediatric use.
The FDA has issued an advisory to patients, families, and health professionals to closely monitor children and young adults taking antidepressants for signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. This is especially important at the beginning of treatment or when doses are changed.