Autism Signs And Characteristics: Checklist For Adults
If you think you may be on the autism spectrum or you know, love, or work with an adult who you feel might have autism, the following information will help you to better understand the common signs and characteristics relating to adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder .
Many adults may demonstrate the signs or characteristics of autism, but may not have been assessed or diagnosed for a number of reasons, these could include:
- The signs or characteristics are not obvious to those around them.
- People around them are not aware of the signs or characteristics of autism.
- The signs and characteristics do not have a significant impact on the individual, or limit their everyday functioning.
- The person has learnt strategies to support their challenges including masking or camouflaging signs.
- The financial and emotional cost of an assessment.
- Another diagnosis that could account for some of the signs and characteristics demonstrated
- The person self-identifies as autistic, but does not see the benefits of having a formal assessment
- The person does not want a formal diagnosis.
Many adults who demonstrate the behaviours of autism, and are not formally diagnosed, learn to cope with life perfectly well. They might develop meaningful relationships, have satisfying careers, or live an excellent quality of life that satisfies them.
Common Forms Of Camouflaging Include:
forcing yourself to make eye contact during conversations
preparing jokes or phrases ahead of time to use in conversation
mimicking the social behaviour of others
imitating expressions and gestures.
While both males and females with autism can camouflage their symptoms, it appears to be more common among women and girls. This could explain why women are less likely to be diagnosed with autism.
How Does Asd Present In Women
While every girl and woman with ASD is unique, many share certain experiences. According to the Asperger/Autism network, a female with ASD may:
Know that she is different, noticing that her interests veer away from those of her peers.
Prefer having only one or two friends, or to play in solitude, having an appreciation of and focus on specific interests.
Demonstrate an aversion to what is popular, what is feminine, or what is fashionable.
Be sensitive to textures, she might prefer to wear comfortable, practical clothing.
Appear naive or immature, as she is out of sync with the trends or the social norms.
Work very hard to camouflage her social confusion and/or anxiety through strategic imitation, by escaping into nature or fantasy, or by staying on the periphery of social activity.
Show different sides of her personality in different settings.
Be more prone to releasing her bottled up emotions at home through meltdowns.
Be exhausted from the work of deciphering social rules or of imitating those around her to hide her differences.
Be anxious in settings where she is asked to perform in social situations. This could lead to mutism, escapism, or a focus on routines and rituals.
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Why Many People With Autism Dislike Functioning Labels
8. Emotional regulation issues and meltdowns. Women with autism often have problems with emotional regulation. Research has shown that there is a poor connection between the frontal cortex and the amygdala in people with autism.4 Put simply, the amygdala can be thought of as an emotion centre in our brain, as it’s part of our limbic system and our mammalian brain. The frontal cortex can be thought of as our thinking brain, the more rational part of our brain which makes judgments.
Because of the poor connection between the two areas, women with autism may find it hard to rationalise situations and stay in control. Many describe having meltdowns: extreme emotional reactions to situations that might result in losing their temper, crying, or going into shutdown mode.
9. Stimming. Stimming refers to repetitive behaviours. The most obvious behaviours we associate with autism are rocking, hand flapping, repetition of words or phrases, and rocking or spinning. However, women with autism may display other stimming behaviours such as skin picking, feet rubbing, pacing, or hair twirling. People with autism tend to stim more than other people and may not be aware of their behaviours. It is thought that stimming is a self-regulation tool.
Anyone who identified with the above symptoms should seek out professional help. Autism displays similar symptoms to other conditions and a formal diagnosis can help establish whether or not autism may be at play.
Getting Exhausted By Social Situations
Many people, particularly introverts, find social situations tiring, but women on the autism spectrum may particularly feel this way, since they work so hard to fit in.
“Girls on the autism spectrum often report feeling fatigued by social interactions because they spend a great deal of energy mimicking others to get by and camouflaging their real desires, such as wanting to play video games in their room by themselves, or watching favorite movies alone on repeat,” says Scott-Hudson. “Girls on the spectrum internalize their social difficulties, and the camouflaging leaves them exhausted, reporting higher rates of anxiety and depression.”
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Aspienwomen: Adult Women With Asperger Syndromemoving Towards A Female Profile Of Asperger Syndrome
Tania Marshall, Autism Studies PhD. student, has compiled a working list of traits women with Asperger Syndrome have. She compiled this list after working with many women on the spectrum. The list is based on her clinical anecdotal evidence and research by other well-known professionals. She will be modifying and/or updating this list from time to time. This list is a result of her reflections, observations and experience, and is written in no particular order. Tania states, No-one person needs to have every trait, and it is rare that a person would identify with every trait. Everyone is an individual so they will exhibit different traits from another person with the same diagnosis.
Her 18-point profile was created for females who are self-diagnosing or considering formal diagnosis, and to assist mental health professionals in recognizing Asperger Syndrome in adult females. To read Tanias list or to leave a comment for her, click here.
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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.
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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.
The Psychological Impact Of Late Autism Diagnosis In Girls
It was reported that some participants stated, despite years of therapy for treating symptoms of autismunbeknownst to them, none of these health professionals could point out the possibility of an autism diagnosis. Others stated having been diagnosed with other disorders and none offered a solution to their underlying symptoms even going as far as being diagnosed with personality disorders.
In many cases, due to the stereotype that people with ASD all have severe and overt social and communication problems, professionals were reluctant to diagnose the girls at a younger age with autism because they did not meet that criteria due to showing capacity for socialization with others.
The act of forging a different identity brought a lot of emotional reactions such as anger and regret for all the time spent on trying to be a different person or trying to be good, caused by the inability of professionals to look beyond stereotypes and focus on the symptoms from the perspective of women with undiagnosed autism.
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Lack Of Access To Healthcare Services
In the United States, autistic traits are underrecognized in racial or ethnic minority groups and people with low socioeconomic status, Hanks says.
These groups of people face several potential barriers to an autism diagnosis, which include:
- Lack of access to healthcare due to non-citizenship
- Lack of access to healthcare because of low income
- English is not their primary language
“I have seen adults with undiagnosed ASD more often in rural areas without ready access to autism experts,” Fisher says.
Autism In Girls: What Are The Signs
Are you a parent with a daughter who you think could be on the autism spectrum? Perhaps you dont know where to start in terms of reaching a diagnosis? Youre not alone.
Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 44 children in the United States across all ethnic groups and is four times as prevalent in boys than in girls. Various evidence now suggests that this is inaccurate, and more girls are living with ASD than people realize.
ASD is characterized by social communication and social interaction difficulties, according to the DSM-5 classification system. However, research suggests that criteria for diagnosis is based on scientific evidence of autism in boys. As a result, diagnosing girls with autism usually occurs later in their development than it does for males.
Due to this, many girls on the spectrum are left to go through life without the support and help they might need, unsure how to find answers to difficulties they face in their daily living. These challenges, depending on the extent and severity, can cause psychological strain for young girls as well as their families.
To help girls on the spectrum receive an autism diagnosis quicker, it is important for parents to be aware of the possible signs of autism. So, how does autism appear in girls? Lets have a look at this topic and, hopefully, some answers will be offered in this article.
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Autistic Girls Dont Fit The Model
Autism is a developmental disorder that is marked by two unusual kinds of behaviors: deficits in communication and social skills, and restricted or repetitive behaviors. Children with autism also often have sensory processing issues. But heres the hitch, according to Susan F. Epstein, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist. The model that we have for a classic autism diagnosis has really turned out to be a male model. Thats not to say that girls dont ever fit it, but girls tend to have a quieter presentation, with not necessarily as much of the repetitive and restricted behavior, or it shows up in a different way.
Stereotypes may get in the way of recognition. So where the boys are looking at train schedules, girls might have excessive interest in horses or unicorns, which is not unexpected for girls, Dr. Epstein notes. But the level of the interest might be missed and the level of oddity can be a little more damped down. Its not quite as obvious to an untrained eye. She adds that as the spectrum has grown, its gotten harder to diagnose less-affected boys as well.
In fact, according to a 2005 study at Stanford University, autistic girls exhibit less repetitive and restricted behavior than boys do. The study also found brain differences between autistic boys and girls help explain this discrepancy.
We Need Better Diagnostic Tests For Autism In Women
Diagnostic criteria are developed using white boys and men, failing to serve many neurodivergent girls and women
You dont look autistic.
This is what people say when I first tell them Im on the spectrum. But I do look autistic. The problem is that people, especially medical professionals, dont know what to look for when it comes to identifying and diagnosing autism in women and girls.
I am a professor, a screenwriter, producer, mother and a woman who has autism. The challenges I have had in getting my diagnosis lead me to believe that we have to develop a more accurate standard autism test and better diagnostic criteria specifically for women and girls. This test and these criteria need to be co-created by autistic women and psychologists who understand how autism manifests differently in women and girls.
The current assessment is a prime example of gender bias in medicine and an example of how diagnostics are rife with gender and racial biases. The latest diagnostic criteria for autism were set forth in the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . This version has extremely restrictive requirements for an autism diagnosis, such as showing deficits in nonverbal communication, displaying social issues, using repetitive speech, and difficulty maintaining relationships.
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Being Diagnosed With Anxiety Or Depression
Many challenges experienced by women with ASD, such as being the target of bullies, can lead to anxiety and depression. Sometimes, professionals will make this diagnosis but miss the underlying cause.
“It is more culturally acceptable and statistically more common for females to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety than males,” says Oswald. “Consequently, the underlying autism spectrum characteristics get overlooked in females.”
What Causes Autism In Women
Experts arent sure what causes autism. Given the wide range of symptoms and severity, autism is likely caused by several factors, including genetics and environmental factors.
While theres no evidence that the exact cause of autism is different between the sexes, some experts suggest that boys are at a higher chance of developing it.
For example, investigators believe that girls might be born with genetic protective factors that reduce their chance of autism.
Theres also an emerging theory called the extreme male brain theory. Its based on the idea that fetal exposure to high levels of male hormones in the uterus might affect brain development.
As a result, a childs mind might focus more on understanding and categorizing objects, traits that are generally associated with the male brain. This is in contrast to empathizing and socializing, which are more often associated with female brains.
The effect of hormones on brain development isnt well known yet, giving this theory some major limitations. Still, its a start toward understanding how autism develops and why it appears more in boys than girls.
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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.
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
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Other Signs Of Autism
You may also have other signs, like:
- not understanding social “rules”, such as not talking over people
- avoiding eye contact
- getting too close to other people, or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you
- noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not
- having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
- liking to plan things carefully before doing them
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The autism spectrum is a range of neurodevelopmental conditions generally characterized by difficulties in social interactions and communication, repetitive behaviors, intense interests, and unusual responses to sensory stimuli. It is commonly referred to as autism or, in the context of a professional diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder , but the latter term remains. For decades, the prevalence of autism has been reported to be 4 times higher in boys than in girls.But, as research uncovers differences in how the characteristics of autism are expressed.
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Choosing School Or Work Over Socializing
Because people with autism often find social situations difficult or stressful, they may come up with excuses to avoid them, like work or studying.
“They may be extra rigid in their scheduling,” says Scott-Hudson. “In college dormitories, they often choose to stay in their rooms to avoid having to go to parties or other group activities and may choose to stay into study as a way to avoid social outings. Boys can do it, too, but girls tend to camouflage more of their social avoidance by saying ‘Aw, I’d love to go to the party, but I have to study!'”