Autism in girls
Many more boys than girls receive an autism diagnosis in their early years. Why is that? Perhaps autism assessments are biased towards boys. Maybe girls are much better at compensating or ‘masking’ their autistic traits, especially when they present with high functioning autism. Autism specialists now understand that, in the past, girls have been largely overlooked. They have frequently reached their late teens before being referred for assessment. By that time, they are often covering up their presentations so well that even a behaviour specialist has to look hard to find them.
Today, early signs of autism are increasingly being recognised in both boys and girls. And that is a step in the right direction.
So, could your daughter be autistic? And, if so, have you been discouraged from pursuing a diagnosis because of well-meaning comments? For instance, when you told your child’s teacher that you are concerned your child is so shy, did they reply that it’s just a ‘girl thing’? Or, maybe you told your GP about those ‘absent periods’ when she is hard to reach, and they told you not to worry because lots of young girls are a bit ‘dreamy’.
Of course, a girl is not autistic simply because she is a bit timid. But there is a whole range of other things you may be noticing too. Communication might be more difficult for her. When she does want to say something, she might be relying on others to speak for her. It could be that she jumps and resists your touch if you go to give her a hug. Some parents worry that their daughter’s behaviours seem to become increasingly challenging as she grows older and social expectations become more demanding.
None of these criteria suggest autism on their own, but several together could be a sign that you could benefit from seeking a developmental assessment from a professional who is experienced at working with girls.
Finally, if you do discover that your daughter is on the spectrum, it is important to remember that she is simply a girl who just happens to have autism. Understanding that could make all the difference to her life. Get in touch for more information.