Currently, three times as many males are diagnosed with autism as females. So what’s different about autistic women and girls?
There isn’t as much research specifically focussed on autistic women and girls, but in the studies we do have, we can see important differences in the characteristics of autistic boys/men and autistic girls/women.
“The underdiagnosing of women with ASD contributes to the marginalization of females” (Kearns-Miller, 2003)
The current estimated ratio of autistic boys/men to autistic girls/women is 3:1. This ratio has changed over time, but what it tells us now is that autistic women and girls may be underrepresented in diagnosis and prevalence information we have now.
There are many reasons women and girls aren’t getting autism diagnoses at the same rate as men and boys, including:
Autistic girls and women often receive a mental health diagnosis instead of an autism diagnosis. This can make it less likely for professionals to consider autism as a potential diagnosis.
It’s important for autistic girls to have access to timely and accurate diagnosis, because a delayed or missed diagnosis can have a negative impact on their development, as well as their social and community participation.
A late diagnosis might mean that an autistic girl misses out on funding and access to early intervention services, which have been shown to have a very positive effect on child development.
Many school-age autistic girls often don’t meet the criteria for learning supports because they may mask their autism, show high level language skills and/or not display disruptive behaviour.
A late diagnosis can also contribute to experiences of poor mental health. Many autistic girls and women are diagnosed with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other types of mental health concerns.
Many autistic women are not diagnosed until their children are diagnosed with autism. Without a diagnosis and the appropriate support, autistic mothers can experience stigma, social isolation, anxiety and depression.
If they have difficulty understanding relationships and/or the real meaning behind what people say or do, autistic girls and women may also be at increased risk of bullying, verbal abuse and sexual or physical violence.
For autistic girls and women to thrive, we need to create change in many areas of their lives, including access to diagnosis, education, healthcare, support services and employment.
In particular, we are advocating for:
Read Amaze’s policy position statement on Women and Girls.
To learn more about autism and girls and women, contact the Amaze Autism Advisors on 1300 308 699, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the webchat on this site. This service is open from 8am–7pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).
Autistic girls or women – and their families – may find it beneficial to connect with a peer support group. There are also organisations that specialise in supporting autistic girls and women, such as Yellow Ladybugs.