Autistic Women and Girls

International Women's Day

Friday 8th March is International Women’s Day 2024, and to celebrate and acknowledge the women in our community, we are sharing information about autistic women and girls.

Autism affects thoughts, feelings, interactions and experiences in an estimated one in 70 people. According to the National Autistic Society, men and boys are three times more likely than women and girls to be diagnosed as autistic. It is still unknown why more males are diagnosed with autism, and evidence shows that autistic women and girls are missed or misdiagnosed. Girls are often diagnosed later than boys, so miss out on opportunities for early support.

Although there are improvements in research and professional practice, there are still barriers to receiving a diagnosis and support.

A diagnosis supports individuals in their understanding of themselves and enables access to support. Stereotyped ideas about what autism looks like, still acts as a barrier for women and girls receiving a diagnosis later in life or are misdiagnosed with other conditions.

Women and girls are often better at masking or camouflaging their difficulties, therefore indicating that they have fewer social difficulties than men and boys with autism. Autistic girls appear to have differences in social development as compared to boys. Often, they learn to navigate early social interactions and maintain friendships, while compensating for other social communication challenges like using or interpreting nonverbal communication, language differences and differences in thinking or processing information – signs that can be hard to spot.

In general, they engage in more “internalising” behaviour than boys, meaning they tend to take their problems out on themselves rather than others. According to the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, professionals often don’t recognise and understand the different ways autism can manifest in women and girls.

Some common autistic traits are described as ‘repetitive behaviours’ and intensive interests, this can include rocking backwards and forwards and a fascination with wheels, trains or cars. In autistic women and girls, some of their characteristics are likened to non-autism women and girls, such as twirling hair or reading books.

Girls in the UK are still being diagnosed autistic up to 6 years later than boys though. Given what we are coming to understand about the damage a late diagnosis and subsequent camouflaging of autistic traits can do to an autistic person’s mental health, confidence and self-esteem, this is a statistic which needs to change fast.

Here at Bright Futures, we’re proud to support over 140 children, young people and adults. 17% of these are girls and women.


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