For many years, it was wrongly assumed that the majority of autistic people were men and boys, and much less so women and girls. We now know that this is simply not the case – with many women, girls and non-binary people on the autism spectrum. More women and girls than ever before are being diagnosed as autistic, with many having been previously misdiagnosed or missed as a result of outdated stereotypes or incorrect assumptions.
Autistic women and girls may appear to have fewer social difficulties than autistic men and boys, but it's thought that this could be due to the fact that they are more likely to 'mask' their autistic traits, and are also more likely to belong to a friendship group meaning that teachers are less likely to pick up any differences.
By simply learning to smile, being better able to control their behaviours in public, making eye contact and seeming better able to socialise and make friends, this can make it harder for professionals to recognise.
Girls often display less of the repetitive behaviours and highly-focused interests that are typically associated with autism such asa fascination with a particular item or subject of interest, and may appear similar to those of neurotypical women and girls, such as twiddling with hair or an obsession with horses or unicorns which is not uncommon for girls.
Imitating their peers and working so hard to 'fit in' can be exhausting for young girls, causing stress, anxiety and overwhelm. It is common for girls to receive a mental health diagnosis first, as their autism symptoms may be missed amid other co-occurring conditions.
It is encouraging to observe that awareness for autism in women and girls is growing, this includes television programmes with testimonies from women and girls about their experiences.