Autistic females – what’s the difference?

By Senior Psychologist Kim McGregor

Boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed  with ASD, here’s why: 

An estimated 1 in 70 people has autism; with almost four times as many boys than girls diagnosed.

This figure may hide the true incidence of autism in girls and women, with some estimates ranging from 7:1 to as low as 2:1 (that is, 2 boys for every girl).

What ASD  may look like in girls …

Social communication and interaction differences:

Like initiating and responding to others in conversation and play; displaying and responding to non-verbal communicative (eg eye contact, body language, facial expression and gestures); difficulty developing and maintaining relationships with others.

Behaviour, interest and activities:

These may involve special interests, routines, rituals or preoccupations, difficulties with change and transitions; repetitive speech, movements, use of an object or toy; preferred routines (doing thing the same way each time, difficulty with flexibility within these routines); restricted interest in a narrow area; sensitivity to their environment (eg finding loud noises, bright lights, busy environments upsetting or seeking out specific experiences such as smells, tastes, pressure, differing pain threshold).

While girls on the Spectrum often are unable to read the unspoken rules and meaningful glances that are so important to fitting in, they manage to cope by copying what the other girls do. …

  • Observing and trying to understand before the make the first step
  • Reading fiction or watching soaps to learn about inner thoughts and feelings
  • Decoding social situations in doll play and imaginary friends
  • Apologising and appeasing for social mishaps
  • Being a chameleon: they learn how to adopt a persona for different situations and learn to act so well that many affected girls say “they don’t know the real me”. The drawback of this chameleon tendency is that it can lead to mental health disorders.
  •  Girls with ASD may suffer a fear of rejection, particularly surrounding their ability to make, but not keep, friends and they often have one friend who provides guidance and security.

Some resources to support girls on the spectrum include:

Autism In Girls & Women | Autism Awareness Australia

Kim McGregor is a registered Psychologist with a Master’s degree in Educational & Developmental Psychology. She has worked extensively with infants, children and their families in not for profit, early childhood, specialised school and government multidisciplinary settings providing assessment, diagnosis and treatment for their developmental, cognitive, social, emotional and learning needs.
While Kim enjoys working with and celebrating all children as they grow and develop, her experience and interests include understanding the specific strengths, abilities and support needs of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, developmental delay, intellectual disability and learning disabilities to reach their full potential through comprehensive assessment.
Her goal is to always work from a person centred and family focused partnership with parents providing clear communication, empathy and support throughout the journey of understanding and helping their child. She incorporates evidence based therapies to support skill development, having trained in CBT programs such as The Cool Kids Anxiety program (Cool Kids) and the Secret Agent Society program (SAS) and in Positive Behaviour Support (PBS).
While Kim has spent most of her life in Sydney, she now enjoys all that Melbourne has to offer with her family and pets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *