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Girls with Autism - A Unique Pattern of Challenges

Women and girls with autism often present with a unique set of characteristics that can make diagnosing their autism difficult. Furthermore, their set of strengths can mask their deficits.

Because boys are primarily the gender mentioned in the news, it is easy to overlook the fact that girls are on the spectrum too. True, boys represent 4/5 of the autism population but that leaves 20% of the affected, female. With the staggering statistics of autism's rise, that is a significant number of people and probably a conservative figure.

Dr. Tony Attwood has identified common characteristics of women and girls on the autism spectrum, especially those with Asperger's Syndrome.

Girls with Autism...

  • Often use doll play to replay and understand social situations and often have imaginary friends and extremely detailed imaginary worlds.

  • Typically have a single friend who provides guidance and security for them and they tend to offer peer support to others.

  • Often observe and try to understand a situation before they make the first step and may mimick or even try to take on all the characteristics of someone they are trying to emulate.

  • Read fiction (or watch soap operas) to help them learn about inner thoughts, feelings and motivations.

  • Apologize frequently and want to appease others.

  • May be categorized as Tom Boys

  • Tend to have what is classified as a "male brain" and they may be specially gifted in the areas of mathematics and engineering.

  • Usually show no interest in fashion.

  • Generally have a faster rate of learning social skills than boys but they may still need to be directly taught certain social skills.

  • Tend to have a special interest that is more likely to be unusual in terms of intensity rather than focus.

  • May be so successful at "faking it" that they only come to the attention of a clinician when a secondary mood disorder emerges.

NEXT - Qualities and Difficulties for Girls with Autism