But my daughter doesn’t “look” autistic…
She is able to speak, make eye contact, and is social. We often hear this from parents of autistic girls, which stems from misinformation surrounding autism in female children. Why are girls so often undiagnosed? The signs of autism in girls differ from boys most times and pediatricians might not diagnosis it correctly.
More boys than girls are diagnosed with autism, but it may not be because more boys are autistic.
Autism in girls often looks different from the stereotype of autistic behaviors.
Some signs of autism in girls
- Relying on other people to guide or speak for them
- Having unusual sensitivity to sensory challenges
- Having passionate but limited interests
- Difficulty making and keeping friends
- Having conversations that are restricted to limited topics of interest
- Difficulty with social communication
- Appearing to be shy, quiet, or unusually passive
- Having depression or anxiety
- Difficulty controlling emotion
Stereotypes may get in the way of recognition
Girls may not line up toys or memorize train schedules. They can have excessive interest in unicorns or horses which is not unexpected for girls. The level of interest might be missed however.
The “model” we have for autism really turns out to be a male model. Girls may have a quieter presentation with not as much of the repetitive and restricted behaviors or it can show up in a different way.
Girls can be more socially motivated so they smile and make eye contact but can miss social cues making it harder to keep friends.
Different behavior at home
Some autistic children may spend so much energy trying to cope and trying to follow what is expected of them at school and then may release it with meltdowns at home. Parents wonder why they can do so well at school but “save” the outbursts for home.
Others may thrive on a routine at home and then have difficulty functioning at school or vice versa.