As a mother of four daughters, two of whom are autistic, I have been able to observe the differences in the ways girls on the spectrum present compared to their male counterparts, and I definitely notice contrasts with my autistic daughters compared to my autistic husband.
This is not to say, however, that boys who are autistic do not display these traits, but the following reasons are often major contributors as to why girls struggle to get a diagnosis, and can fly under the radar with their neurological differences.
It’s a common myth that people who are autistic do not enjoy the company of others, as this often may not be the case, especially in females. Autism can present in a way that individuals are often overly friendly, and struggle to maintain or understand appropriate social boundaries, or enjoy the company of others a great deal, but tire from it afterwards and need time to recover.
Girls who are autistic are incredible at masking their social struggles, and how they do this is by copying and mimicking the behaviour of their peers. Unless you are close to them therefore, it isn’t always apparent that hey are struggling, and is a big reason why they often endure in silence.
A key attribute to the autistic female stereotype is the common habit of ‘holding it all together’, and then melting down at home. This can happen literally as soon as the child is in the car at the end of a kindergarten or school day, and rarely ever happens anywhere else. I make the point here that it’s important to differentiate between meltdowns and tantrums. Tantrums are emotionally triggered. Meltdowns are sensory triggered.
Another common myth surrounding autism, especially relating to females, is that people who are autistic do not feel empathy. In reality, this is so often not the case. Feeling so very deeply is a common thread.
One of the other key defining factors in girls on the spectrum is their fondness for disappearing off into their self-created worlds, where they will happily play independently and at length. Finding immense contentment and enjoyment amongst favourite small toys and role-playing extensively with household objects may provide avenues for self-expression and control that are not readily available in daily life.
With these things in mind, if you believe your daughter is displaying some autistic traits, it is worthwhile accessing a proper diagnostic assessment from your developmental paediatrican. Speaking from someone who wishes she had hesitated less and acted earlier, neurodiversity is not something to be feared, but rather something that should be embraced.