The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. Bias is a big contributor to the underdiagnosis of both Autism and ADHD in females.
Far more boys than girls are diagnosed with autism. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that girls are less likely to be autistic. Autism in girls often looks different from the stereotype of autistic behaviour that the current diagnostic tools are built around.
Repetitive behaviour is an example of one sign of autism that is commonly recognised, but autistic girls might not have as many obvious repetitive behaviours as boys, or they might be quieter about them.
Having an intense interest in something specific is also common in autistic people. If that interest is something considered ‘girly,’ like horses or unicorns it may be considered ‘normal’ even if it is intense.
Autistic girls can also sometimes be better at ‘masking’ or camouflaging their autistic behaviours. They may start with a better set of social skills than boys and learn earlier how to do things like smiling or making eye contact. They may be more socially motivated than autistic boys and be more interested in making friends. They may latch onto one individual who looks as if they’ve got it sussed and begin to copy them in order to fit in.
When autistic girls don’t get diagnosed, they can miss out on support that can help them understand their challenges, build skills and fulfil their potential in school and in life. Getting diagnosed early on is important so girls can get the support they need as soon as possible.
Breaking the Gender Bias in autism is vital.
Greta Thunberg, Darryl Hannah, Melanie Sykes, Susan Boyle, Temple Grandin… Just look at what autistic girls and women can achieve.
The gender gap is still also leaving girls and women underdiagnosed for ADHD.
And even with a diagnosis, girls can suffer gender bias and may be more stigmatized than their male peers. Boys may be given a pass for just ‘being boys’, whereas girls can be more ostracised.
There are some amazing female ADHD role models – Anne-Marie, Mel B, Simone Biles and Zooey Deschanel to highlight just a few.
There is nothing our girls can’t achieve.
It’s time to #BreakTheBias.