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  • The Neurodivergent Therapy Space

6 Reasons Why Autistic Women are Often Under or Mis-diagnosed:

Autistic women are often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed for several reasons, many of which stem from differences in how autism manifests in females compared to males.


Here are some key factors contributing to the misdiagnosis of autistic women:


1. Masking and Camouflaging: Autistic girls and women often develop coping mechanisms to hide or mask their autistic traits in social situations. This can involve imitating neurotypical behaviour, suppressing autistic traits, or mimicking social cues to fit in. As a result, their autistic characteristics may go unnoticed or be attributed to shyness, anxiety, or other conditions.


2. Stereotypes and Bias: Traditional diagnostic criteria for autism are based on observations of male behaviour, leading to a bias toward recognising autism primarily in males. Clinicians may not recognise the diverse ways autism can present in females, leading to missed diagnoses or misinterpretation of symptoms.


3. Social Expectations: Society's gender norms and expectations can influence how autism is perceived and diagnosed. Autistic traits that are considered atypical for females, such as difficulty with social communication or intense interest in specific topics, may be overlooked or dismissed as typical behaviour for girls.


4. Differences in Presentation: Autistic women may present with different behavioural patterns and interests compared to autistic males. For example, they may be more adept at mimicking social behaviours, have more subtle communication difficulties, or develop different special interests. These differences in presentation can be overlooked or misunderstood by clinicians unfamiliar with the female autistic phenotype.


5. Diagnostic Tools and Criteria: Standardised diagnostic tools and criteria for autism may not adequately capture the experiences and challenges of autistic females. As a result, assessment instruments may fail to identify autism in girls and women, leading to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.


6. Lack of Awareness and Education: There is still a lack of awareness and education among healthcare professionals, educators, and the general public about the presentation of autism in females. This can contribute to a lack of recognition and understanding of autistic traits in girls and women, leading to misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis.


Addressing these factors requires increased awareness, education, and training among healthcare professionals, as well as a recognition of the diversity of autistic experiences across genders. By understanding the unique presentation of autism in females and advocating for more inclusive diagnostic practices, we can improve early identification and support for autistic women and girls.

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