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  • Casadie Morris

Autism in Girls

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in girls is often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and there are several reasons for this:

  1. Presentation Differences: Girls with autism often present differently than boys. While boys might display more stereotypical autistic behaviors such as repetitive movements or fixations, girls may exhibit subtler symptoms. For example, they might mask their difficulties by imitating their peers or using coping strategies to camouflage their social challenges.

  2. Social Expectations: There are societal norms and expectations regarding how girls should behave socially, which can mask or obscure autistic traits. Girls may learn to mimic social behaviors, making it harder to recognize their underlying difficulties.

  3. Diagnostic Criteria: Historically, diagnostic criteria for autism were based on studies that primarily included boys, resulting in a bias toward recognizing autistic traits more commonly seen in boys. As a result, diagnostic tools may not adequately capture the manifestation of autism in girls.

  4. Co-occurring Conditions: Girls with autism often have co-occurring conditions such as anxiety or depression, which may overshadow the core symptoms of autism and lead to a focus on treating these conditions rather than exploring an autism diagnosis.

  5. Healthcare Bias: Healthcare professionals may have biases toward diagnosing autism in boys more readily than in girls due to preconceived notions about gender differences and autism. This bias can result in girls being overlooked or misdiagnosed.

  6. Parental Awareness: Parents and caregivers may not recognize the signs of autism in girls if they are less familiar with how it presents in females, leading to delays or missed diagnoses.

  7. Lack of Research: There is still a significant gap in research regarding autism in girls compared to boys. This lack of understanding contributes to difficulties in identifying and diagnosing autism in girls accurately.

Addressing the underdiagnosis of autism in girls requires raising awareness among healthcare professionals, educators, parents, and the broader community about the diverse presentation of autism across genders. It also involves revising diagnostic criteria to better capture the experiences of girls with autism and ensuring that assessment tools are sensitive to gender differences. Additionally, providing training for healthcare professionals in recognizing autism in girls and conducting further research into the unique challenges faced by girls on the autism spectrum are essential steps toward improving diagnosis and support for this population.

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