Throughout my life I have attended many courses looking at autism awareness. Each time there have been elements of the training that I could relate to, however I never thought that I could potentially be autistic due to the examples all relating to boys. It wasn’t until a professional told me that I was potentially autistic that I realised how autism can present differently in women and girls. I wanted to use this post to highlight autism traits in women and girls.
One of the main traits of autism in girls is masking. I have spent most of life masking how I truly felt and how much my environment was affecting me. The best way that this has been described to me is by calling me a swan, as I appear to be calm on the outside whereas inside I’m doing everything I can to keep going. Masking can have a really negative impact due to how draining it is to wear a mask every day.
Autistic girls do want to make friends but they may have problems maintaining those friendships. I have had many friends over the years but have found that unless I see them every day, either at school or work, then I find it very hard to maintain those friendships.
In any training I have done, there has always been an emphasis on special interests. However they again have always focussed on those of boys such as trains and technology. I could never relate to these interests, although I have always had specific interests that I have been fully immersed in. This is typical of autistic girls and interests can include animals and books. These interests will often go unnoticed due to the fact that they are usually similar to the interests of their peers.
Low frustration levels
I have always found it difficult to moderate my emotions when I become frustrated. This means that I can go from being fine to very emotional very quickly. However, my ability to mask means that I rarely do this outside of the house.
Mimics their peers
When in social situations, I often tend to wait until other people have spoken before including myself in the conversation. This is common with girls and is something that I have done since school and continue to do now. I also find myself using words or phrases of people that I spend lots of time with once I learn the situations that the phrases are used in.
My school reports often commented on the fact that I was quiet and shy in school, rarely speaking up in class. In group work situations, I would only contribute if I was in a group with my friends. This is commonly seen with autistic girls in the way in which they are described. In fact autistic girls are usually praised for being a good role model in class, usually because they are quiet.
Autistic females are likely to be diagnosed later in life and prior to that be diagnosed with other conditions. Mental health difficulties are very common. I have always been described as an anxious person and have struggled with anxiety from the age of 11.