A FEMININE TOUCH OF AUTISM
Today the current ratios (as there are many different ones from credible sources) of autism between males and females is growing ever more closer. Females are statistically reported to be affected by autism less so than their male counterparts, even though it’s now becoming more widely believed that autism actually affects the those genders equally. Many more educational and medical experts are recognising that the most likely explanation for the ratio gap in diagnostic statistics is because females on the autism spectrum are being overlooked, and/or being misdiagnosed with another medical condition.
Let’s begin first by discussing the similarities between males and females on the autism spectrum, as there are indeed a fair few. Autism is a condition which affects a person’s ability to communicate, socialise, understand and interpret emotions, cope with any kind of change, process information quickly, cope with highly stimulated environment and understand information which isn’t literal.
Both males and females on the autism spectrum experience equal difficulties in all of those areas. I myself, as a female with autism am affected very much so as well. However despite all of this being present since the very beginning of my life, I missed my first diagnosis for ASD at the age of six. Back in the year 1996 my case made psychologists and teachers somewhat perplexed, because despite having all of the criteria for autism mentioned above, I just wasn’t quite the same as a six year old boy with autism. In the mid 90s (especially in my rather quaint part of the world) the diagnostic criteria for autism was solely based on the cases of boys and even men.
Though males and females on the autism spectrum are just as different from each other as is the case for those two genders elsewhere in life.
As a female with autism I find that I have enough similarities with my male counterparts in order for me to understand their situation very well. However me and fellow females I know have a few alterations that are different from what has traditionally been termed as “autistic”.
Firstly there is a stronger expectation for us to be emotional and social, and that makes us more likely to put on a metaphorical mask and pretend to have more skills in those areas than we actually do. When I attempted to do that for several years it only gave me more anxiety because I was constantly attempting to fumble through completely unfamiliar territory. From that I experienced many meltdowns, and even my meltdowns now can get misinterpreted as simply being “female hysteria” and not autism.
Also my obsessions and special interest areas are somewhat different from the masculine description, even though they mean the exact same to me. Instead of being fixated on topics which are more mathematical, my interest areas are more so in creative areas (such as writing, doing artwork, and learning different languages). I also like antique dolls, playing Nintendo games, building Lego and Minecraft villages, Build a Bears, dollhouses, Harry Potter and Disney.
Yet despite me and my fellow females on the autism spectrum liking topics like these to an adult level, they’re never considered to be “nerdy” or “geeky” when they’re liked in adulthood (even though Lego, Minecraft and Nintendo could be an exception). Indeed many therapists and support workers have genuinely believed that I had an intellectual disability after knowing that those were my interests. It was their belief that people with autism were more fixated (to an adult level) on things commonly favoured by young boys.
Two of my younger siblings have an intellectual disability and there is nothing wrong or negative about that condition. But whenever my disability gets mistaken as being another, the specific support needs I do have aren’t being acknowledged or catered for.
Since the mid 90s when I missed my first ASD diagnosis (prior to successfully being diagnosed in 2005) the community’s understanding of autism, as well as how it affects females, has improved a lot. Though I’m positive that if we continue doing as well as we’re currently going, we’ll achieve perfection in another 25 years!