Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are all individual and remarkable children. They all differ in their abilities and strengths as well as the areas of difficulty that they may struggle in and there is often also a marked difference between the profiles and personalities of boys and girls on the autism spectrum.
What makes girls with ASD present symptoms differently to boys?
Current statistics reveal that more boys are diagnosed with ASD than girls in our communities. There is an ongoing discussion of the possibility that many high-functioning girls presenting with ASD traits are being underdiagnosed.
Girls are often ‘picked up’ and referred for ASD assessment later on in life for a variety of different reasons, including missing out on intervention and support in the early years. Difficulties and concerns such as atypical socialisation with other children may not appear significant until social expectations and demands increase at an older age. Behavioural difficulties that are often present in boys with ASD do not always present similarly in girls and, therefore, these children can be overlooked in the early years.
Common differences between genders observed in girls with ASD include:
- Less behavioural concerns than boys
- Symptoms are often recognised as such later in life
- Having a shy or passive personality
- May have high literal language skills and perform well on standardised language testing
- Often creative and imaginative
- Difficulties are often not observed at school
- ‘Blending in’ and imitating appropriate social behaviours well
- Often have a desire for social interaction
- Age and gender appropriate interests such as animals, craft or people (which may be obsessive topics of interest)
- Signs of hyperlexia: high reading ability yet low comprehension of text
No two girls on the autism spectrum are exactly alike just as no two children are exactly the same. Early detection, assessment and intervention can provide children with the best start to achieving any goal they put their minds to. Misdiagnosis and later diagnosis can lead to social exclusion, bullying, feelings of isolation and potential mental health issues in these girls. Through goal-directed and engaging sessions, these girls can grow and build their social communication skills in a safe and supported environment.
For further information: Girls and Women on the Autism Spectrum (AMAZE Australia)
If you have any concerns with your child’s social communication development and would like further assistance by a child behavioural consultant or speech pathologist, please contact Kids At Max on (03) 9702 4447 to make an appointment in Melbourne today.
Written by Kids At Max Speech Pathologist