The Autism Toolbox: Girls and ASD

This "Toolbox" brings together advice, local support, services, activities and resources relating to autism. The name toolbox has been chosen to reflect that anyone, with or without an autism diagnosis, parents and professionals can make use of this information which covers various topics. This section is about girls and autism and Aspergers.

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In this section (Jump to)

Articles

Events and Awareness

The Girl With The Curly Hair Project

Dating and Relationships

Friendship

Books

Local activities and support

Videos and Blogs

Autism presentation in girls


 

Articles 

How do women and girls experience autism?

This informative article on The National Autistic Society website explores how autism is often overlooked in girls and women.

  

Events and Awareness

Women and Girls Conference

The women and Girls Conference happens annually and brings together experts in the field of autism such as researchers, practitioners, and autistic women themselves – to explore issues, share their most recent findings, and give tips on the latest best practice. The cost for an individual to attend is around £95.

Find out more about the Women and Girls Conference

My Inner Life with Asperger's

Alix Generous' TED Talk; a young woman with a million and one ideas — she's done award-winning science and helped develop new technology.

  

The Girl With The Curly Hair Project 

An animated series based on one girl, Alis Rowe, who has autism but went through childhood not realising she was Autistic. The series is made up of short videos and animations, each on a particular stage of experience such as A day at primary school.

Find out more about The Girl With The Curly Hair.

  

Dating and Relationships  

Online Dating for Young People with Autism

This article by Ambitious about autism features Tom Morgan, who is on the autistic spectrum and appeared on Channel 4’s The Undateables. The article covers Tom's story and tips for Online dating for those with Autism.

Partners of autistic people

A guide by The National Autistic Society (NAS) looking at partners' experiences, diagnosis, counselling and other support and having children with an autistic partner.  

Find more information on dating and online safety in the Staying Safe section of The Autism Toolbox.

   

Friendship

Online Community | National Autistic Society

The Community is a discussion forum for autistic people, their families and other wider network. It allows you to meet online and share your thoughts and experiences. It’s free to join and a great way to share support.

  

Books

I am an Aspie Girl

A book for young girls with autism spectrum conditions.

Author(s): Bulhak Paterson, Danuta Bulhak-Paterson | Published: 2015

Price: around £8

A Guide to Mental Health Issues in Girls and Young Women on the Autism Spectrum: Diagnosis, Intervention and Family Support

This book addresses the specific mental health needs of girls and young women with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Looking at the ways autism presents differently in girls than in boys, and the mental health conditions that occur most frequently in girls with ASD, this is the essential guide for clinicians and educators on tailoring interventions and support to meet girls' needs.

Find more books in the Library and Resources section of The Autism Toolbox.

Price: around £12 to £16

  

Local activities and support 

Autism Friendly Youth Clubs


Autism Support Groups


Parent and Carer Support groups

Relate - Mid Thames and Buckinghamshire

A local charity serving Buckinghamshire (except Milton Keynes) and East Berkshire (Windsor, Maidenhead and Slough). They help all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. They can help you whether you’re in a new relationship, in a long-term relationship, or not currently in a relationship at all and have trained counsellors.

Find out more about Relate

  

Videos

What is Autism? | Video

This video gives you information about autism and Asperger's.

  

What Women With Autism Want You to Know | Iri

Women's Blog Iris have produced this video on What Women With Autism Want You to Know.

 

Autism presentation in girls

In “Autism: The NICE Guideline on the management and support of children and young people on the Autism Spectrum” which was commissioned by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, there is only a fleeting reference to the issues concerning the diagnosis of girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autism is far more often diagnosed in males than in females and there is concern that many girls with autism may be unrecognised. In clinic samples, females are more likely to show accompanying intellectual disability (for example, Mandy et al., 2012). There is little known about possible differences in the presentation of autism in males and females, especially in those of high intellectual ability, but clinical reports suggest that girls are better at ‘apparent’ sociability, and although their interests may be intense and overly focused they are not so unusual in topic.

The National Autistic Society website states that:

There are a number of theories that might explain why more men and boys than women and girls get an autism diagnosis.

  • that there is a ‘female autism phenotype’, which doesn’t fit with the profile usually associated with men and boys on which assessment tools are usually based – leading to underdiagnosis in women and girls. Diagnostic tests for women and girls should be modified accordingly

  • that autism is an exaggeration of normal gender differences

  • the ‘extreme male brain’ theory of autism possibly caused by the effects of foetal testosterone on brain development

  • that genetic differences mean that girls are less likely to inherit autism than boys

  • that, overall, men and boys tend to be more susceptible to organic damage than women and girls (Rimland, 1964), whether through hereditary disease, acquired infection or other conditions. Since it is now almost universally accepted that there is an organic cause for autism, it is possible that boys are more likely to be autistic

  • that women and girls are better at masking or camouflaging their difficulties

  • autism traits in girls are under-reported by teachers

In 2011, Gould and Ashton-Smith published a paper entitled “Missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis: girls and women on the autism spectrum” in “Good Autism Practice”. The abstract to that paper was that: There is increasing awareness that we are missing girls and women on the autism spectrum and the assumption that many more boys and men have autism or Asperger syndrome is being challenged. There is a need to consider the extent to which females on the autism spectrum present differently from males and to explore whether they have different needs. This would then have implications for the systems, instruments and processes used for diagnosis and for the types of interventions offered. This paper makes a start at investigating this area and gives some evidence on the potential differences between males and females with autism. Suggestions are made on how diagnostic questions might be altered to identify some females on the spectrum who might otherwise be missed.

In 2017 Dean, Harwood and Kasari published a paper in “Autism” entitled “The art of camouflage: gender differences in the social behaviours of girls and boys with autism spectrum disorder” – The results indicated that “the female social landscape supports the camouflage hypothesis; girls with autism spectrum disorder used compensatory behaviours, such as staying in close proximately to peers and weaving in and out of activities, which appeared to mask their social challenges.”

Within the Buckinghamshire Neurodevelopmental Pathway, screening tools and assessment tools such as ADOS are used, however when the outcomes are discussed by the multi-disciplinary panel, the clinicians also consider the child/young person’s presentation and behaviours during the assessment, and at home and school.  It is recognised that girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder will often present later and with different areas of concern to boys.   They are often overlooked within the educational setting until they are teenagers and social and educational pressures increase and they become less able to mask their disorder.