Autism has been seen as a “male condition” for many years. Studies around the disorder have mostly involved male cohorts, while professionals have failed to recognize the different ways autism manifests in women and girls. There is growing evidence that the number of girls affected by the condition has been underestimated, and thousands of women are living with undiagnosed autism. The lack of information and attention towards girls with autism has been called by Professor Francesca Happé, Director of Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London, a “gender equality issue.” The failure to diagnose autism is a concern because many of the women affected experience mental health issues, as they can’t make a sense of why they feel “different.” A diagnosis can help girls and women find acceptance, as well as enabling them to understand themselves fully.
For Further Reading:
Autism was said to be caused by an “extreme male brain.” This theory has long been criticized, and researchers have shown the complex relationship between gender norms and autism. Here you can read more about autism and its “masculine” traits.
Reflect on how autism has been represented in media. Can you think of any female characters portraying the condition?
Here’s a petition you can sign to help support autism research.