Diagnosing women and girls with autism

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Women and girls on the autism spectrum may be missed by professionals due to the differences in how autism presents in women and girls. In the Knowlege section, there's a fascinating talk on 'diagnosing women and girls' on the autism spectrum, given by Dr Judith Gould, Director of the Lorna Wing Centre for autism and expert in this area.

Have you had experience of diagnosing women and girls? What are the key issues to consider? How can we improve the current situation? Share your thoughts and ideas here!

Edited on February 23, 2017 - 9:20am

April 30, 2015 - 3:18pm

Sorry if that was opaque. I meant, I'm amazed it took people so long to work out that 'refrigerator mothers' were themselves on the spectrum. But not so amazing, when one considers that women are second-class citizens in many walks of life.


April 30, 2015 - 4:16pm

Well I would object to any form of the use or meaning of refrigerator mothers, it's hugely outdated and wildly inaccurate.  Autistic mothers do not make their children autistic by their parenting style in any way.  In fact, I have been recently very disappointed to see just how much there is on the internet "Aspie bashing" about people being hard-done-by because of being the partner or child of an autistic parent.  There is a lot of stereotyping going on and dangerous misrepresentations and generalist comments which damage the public view of autistic parents.  There are many great autistic mothers out there, who are very dedicated to parenting in the most "right" way possible, in comparison to many NT parents who fail on many levels.

October 15, 2016 - 7:10am

I am seeing increased numbers of girls with gender dysphoria and ASD type presentations. Frustratingly they are being responded to a Transgender and this aspect regarded as the sole issue. I fear many girls may end up with chemical and surgical treatments because their ASD is missed or ignored. CAHMS are meeting such girls twice and referring them to GIDS. The girls themselves have adopted Transgender as their new special interest, found S way to explain a sense of 'otherness' and are social media coached on presenting as Trans. Professional adults are failing a generation of ASD girls. As a teacher I am now reluctant to refer to CAHMS but advise GP referral to ASD first. 


October 15, 2016 - 1:32pm

BM I am so glad you are saying this.  I believe this myself, it's very worrying.  I read there are high rates of suicide with post-op transgenderists and it's a form of iatrogenic abuse not to correctly identify the difficulties and subject these girls and women to medical procedures that are in fact unwarranted.  It's a very serious issue that must be addressed.

October 15, 2016 - 8:27pm

Problem is who can safely speak up? Those who desist are embarrassed, Professionals are fearful, the public are ignorant, the media are seduced. The DSM V in 2013 has contributed to the problem and is unlikely to reverse and appear incompetent. At some point in History it will be the lobotomy of the 21st century, in mental health treatment.

October 15, 2016 - 8:33pm

To clarify I do not consider Autism a mental health issue but the consequences can and do lead to such issues. Particularly among undiagnosed young people. 


October 15, 2016 - 10:06pm

Indeed.  And perhaps the danger is greatest in the undiagnosed, because in those cases the professionals will not be looking at autism as a basis to explain the gender dysphoria, to see it as a representation of their atypical thinking and not actual transgender - and therefore likely more inclined to full steam ahead with medical options.  Are they even looking into mental ill-health caused by confusion about gender and 'fitting in' among autistics?  Dare I say it, some things have become 'trendy'.  In the rush to offer people choices and embrace differences, to be politically correct and allow human rights, are professionals sometimes blinded to looking at the underlying reasons?  Does the pendulum sometimes swing so far that way, that it blinds some professionals to other possibilities?  Many high-functioning autistics have a good vocabulary that belies the many differences in social and world understanding and atypical lived experiences.  Autistics often do the same things as neurotypicals for very different reasons.  So assumptions are made by others.

It brings to mind the Jurassic Park line from Jeff Goldblum - "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

It has the potential to be the most catastrophic decision for some people, in their lives.

October 17, 2016 - 3:13pm

Dr Sally Powis discusses how we can distinguish between gender identity disorder and issues connected to autism (such as special interests) in this Network Autism interview.

We're shortly going to be setting up a Gender Dysphoria Group on Network Autism for all those interested in sharing their resources and professional experience, so please do keep a look out for it. 

Many thanks,