There is a hidden face to Autism, which we are only just beginning to uncover. The disorder, which manifests itself as difficulties in communicating and connecting socially, as well as causing repetitive behaviours and obsessions, is widely seen as a predominantly male condition. An image of ‘Rain Man’ is immediately conjured when many consider the disorder. This image has been littered throughout the media in recent years, giving a biased view of what being autistic looks like and what it means. A more plausible view is that the disorder affects females in identical ways, but the female brain interprets and handles these impairments differently. The implication is that there is a hidden population of females with autism who may never be identified or supported; furthermore, many are also misdiagnosed and thus incorrectly treated, leading to repercussions that are severe and often traumatic. If the condition is not caught then this can have a tremendous damaging effect on young girls’ social developments as well as their educational development during school or university years.
But this does not have to be the case. Autism is a developmental disorder, present from birth. If we were able to change our view of autism and learn more about these women, then they too could be identified from childhood and supported throughout their lives.
I am currently conducting research as part of a PhD programme at Anglia Ruskin University, supervised by Dr Steven Stagg. I will be posting regular updates on this work once I get going. If you wish to find out more or contribute at all please contact me.