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'I was exhausted trying to figure it out': The experiences of females receiving an autism diagnosis in middle to late adulthood"

Read about the experiences of late-in-life women diagnosed late in life. 

Finding the True Number of Females with Autistic Spectrum Disorder by Estimating the Biases in Initial Recognition and Clinical Diagnosis

Could there be more females than males on the spectrum?

The Female Autism Phenotype and Camouflaging: a Narrative Review

For a deep dive into the Female Autistic Phenotype, check out this article. 

Physical health of Autistic Girls and Women: A Scoping Review

The body keeps the score! 

Females with Autism: An Unofficial List

Here's a concrete list of how autistic women go through life.

Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn't Designed for You

This book is based on a paradigm-shifting study of neurodivergent women.​

Girl in Piano Class

Woman on the Spectrum

Overlooked in Childhood

As the field of neuroscience continues to develop, there is an ever-increasing consensus among researchers that autistic women are dramatically undercounted. Well-intentioned, parents, teachers, and counselors often miss the opportunity to identify women on the spectrum. There are two major reasons for this unfortunate situation:

Reason 1

Girls Masking in Childhood

Even though girls may share many core traits of autism with boys, they often react externally to it in dramatically different ways. One difference in how boys and girls react is the degree to which they mask their autistic traits.


Masking is when a person puts on a “mask” to look the way others expect rather than show up in the world in a way that is natural and genuine. You can think of masking as camouflage. In other words, wearing something on the surface so you will not be noticed, yet fearing that you will be discovered. 


As compared to boys, girls are more capable of “masking” their social deficits. One theory that explains this superior female masking capability is that girls on the spectrum have innate “social mimicry skills” which enable the girls to more easily "fake it". Unfortunately, the mimicry usually operates at a superficial level, causing the girls to still miss the deeper emotional understanding. Also, social masking is harder for girls to pull off than boys since neurotypical girls often have more nuanced social and emotional dynamics than boys.  

Furthermore, girls are often more motivated to mask than boys. There usually is less parental and peer pressure for boys than girls to make social connections so the boys put less effort into it. The expectation for social connection can be intense for girls so they may put all their energy into “fitting in”, even though doing so may feel completely unnatural and leave the girls exhausted.

In summary, girls on the spectrum may look different than boys in the following ways:

  • Higher levels of pretend play

  • More mimicking of role models (without understanding the real social meaning)

  • Suppressing natural tendencies (such as special interests) to fit in

  • Acting quiet or shy at school (to fit in) but melting down at home (due to the emotional stress of masking during the day)

  • Special interests for girls may be focused on imaginary animals (unicorns), real animals, crafts, environment, appearance and celebrities as opposed to computers, video games and transportation for boys (although these commonly crossover)

  • Suffer from emotional bullying as opposed to boys who experience physical bullying (again, these cross over)

  • Girls are more likely to internalize anxiety leading to depression while boys tend to behave more aggressively or have meltdowns

  • For a more exhaustive list, see Tania Marshall’s blog.

This masking behavior can come at great cost, creating a constant worry of “Am doing it right?” and “Will I be discovered to be a fraud?”; thus, leaving many autistic girls feeling highly anxious and emotionally exhausted.

Reason 2

Male-centric Clinical & Research Focus

There is a second reason that girls/women are overlooked for ASD diagnosis. Since the early days of recognition of what was called Asperger’s (now ASD), the research was largely conducted by male researchers on male patients. The fundamental assumption was that autism was primarily a condition that belonged to males. Accordingly, the criteria for diagnosing autism and the methodologies for assessment became biased to identify male clients.

This framework leaves many women outside of or on the borderline of the parameters for a clear ASD diagnosis so they end up without a diagnosis and little hope for a healing path forward. Even worse, they may be misdiagnosed as having ADHD, Major Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As expected, a misdiagnosis may lead to suboptimal treatment and extreme frustration and disappointment.

Differences Continue to Adulthood

Of course, young girls grow into women and the unequal treatment continues into adulthood along with the emotional struggles.

Here are a few examples of how adult men and women present differently in adulthood:​

  • Adult autistic females are more comfortable than their male counterparts when interacting on a one-on-one basis. The women may often report that they have a few friends but would typically meet with them individually, not in a group. Men on the spectrum often report no friends.

  • Adult autistic females are more likely to find a romantic partner, often putting a lot of effort (masking) in order to overcome loneliness. Men on the spectrum typically have more difficulty navigating the rules of romance, although this may be offset by lower expectations of romance from men.

  • Adult autistic females are more likely to have the primary responsibility for parenting than autistic males. In spite of the pleasures of being a parent, children have never-ending emotional needs which can be confusing and overwhelming to a woman on the spectrum.

Real Struggles

Given the forces that lead autistic girls and adult women to be overlooked and under-supported, many females believe that something is fundamentally wrong with them, thus feeling sad, lonely, and defective. These difficult emotions may lead to serious mental health conditions in women.


In fact, studies show that women have more struggles than males on the spectrum including higher levels of anorexia, social anxiety, and self-harm. Still, men suffer as well, having a higher incidence of hyperactivity, conduct disorders, and stereotyped (repetitive) behaviors than autistic women. It is worth noting that these more typical male conditions are more visible and thus may contribute to the males being noticed, most often during childhood in the classroom, and thus receiving a diagnosis.

How We Can Help

Although our support is always uniquely crafted to your personal needs, the work often ends up with some combination of the following:

  • Understanding the strengths and challenges of your differences

  • Consideration of a formal diagnosis

  • Building a life centered on healing and self-acceptance (freedom from shame)

  • Making peace with your past

  • Finding and practicing of constructive patterns of communication

  • Building a plan for reducing social anxiety

  • Discovering emotions and how they can be helpful

  • Managing sensory stimulation

  • Understanding and building relationships

  • Exploring sexuality in light of your differences

  • Understanding the impact of your differences on professional, relational, and life goals

  • Support for related issues such as depression, ADHD, overwork, anxiety, and addiction

  • How to support other neurodiverse girls and women

There are many benefits of focused therapy for neurodiverse women but, perhaps the most important, is to provide a safe and non-judgmental place to discuss your experiences. We look forward to hearing from you.

"Male" Research
Signs of ADHD in Women

Signs of ADHD in Women

#adhd #adhdwomen #ADHDinwomen What Are the Signs of ADHD in Women? It's important to note that everyone's experience with ADHD is unique, and not all women with ADHD will exhibit the same signs or symptoms. Additionally, these symptoms can also be attributed to other conditions, so it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional or mental health provider for a comprehensive evaluation and accurate diagnosis. What Are the Signs of ADHD in Women? • Relationships • Social Life • Work • School • Daily Life As always thank you for watching your support means the world to me. If you want to help fund more videos consider donating to my Patreon account. I love making videos for my subscribers. If you would like to support the cause feel free to donate at: 🦄🚨⬇️START HERE]🚨⬇️🦄 ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 🚨✅ Etsy Store Cheat Sheets: 💯NCLEX TEST SECRETS: NCLEX-Test Taking Strategies Course 👉🏼 ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 🔔SUBSCRIBE👉🏼 ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 🗣TALK TO ME ON MY SOCIAL MEDIA! Instagram ► Facebook► Facebook Private Group► EMAIL: LEGAL DISCLAIMER: These videos are intended for educational purposes only and not intended to be used to guide clinical practice. Although we strive for 100% accuracy in all of our videos, errors may occur. Never treat a patient or make a nursing or medical decision based on the information provided on this channel or in our videos. Never practice nursing or medicine unless you have a proper license to do so. Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise infringe. Use of this Information The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. Or specific/personal medical advice from me to you. Watching the videos or getting answers to comments/question, does not establish a nurse practitioner-patient relationship. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult his or her personal physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader's situation. Affiliate Links 📸 Camera I use: Sony camera ZV1: 🚨🚨🚨🚨 Spanish Made Easy USE MY AFFILIATE LINK FOR $30 OFF 🚨🚨🚨 😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱 Affiliate Link: 💡 Lighting: LimoStudio Photography Photo Portrait Studio 660W Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit, LMS103 👩🏻‍💻 How I create my Thumbnails VIDIQ Affiliate Program Affiliate Disclaimer Note this description contains affiliate links that allow you to find the items mentioned in this video and support the channel at no additional cost to you.  While this channel may earn minimal sums when the viewer uses the links, the viewer is in NO WAY obligated to use these links.  Thank you for your support.
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