top of page

Accept Me; Embrace Me

Updated: May 31, 2023

Autism--or Autism Spectrum Disorder




Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)--is a neurological condition affecting an individual's ability to communicate, socialize, and interact with others. It's estimated that roughly 1 in 54 people in the United States are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), with males being diagnosed four times more frequently than females. In Canada, that number is approximately 1 in 66 children being officially diagnosed. But recent studies suggest that the actual ratio of males to females may be closer to 3:1, strongly suggesting that many women and girls are going undiagnosed and unsupported.


Historically, ASD has been studied almost exclusively in males, leading to a skewed understanding of the condition and missed opportunities for early intervention and support for women and girls. Being oin the Spectrum myself, I can attest that females present differently than their male counterparts, making it harder for them to receive a diagnosis and subsequent appropriate support.


The early criteria for diagnosing Autism were developed based on studies of boys. And in fact, the symptoms typically associated with ASD tend to be more pronounced in males. For example, boys with ASD may exhibit more obvious repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping or rocking, whereas girls with ASD may engage in more subtle forms of repetition, such as repeating phrases or scripts. Girls with ASD seem to be more adept at masking their symptoms by mimicking social cues or engaging in other compensatory behaviors, leading to delays in diagnosis.


And then there is the societal expectation that women should be socially adept and empathetic. Girls with ASD go unnoticed or are misdiagnosed with conditions such as anxiety or depression, because their social difficulties are attributed to shyness or a lack of confidence, rather than an underlying neurological condition.


The lack of diagnosis and support for women with ASD has significant negative impacts on our mental health, education, and employment opportunities. Without appropriate supports, we struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, and have difficulties forming and maintaining relationships. Some autistic women struggle in academic or professional settings that require strong social and communication skills.


To address this disparity, it's vital that we raise awareness of the differences in how ASD presents in women and girls, and train healthcare professionals, educators, and other support services to recognize and respond to these differences. More research is needed to develop effective diagnostic criteria and support strategies for women with ASD, and to ensure that women and girls are included in Autism research studies.


The need to identify and support women with Autism cannot be overstated. By recognizing the unique ways that ASD can present in women and girls, and by providing appropriate support and resources, we can improve the quality of life for millions of people affected by this condition.


What's the best way for mental health and social services workers to support an adult woman recently diagnosed with Autism?


"There is more to autism than the narrow representations we are often shown." (Kay Kerr, www.autisticwomeneverywhere.com). Many late-diagnosed women say receiving a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as an adult is validating, and a huge relief. According to Anna Berry, also quoted on autisticwomeneverywhere.com, "Finding out I'm autistic, finally having an explanation for why I could never be like everyone else, felt like pulling the cotton wool that had been in front of my eyes making everything hazy, and finally starting to see clearly for the first time."


Each person with ASD is unique and requires individualized supports depending on their particular needs. However, there are some general strategies that can be helpful in supporting adult women who have recently been diagnosed with ASD:


  • Educate yourself about ASD: As a friend, family member, or caregiver, it is important to learn about the characteristics of ASD and how they may affect a person's daily life. This can help you understand the challenges that your loved one may be facing and provide you with ideas for how you can support them.

  • Encourage self-advocacy: Encourage the woman to advocate for herself and her needs. Allow her to take the lead in discussions about her condition and support her decisions regarding the supports she needs.

  • Provide a safe and supportive environment: Create a safe and supportive environment that allows her to express her thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. This might include creating a quiet space where she can retreat when she needs to recharge, or offering support during stressful situations.

  • Seek out specialized support: Look for specialized support services, such as therapists or support groups, where she can find additional guidance and resources. These services can provide a safe and supportive environment where she can connect with others who have similar experiences and receive specialized advice.

  • Focus on strengths: Focus on her strengths rather than her challenges. Everyone with ASD has unique abilities and talents, and it is important to recognize and celebrate these strengths.

  • Encourage independence: Encourage her to become as independent as possible. This may include providing opportunities for her to practice daily living skills, such as grocery shopping or cooking, or providing assistance in finding employment or educational opportunities.

Supporting an adult woman recently diagnosed with ASD involves creating a supportive environment that encourages self-advocacy, seeks out specialized support services, and focuses on strengths and independence. With the right support and resources, individuals with ASD can lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.


"I now hold the belief that I have the right to engage in the everyday behaviours that come naturally to me, just like everyonr else." (Anna Berry)

24 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Doctoring the ASD Patient

For patients with autism to receive proper care, doctors and their clinical staff need to be knowledgeable of medical conditions commonly associated with autism. They need to understand Autistic patie

Comments


bottom of page