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Autism in females

In recent years there is an increased understanding of the ways in which autism specifically affects women and girls, and this is somewhat different to our understanding of how autism may typically present itself.

The school, college or work environment can be very stressful, where social interactions in groups and understanding what is expected in relationships is extremely difficult. Females often report that from a young age they felt on the “outside” of social groups, sometimes watching from afar, and that friendships are difficult to establish and maintain. Sometimes girls become particularly attached to one or two friends. 

Girls can feel a pressure to socially fit in, and so develop various ways of hiding, disguising or masking their difficulties. Examples include studying other people's social body language to learn social behaviour, forcing regular eye contact, studying films or TV programmes to learn about social interaction and emotions, practicing/rehearsing social conversations before they happen, making lists about what to talk about, gravitating towards people who are extravert/talkative.

On top of these social difficulties at school, women and girls report that at school sensory issues (noisy classrooms/dining rooms, smells, bright lights) may have led to them feeling overwhelmed and sometimes very anxious.

Women and girls report that at school they may have been bullied or teased. The stresses and pressures they experienced at school, coupled with the effort taken to hide their struggles led to them feeling physically exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed. This may have resulted in mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, or eating issues.

At Autism Kent, the women we have met often explain that they have continued to experience these types of difficulties following school such as at university and in the workplace.

Almost every day here at Autism Kent we speak to women and girls who are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed because of the pressure they feel to “fit in”. This, coupled with sensory sensitivities, difficulties with change, and not understanding why they see the world differently can sometimes feel unbearable for the individual. We hear about their need to spend extended time resting after a social event or at the end of the working day. Clients often refer to this as their need to “decompress”. Equally, women and girls describe how they can gain comfort and relaxation from engaging in enjoyed interests and activities, or through sensory stimuli they are drawn to.

Here at Autism Kent, we hope that all the women and girls that we meet will eventually reach a point where they feel able to live comfortably with their strengths and needs associated with autism.

For further information please contact us on: Telephone: 01227 656953  Email: info@autismkent.co.uk.