How Girls on Autism Spectrum Continue to Remain Invisible
Lexington County,SC: Autism rates have been steadily increasing over the years, but researchers have also seen interesting changes. There is one demographic of the population feeling left out and without adequate attention: Girls!
As boys get diagnosed more often, is it fair to say autism is gender biased?
Sometimes, it is nearly impossible to guess whether a girl child has ASD or not. Michelle Hunt says that this is the case with her daughter, Anna Neal. Anna was diagnosed with autism at a young age, but it doesn’t show in her appearance. Hunt explains that, “About the time she should have been babbling more and pointing more, we started noticing that she was losing interest in people.”
, Hunt said.
Anna Neal goes to school and leads a normal and active social life; this was made possible by acquiring an early diagnosis. Her mother says, “She, of course, rides horses. She rides jet skis. She bowls with the Special Olympics. She plays full-court tennis; she and I play doubles together for the Special Olympics. So she’s able to do a lot of different things, but like I said, her main issue is speech and we work on that daily.”
Anna’s mother further highlights an important fact: “If you stopped us in a restaurant and tried to carry on a conversation with her, asking different questions, you would start getting the repetitive speech and that type of thing and you would think, ‘OK something is not quite right.’ But just at first glance on a good day, you know, you would never be able to tell.”
This is one of the major reasons why girls sometimes fail to be diagnosed at an earlier stage in life compared to boys. Toni Boucher highlights these differences. She teaches the differences between autistic girls and boys through her close knit seminars.
Boucher says, “What research is showing us is that girls and women on the spectrum are very, very different. They are biologically different. They’re neurologically different. And they are behaviorally different from their male counterparts.”
Boucher further says, “Assessment tools that are developed for autism are male-biased. They used males to determine what the autistic characteristics are.”
Another important point regarding autism diagnosis is the Intelligent Quotient (IQ) of an individual. Girls with an IQ below 70 are diagnosed early, whereas those who score above 70 often end up with a misdiagnosis or without diagnosis at all until much later in their lives.
Experts as well as parents seem to be on common ground when it comes to an early diagnosis, as everyone believes early diagnosis holds the key to successful treatment. Hunt says that her daughter’s early intervention has helped her sail smoothly and has played an important role in her life; though she also admits that she is unsure of what the future holds for her child.
Toni Boucher, as well as Michelle Hunt, highlight the importance of research and agree that more of it is required to solve the autism puzzle. Hunt says, “Autism is still a mystery, and probably will be for a long time. We did not plan on this path, but I am blessed and honoured that God chose us to be her parents.”