Are you a girl who's been diagnosed with autism or thinks they may be on the spectrum?
Do you not fit into the box of a 'typical' autistic person, commonly presented as a 'socially awkward male,' who is super obsessed with math, science, and computers?
I know I don't!
Hi, I'm Hollie! I have a YouTube channel where I make videos about life as a girl with autism and here is why you might be feeling like this.
There is a huge gap in the media when it comes to representing girls with autism/autistic girls.
When you see tv shows or films such as Atypical, Good Doctor, and A Word, it is always a leading male role. This doesn't accurately represent the whole autistic community. Scientists have found that females actually present different traits of autism, and by only showing autistic males in the media can cause misconceptions and stereotypes about autism.
Here are 4 things you need to know about autism in girls!
Lots of autistic girls actually LIKE SOCIALIZING.
One reason why girls' traits aren't as noticeable is due to MASKING.
Many autistic girls often suffer from other MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.
Lots of autistic aren't interested in MATHS, SCIENCE, OR COMPUTERS.
1. Lots of autistic girls actually LIKE SOCIALIZING.
Yes, you heard correctly! I know I do, I may have a small group of friends and may not like being in large groups, but I've actually found that socializing does wonders for my mental health, as I sometimes struggle with loneliness.
As I've said previously, autistic people are usually presented as socially awkward males who struggle to communicate with people in outer society. This image isn't always accurate and has made me question in the past whether I was even autistic at all, due to the simple fact that I enjoyed days out such as simple things like shopping, meals out, and even sometimes party's.
Don't get me wrong; I find socializing to be exhausting day in day out. I still love time on my own, but I love spending time with friends a couple of days a week and having fun.
So having autism isn't all about being socially awkward and having problems interacting with others. Autism is made up of so many traits; it's like a colour scheme, and not every autistic person has every trait.
Although being awkward is one of the most visible autistic traits and is what is broadcasted all over the media, and is definitely more common in males, many females don't have this trait, and just because they don't have the most 'obvious' trait doesn't make them any less autistic.
2. One reason why girls' traits aren't as noticeable is due to MASKING.
While many girls may sometimes struggle with social cues, it isn't as noticeable because many girls begin to mask from an early age. This is when girls put on an 'act' in a public setting that is more socially accepted.
When I say it's like an act, I really mean it. An example of me masking was when I was 12-14 years old in school. I used to pretend I was a character from my favourite tv show at the time,' gossip girl,' while I was in school.
I assigned everyone in my class a character (my school was a small independent school with a year of only 16 people ), and to make school somewhat bearable, I used to play the famous tv character Blair Waldorf from this show.
I adapted all her mannerisms and personality traits as I felt as if I couldn't truly be myself or didn't know how to be myself due to an extreme lack of confidence.
So I made up a wholly fictional character of myself. In some ways, this masking was what got me through high school, I became more confident, more chatty, and outgoing, but in an extreme sense, the friendships I formed in those years were based on a lie, I was in fact, a completely different person. It hasn't been since leaving school I've been able to reduce the amount I mask. Of course I will still do it at times maybe in situations where I don't know many people, but as I don't have to socialize with such a large number of people for 7 hours a day I find it easier to form one on one friendships where I can fully be myself.
Masking in autistic girls is extremely common as we seem to be more aware and conscious of the way people see us, what I mean by this is many girls won't want to be viewed as 'weird' by other peers, and many girls will feel the need to 'fit in' with other children at school. I can't speak for all autistic girls; however, this is how I felt and one of my reasons for masking and the fact I didn't know how to be myself in a highly social environment. I believe boys aren't as aware as girls of how they need to act to not be the 'weird kid' or the child who stands out for being different. It is a talent a lot of autistic girls have mastered, whereas boys haven't.
3. Many autistic girls often suffer from other MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.
This is one of the reasons girls aren't often diagnosed with autism. Girls often get misdiagnosed with mental health issues such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and personality disorders.
However, these mental health issues stem from the fact they might be autistic. I suffer from severe anxiety, which was highlighted in social situations.
For example, school was an incredibly stressful environment for me, which triggered extreme anxiety because I was always anxious about socializing. I'd go over and worry about everything that could go wrong, whether it would be me getting laughed at for some reason or the teacher would ask me to read in class. This caused me to feel physically sick each morning, as my body's reaction to being extremely stressed day in and day out.
As a result of my intense social anxiety, I had several mental health days off school. I also suffer from intrusive thoughts such as continually worrying that bad things will happen, such as my mum dying, etc., which, at times, caused insomnia. This is also an extremely common autism trait in girls. These traits can easily be misdiagnosed for separate mental health issues, as they aren't the typical traits for autism.
4. Lots of autistic aren't interested in MATHS, SCIENCE, OR COMPUTERS.
Many autistic girls often have 'special interests or talent' that aren't related to math, science, and computers. I know I don't for sure. I couldn't be the slightest bit interested.
Many autistic girls prefer to have special interests in more creative subjects such as arts, acting, dancing, etc. The polar opposite of how the media portrays autistic people.
Some girls may not have any 'special interests' at all like me. I don't have a hobby or talent. I would say I go through stages of being fixated on a tv series such as vampire diaries of gossip girl. Other than the ability to watch the telly for an extended period of time, I'm afraid that's where my talent ends.
So if you're autistic and you don't have a special talent, you're not alone, as I've been searching for that one thing I'm really good at for all my life.
Hopefully, that gives you a bit more information about life as a girl with autism, and if you are autistic, now you know you're not alone. Your traits might not be the 'typical' or 'common' autism traits, but they are every bit as real and as important as every autistic person isn't the same, and it's what makes each of you unique.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I'm Holly and I make videos on my YouTube channel about life as a girl with autism.
I post new a video every Sunday at 11am!
YouTube: Hollie Mabbott YouTube