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Autism in Girls: The Signs Can be Different

Autism in Girls: The Signs Can be Different

While autism has been reported to occur more frequently in boys, differences in characteristics of autism in girls leads many girls to go undiagnosed. Because early diagnosis and intervention is key to supporting children with autism and improving their ability to function as adults, it’s vital to spot the signs of autism in girls as early as possible. 

The PediaPlex team provides expert diagnosis and a range of therapies for children with autism, ADHD, communication, and sensory-motor differences. We understand that children vary differently on the spectrum, and we aim to help your child develop their abilities with the full support of a multidisciplinary team using evidence-based therapeutic approaches

Autism is a developmental difference characterized by two types of atypical behaviors: communication and social skill deficits, and limiting or repetitive behaviors. Also, children with autism typically have sensory processing difficulties.

However, the traditional model of autism has turned out to mostly characterize males with autism. Girls tend to have more subtle characteristics, which can lead them to slipping through the cracks. 

Here are some of the key ways autism is presented differently in girls.

Struggles with regulating emotions

Girls with autism frequently struggle to manage their emotions. People with autism have differences in the prefrontal cortex — part of the brain regarded as the emotional center. Frequent frustrations and meltdowns over seemingly minor issues should clue you in that something deeper is going on.

Girls with autism manage their emotions at school better than boys who have the syndrome. This means teachers may not notice any difference in your child’s behavior. If your child struggles with emotion regulation at home, but seems to behave better at school, this may clue you in that something is amiss. 

Obsessive interests

Autistic males and girls both have specific, passionate interests. People with autism frequently want to know every detail about their chosen topic.

While boys' interests are often focused on specific items or things, girls' interests are often broad, covering how the mind works and people.

Girls with autism may have little to no interest in topics outside of their specific interest and seem unconcerned about the reaction of others. This may make it difficult for her to join groups or make friends.

Sensory challenges

While boys and girls with autism are often sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, or strong smells, girls are often less outspoken about it. A girl with sensory challenges may mask her symptoms by steering clear of places that are loud, such as outdoor festivals or concerts. 

She may not outwardly show signs of having sensory challenges. Boys on the other hand may yell and cover their ears and tell people with them that they don’t like the noise. 

Social challenges

Girls with autism tend to have a greater desire than boys with autism to fit into social situations. Because of this, girls are better at mimicking the social interactions of others. This is referred to as camouflaging or masking. Since girls are often better at masking, it can be easy to miss the signs that they may have autism.

Even girls who are skilled at masking may show other signs. Many girls with autism have difficulties making or maintaining eye contact. Some girls are good at forcing themselves to make eye contact, but for many it may feel unnatural or difficult.

Girls with autism are likely to be seen as shy or quiet instead of withdrawn. Very young girls may rely on classmates to speak for them and may depend heavily on another girl in class to guide them in social situations.

Undiagnosed autistic girls end up asking "what's wrong?" with them, which can lead to sadness, anxiety, and loss of self-esteem. Missing the early signs can cause girls to miss out on crucial early support. 

If you’re a parent with a girl who you think is on the spectrum, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to provide guidance and support you every step of the way. Get started today by calling one of our offices in Southlake, Fort Worth, or Frisco, Texas to schedule an evaluation

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