• Pip

But Girls Can't Have Autism!

(This is a post from an anonymous friend of the library)

It is widely acknowledged that boys and men are diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder much more frequently, and often at an earlier stage in their lives, than girls and women. I was diagnosed as autistic – more specifically, as having Asperger’s Syndrome - when I was in my mid twenties, and from what I understand, that is still a relatively early age for a woman to be diagnosed.

Pre-diagnosis, I began to realise I was different to my peers when I entered my teenage years. My interests, coupled with my difficulties with social interaction, meant I always felt removed from other girls my age. It was as if there was a veil between me and the world which I couldn’t push aside; I felt confused, upset, angry and most vividly, alone. To the adults in my life at the time, my standing apart from my peers was because I was academic and loved reading. Books, music, and movies became not just my hobbies, but my way of coping with a world that I didn’t understand, and that didn’t understand me.

University brought old and new challenges, and although I thrived in many ways (enjoying my course and making real friends for the first time in years) severe anxiety shadowed me, until it got to the point when I spoke to my GP and was put on medication to help me control it. Even at this point, the possibility that I was autistic didn’t cross my mind.

It took an Autism Spectrum Quotient test, much thought on my side and an understanding GP for me to receive my diagnosis, and what I remember most is the overwhelming sense of relief I felt when I received it. It felt like a door that had been closed to me for years suddenly opened.

For me, being diagnosed definitely changed my life – mainly for the better - in that I finally feel more able to be my own person, although I won’t deny that there are still challenges I face as an autistic woman in our current society, on a professional and a personal level.

There is still much to be done for autistic women. The lack of understanding of how autistic girls present differently to autistic boys needs to be addressed, so that more girls are diagnosed earlier and receive the support they need in childhood and adolescence. Autistic women need to be listened to more than they currently are: their life experiences taken into account to help the autistic girls of the future. 

I am an autistic woman and this is my story.

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