The Myth of Males vs Female Differences in Autism
Why are females less likely to be diagnosed with autism? In spite of the fact, that both males and females with autism have similar characteristics males are routinely diagnosed more frequently. In the article posted on the “The Employers Network for Neurodiversity Action website, ENNA, titled Autism in Women: What’s Different and What to Look Out For they suggest the difference in diagnosis rate is due to the fact that females on the autism spectrum are more likely to camouflage and/or mask their symptoms. It states that females use social strategies to adapt to their social limitations and therefore examiners don’t recognize their symptoms. For example a girl might make more eye contact even if it’s difficult because they recognize the social importance of eye contact. Is this really true?
In fact there are a segment of people on the autism spectrum, both male and female with the ability to camouflage and mask some of their symptoms, but males with this ability still often receive the correct diagnosis. What does the misdiagnosis of women say about the criteria examiners are using to make the diagnosis? Blaming the use of a strategy, such as “camouflaging” is a shortsighted excuse that blames the individual, not the system. Does the fact that some females “camouflage” their symptoms really address the fact that young girls are less likely to be diagnosed with autism?
Systematic Problems not Individual Ones
Could the diagnostic process, including testing and examiner bias, be more likely the reason for the difference in rates of diagnosis? Doesn’t the difference between male and females diagnostic rates suggest that testing protocols and symptom criteria demonstrate a preference for a particular type of client? It has become increasingly clear that many test and procedures are standardized primarily on white males, and therefore are not inclusive of the wide variations of characteristics presented by other genders and races. If the fact that girls with autism are under diagnosed is not enough to prove the limitation of the diagnostic process, then the additional fact that people of color are also under diagnosed should. In the end systematic sexism and racism built in to the diagnostic process does offer a better reason for the disparity. Furthermore we see the same gender trend with the ADHD diagnosis.
Let’s stop blaming the victim and look at the system. When there is a variation in one person, you look at the person, but when you see issues in groups, look at the process.
Finally, why does a diagnosis matter? Services, services, services with the diagnosis comes access to many types of services.
Ennaglobal. (2021, October 5). Autism in women: What’s different and what to look out for. Enna. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://enna.org/autism-in-women/