Re-imagining the autistic female experience
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the collective term for the three recognised autism disorders - autism, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder - is diagnosed around four times more often in boys than in girls.
However since changes were made in the American Psychiatric Association's key publication Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5, there is a new single diagnosis that replaces the different subdivisions.
These changes have attracted some controversy in the autism community.
Researchers in the past five to 10 years have only started to question whether ASD may in fact be more common amongst females than has previously been thought.
Misdiagnosis of females with an ASD may be because the criteria used to diagnose the disorder has historically been predisposed towards the male presentation of ASD.
Also, importantly, females may be better able to adapt to, or compensate for, aspects of ASD symptoms than males.
This is sometimes referred to as the "camouflage hypothesis".
Because of how they camouflage their ASD traits, females are never referred for diagnosis.
They are then missed from the statistics even if they have the same signs and symptoms as their male counterparts.
Even people who have classic autism are still are given the run around from clinicians because autism is apparently "a boy thing".
My PhD project explores whether the 'camouflage hypothesis' is related to the conditioning of femininity in girls.
The conditioning of femininity is accomplished when females interact with others in a particular social context. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir but yes, masculinity and femininity are learned.