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The Female Version of High-Functioning Autism

"Do girls experience high functioning autism differently compared to boys?"

Yes, however far fewer females are diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) than males. Earlier, the ratio was believed to be 1 girl to every 10 boys was diagnosed with HFA. Currently however that ratio is believed to be more in the range of 1 girl to every 4 boys. As professionals become more familiar with the diagnostic criteria, more females appear to be receiving the HFA diagnosis.

Generally, it is believed that females experience a much milder form of the difficulties associated with HFA. American society emphasizes and pushes females to develop strong social skills at an early age. This may benefit females with HFA by helping them learn compensatory skills or address any deficits earlier in life.

Alternatively, it has been suggested that females use different coping strategies when dealing with social situations. Females tend to hide in social situations, and remain on the periphery. This allows them to observe the behaviors of others, and once comfortable with the process, to mimic those behaviors (e.g., facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice).

Doll play allows younger females to re-experience social situations, replay them, alter them, and learn from them. Females also often have invisible friends (a safe tool to use when practicing social skills). Among females, HFA may express itself more through immaturity. Topics of special interest also may not be as intense as the interests exhibited by males.

Areas of special interest for girls seem to be different from those of boys. Their preoccupations center more on animals and classical literature. The long-term prognosis for females with HFA also seems better than for males, largely because of their ability to hide their difficulties from others over time.

Some very popular books specifically related to girls on the autism spectrum include the following:

More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said... Thank you for this post. I completely agree with what you are saying. I may very well be a woman with HFA, and reading this was like looking back in time at my childhood. I didn't have an imaginary friend but I had a lot of animal friends and an extreme interest and preoccupation with people and why they acted as they did and what made them who they were. I spent years watching people closely and learning how to mimic their behaviors to fit in a little better. This article brings up some valid and important points. I hope lots of people will read and learn from it.

Anonymous said...My daughter was recently diagnosed with Asperger's at 5 years old. I am a special eduction teacher and know what to look out for. The doctor that tested her for HFA shared girls who present like my daughter are typically diagnosed in high school when social situations become much more complicated. I am so pleased to be getting the additional support now because there are great resources like speech therapy, OT, and social skills groups. These professionals and programs are wonderful and have helped my daughter, my husband and myself become a much happier household! 

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