Characteristics of Females with ASD Level 1

"We think our daughter may have a form of autism due to her severe shyness, excessive need to have things just so, certain rituals she has with food, major touch sensitivity, a lot of anxiety, just to name a few. What are some of the signs to look for to help us decide if an assessment is in order?"

Females with ASD, or High-Functioning Autism. often present with a unique set of characteristics that can make diagnosing their disorder very difficult. In addition, their strengths often mask their deficits.

There has been considerable discussion among professionals about the way girls with ASD demonstrate their major characteristics. Some girls have obvious social difficulties, whereas others appear to have excellent skills because they imitate the behaviors of others (often without understanding them).



There are many females who do not receive a diagnosis, possibly because, compared to males, (a) they have fairly good social skills (particularly when interacting with adults in a one-to-one situation), (b) their special interests are different, and (c) their clinical presentation is different.

Sometime during childhood, a female with autistic traits will begin to know she is different compared to her peers. For example:


1. Due to adopting an alternative persona, she may begin to have problems of self-identity and low self-esteem

2. Due to observing and analyzing social behavior and trying not to make a social error, she may become emotionally exhausted

3. During the stress of adolescence, she may develop routines and rituals around food and a special interest in calories and nutrition that develops into the signs of an eating disorder

4. Her interests may be different to her peers in terms of intensity and quality of play

5. She may be an avid observer of human behavior and try to decipher what she is supposed to do or say

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6. She may be extremely sensitive to the emotional atmosphere at a social gathering

7. She may be like a chameleon, changing persona according to the situation

8. She may be more likely to apologize and appease when making a social error

9. She may be overly well-behaved and compliant at school so as not to be noticed or recognized as a different.

10. She may be vulnerable to “peer predators” who take advantage of her social immaturity

11. She may become increasingly aware of her social confusion and frequent faux pas, and thus prefer to be on the periphery of social situations

12. She may enjoy living in a fantasy world and creating a new persona

13. She may escape into the world of nature, having an intuitive understanding of animals, but not people

14. She may fear that her “true self” must remain secret because she is defective, thus she is almost always acting like someone else

15. She may have a pet that she views as a loyal friend

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16. She may have a single - but intense – friendship with another female who may provide guidance for her in social situations

17. She may have a strong desire to collect and organize her toys (e.g., dolls) rather than to share her toys with friends

18. She may have an aversion to the traditional concept of femininity

19. She may have an encyclopedic knowledge of specific topics

20. She may have an intense interest in reading and escaping into fiction

21. She may have an interest in ancient civilizations to find an old world in which she would feel at home

22. She may have an interest in other countries (e.g., France) where she would be accepted

23. She may identify with a fictional character (e.g., Harry Potter), who faces adversity but has special powers and friends

24. She may not be interested in the latest craze among her peers to be 'cool' and popular

25. She may not identify with her peers

26. She may not play with her toys in conventional ways

27. She may not want to play cooperatively with her peers

28. She may prefer non-gender specific toys (e.g., Lego)

29. She may prefer to play alone so that she can play her way

30. She may prefer to play with males, whose play is more constructive and adventurous than emotional and conversational

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31. She may suffer social confusion in silence and isolation in the classroom or playground, but she may be a different character at home

32. She may talk to imaginary friends, or write fiction at an early age

33. She may think that the way her peers play is stupid and boring

34. She may use imaginary friends that can provide companionship, support and comfort when she feels lonely

35. She may use passive-aggressive behaviors in order to control her family and/or social experiences


 
As young girls, many (but not all) females with ASD:

1. Apologize frequently and want to please others

2. Are an expert on certain topics

3. Are determined

4. Are honest

5. Are involved in social play, but are led by their peers rather than initiating social contact

6. Are kind

7. Are misunderstood by peers

8. Are more able to follow social actions by delayed imitation because they observe other kids and copy them, perhaps masking the symptoms of autism
 
9. Are more aware of - and feel a need to - interact socially

10. Are perfectionists

11. Are so successful at "faking it" that they only come to the attention of a therapist when a secondary mood disorder emerges

12. Are specially gifted in the areas of mathematics and engineering

13. Are very good at art

14. Are visual thinkers

15. Are well-liked by adults

16. Become a target of teasing

17. Do not ‘do social chit chat’ or make ‘meaningless’ comments in order to facilitate social communication

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

18. Enjoy solitude

19. Have a faster rate of learning social skills than males

20. Have a single friend who provides guidance and security for them

21. Have a special interest that is more likely to be unusual in terms of intensity rather than focus

22. Have difficulty knowing what someone else may be thinking or feeling

23. Have difficulty making friends

24. Have difficulty managing feelings

25. Have difficulty showing as much affection as others expect

26. Have difficulty taking advice

27. Have difficulty with writing skills

28. Have extremely detailed imaginary worlds

29. Have imaginary friends

30. Have interests that are very similar to those of neurotypical girls (e.g., animals, dolls, classical literature), and therefore are not seen as unusual

31. Have what is classified as a "male brain"

32. Make reliable and trustworthy friends

33. Mimic or even try to take on all the characteristics of someone they are trying to emulate

34. Notice sounds that others do not hear

35. Read fiction to help them learn about inner thoughts, feelings and motivations

36. Show little interest in fashion

37. Speak their minds (sometimes to the point of being rude)

38. Still need to be directly taught certain social skills

39. Try to understand a situation before they make the first step

40. Use doll play to replay and understand social situations

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