Until very recently, autism has been viewed as a male disorder. Statistics have shown that boys diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder outnumber girls at a rate of 4:1. However, Maria Szalavitz provides three good reasons to question these figures, in her 2016 article in Scientific American, “Autism – It’s Different in Girls.”
First, the foundational research on autism had been conducted on boys, meaning that the criteria on which an autism diagnosis is made are based on the presenting characteristics of boys. Second, girls have been less likely to be given an autism diagnosis unless they exhibit more extreme behaviors than boys and have an intellectual disability. Third, autistic girls are different from autistic boys in significant ways which have led to them being overlooked.
Recent research has found that girls on the autism spectrum make more effort to learn and mimic social rules, go to greater lengths to camouflage their social differences, have a stronger desire to connect, and are less likely to exhibit repetitive behavior and obsessive interests. Girls like Nikki very easily fly under the ASD radar. Many are misdiagnosed, diagnosed at later ages or as adults, or never diagnosed at all.