Carrying on with a theme from my earlier review of this article by Maia Szalavitz that appeared in the March 1, 2016 Scientific American.
Autism is NOT just a boy thing!
This one is a pet peeve of mine. Because it delayed PanKwake’s diagnosis by about four years…and perhaps resulted in the school placement failure that led me to home educate her. (But that part does not bother me so much…as the Christians say…all things work together for the good.)
I knew from about the age of two that my child was not ‘normal’. By that I mean as the mother of six with a hobby of studying psychology and especially child development, I knew milestones and developmental pathways. And I knew PanKwake was not hitting hers on time.
- She did not speak with she was almost three.
- She preferred parallel play (playing alongside others rather than interacting with them).
- And I was just beginning to understand the sensory issues that remain her biggest challenge as an #HappilyAutistic young woman.
She was attending a brilliant community nursery at that point and the manager there noticed it was well. To the point that she called in the Early Years SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) for the council. That woman spent one-hour. ONE-hour observing PanKwake and working with her one-on-one (even then she excelled at one-on-one especially with adults). And her report…
While there are marked delays in development, AS A GIRL, it is expected that these will be self-correcting as she ages.
AS A GIRL!!!
Yes, if PanKwake had had a penis…she would have almost certainly been referred to the neurodevelopmental team for further investigations and likely diagnosis of autism – over three years earlier than she was.
Because even among professionals/’experts’ or perhaps that should read…especially among…there is still this myth…
Autism occurs four times more in boys that in girls.
The truth is that autism is DIAGNOSED more readily in boys than in girls. And the reasons why still are not clear. But possible explanations include:
- That very bias of the ‘experts’.
- Differing presentation in girls than in boys.
- Diagnostic criteria, evaluations, and tools that are skewed to look only for the male presentation.
- All of the above…and/or other things too.
Here is the truth…
- More and more girls are being diagnosed with autism.
- How that autism ‘looks’ is different in girls than in boys.
- Girls it seems may copy accepted societal norms more easily, i.e. masque.
- There is NOT a reliable measure/test/evaluation tool yet that is designed for girls/women or even one that is neutral.
So as a result of all this…
We just don’t honestly know if autism occurs more frequently in males than females.
Or more likely…we just notice it earlier and more often.
From my perspective as a parent of a wonderful, delightful, and PERFECT #neurodivergent child…KNOWLEDGE is power!
And if I had known earlier, I like to think that I could have done more for Pankwake…been more responsive to her sensory needs being the biggest regret that I have. I cringe every time I think about all those Saturday morning shopping trips…the cold of the freezer section, the florescent lights with their glare and popping, and worst of all…our neighborhood butchers! On a warm summer day, the smell in there could almost get to my neurotypical nose, what must it have done to my beloved PanKwake. Of course, even without the Big A word, I eventually figured that out…BUT?!?!?
That is the thing with being a parent…or even life…
You do the best you know how with the information and tools you have at the time.
But that does not help all the women and girls who are receiving their autism diagnosis after a lifetime of struggle and challenges…feeling like they are alone…that something is ‘wrong’ with them. When in truth…they are the next step in human evolution…part of A-Men…and #AutisticSuperHero.
So that is why we need to bust this myth…once and for all those girls to come.
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