Autism in Women: Why does it take so long to diagnose?

According to the National Autistic Society 700,000 people in the UK are on the Autism Spectrum and within this five times as many males as females are diagnosed. So why is this?

On 26thMarch this year Lucy Edwards interviewed seven women, all of who are on the autism spectrum and all of who weren’t diagnosed until they were well into adulthood. One of these women, Hannah a 28 year old PhD student from Cambridgeshire says ‘Women and girls often have a natural drive to fit in socially and so the symptoms they present with aren’t stereotypically ‘autistic’. Hannah and the other interviewees felt that doctors were more inclined to diagnose females with depression, anxiety, even Borderline Personality Disorder before considering autism. Claire a 35 year old psychologist from Fife, who wasn’t diagnosed until she was 32 said that in her psychology training they were taught about autism but; ‘We weren’t told about how it presents in women. We weren’t shown the diversity between the sexes.’

Today’s episode of Woman’s Hour (10thApril) featured an interview with Dr. Jo Toovey, a science teacher who specialises in SEN and who has autism. It wasn’t until Jo was doing her teacher training and her tutors noticed certain aspects of her behaviour that she was diagnosed. Jo is now campaigning for more research to be done into the identification and support of female learners with neurodiversity (ASD and ADHD). Let us hope she is heard. Let us hope the future sees a change.

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