Autism now affects 1 in 59 children in the United States. There is a ton of information out there on symptoms, but those symptoms seem very specific to boys. Only in the last few years has there been true research to understand the Symptoms of Autism in Girls.
Along the journey to our daughter’s diagnosis, I desperately looked for information online of autism symptoms in girls. This was four years ago now, but the information wasn’t there.
The only information I could come across was Aspergers in girls. While Aspergers has been a diagnosis on the spectrum (until the DSM 5), it is not the only form of autism a female can have.
While autism does present differently in girls, there are still core symptoms associated with autism no matter what gender is of the individual. Autism is a developmental disability. It affects the way individuals communicate, behave, or interact with others. There is no one cause for autism, and it affects everyone differently. These symptoms can range from mild to very severe.
All individuals with autism display difficulties in the following three areas:
- communication (verbal & non-verbal)
- relationships – Struggling with relating to others & their environment
- lack of thought & behavior flexibly
Symptoms of Autism in Girls – It’s Different!
In 4 months, our son received an autism diagnosis at 23 months old. We noticed symptoms very early on. When he started regressing in his
Our son showed a ton of red flags for Autism. Regression in speech, obsession with trains and order, spinning, inconsistent eye contact, and so on.
Both of our daughter’s journeys were very different. We received a diagnosis for them at age 8 & 11! My own autism diagnosis came at age 33! As you can imagine, autism symptoms in girls can be different enough to impact diagnosis!
What are Autism symptoms in girls?
Autism is a field that is constantly learning. Today, I am sharing the symptoms of autism in girls that our youngest daughter showed. These are quite similar to my personal experiences, as well as my oldest daughters. However, we also each have our own unique experiences with autism. Where one thrives, the other struggles.
If you believe your child may have
All of her emotions are so extreme! When she is happy, it’s overwhelmingly happy. If the pencil she likes breaks she not just sad, she’s extremely upset and you would think someone ran over her dog. all of her emotions, no matter which is so intense.
She had a speech delay (no regression) at 2 years old. She still has a lisp and has trouble with “r” and “l” sounds that are in the middle of the word.
When it comes to touch, she has to have very soft clothing with no tags. When it comes to noise, she is quite the opposite of my son with autism. Overwhelming noise and sight actually make her hyper. Rarely those will cause a meltdown like emotionally & social situations. Instead, she starts twirling, jumping, running, bouncing, and speaking extremely loud for the situation
Social & Emotional Immaturity
She is socially and emotionally several years behind her biological age. She prefers to play with kids 3-4 years younger than her. Her play with toys also resembles that of a child much younger.
When it comes to symptoms of autism in girls (and boys!), understanding others’ emotions is a huge struggle! This is definitely an issue with all three of our autistic children. Our youngest daughter does understand others’ emotions, but not at the moment. She only understands after you point out a sad face, frustrated tone, or other emotional cues that can be seen. She cannot pick up these cues on her own.
She has always had some problems with sleeping. Even when she was around one or so, she rarely could get to sleep on her own or at a reasonable time.
Her anxiety can be quiet bad at times. This is a separate diagnosis as well, but a lot of it stems from not understanding things. Tasks were often completely ignored by her, simply because of the anxiety of doing them wrong.
She is constantly spinning around. I didn’t think much of it when she was little, because she was a little girl twirling around. I didn’t realize that this was more than the “normal”
She has always been clumsy. Bumps and bruises. We always thought that she was just tiny and clumsy. Occasionally doctors would ask questions about the amount, but no one ever had suggestions to offer.
Poor Muscle Tone
Catching a ball isn’t possible. She can’t run far. She constantly complains of her legs being tired even when walking through a store.
Problems Playing with Others
Another major one on the list of symptoms of autism in girls is difficulties with social interactions. Our daughter struggles with maintaining friendships. The most common issue we come across is her being “bossy” and “controlling.”
She doesn’t understand relationships and tries to act like a parent to older siblings as well as adults. Even when speaking to adults, she does not speak as if she is a child.
Can’t Let Go
This is a big one. No matter how small the issue may be to us if she feels she has been wronged she cannot let it go, even after a solution has been given. This also includes not being able to understand when something isn’t an issue that involves her.
Best Friend Issues
This is where we have a hard time understanding that not only can we have more than one friend, but our friends can also have other friends. Often times, she has come home from school crying that someone won’t play with her.
After getting to the bottom of it, most times it’s because someone else was also playing with them and she didn’t have the friend to herself
Inconsistent Eye Contact
This was one that even her Dad didn’t notice. She as adapted well without early intervention but struggles with keeping eye contact. Most times, she will make eye contact briefly once and rarely again in the remainder of a conversation.
I only began to notice it after my son’s diagnosis, but the psychiatrist noticed it immediately. A huge factor in understanding the symptoms of autism in girls starts with parents recognizing symptoms.
Intensity of Interests
This is where things get hard. Most of her interests are similar to other girls her age, however, the intensity in those interests is much more. She loves tiny puppy dolls, but she has a collection of over 100 and knows every detail about every one of them. Some of her interests are unconventional though. She also has an obsession with collected empty toilet paper rolls (to use for crafts, but never does, just collects) as well as pine cones. She even crafts habitats for the tiny pine-cones.
Unexpected transitions and a lack
She relates to nature more than other people. She would rather talk to any animal than a person. Her interest in the outdoors in very intense and very knowledgeable.
Struggles with Communication
Another autism symptom in girls is that many struggle greatly with conversations. Our daughter does talk a lot now, more than most. However, when she initiates a conversation, she tends to start midway
This list serves as a starting point in your journey of determining if your daughter is on the autism spectrum. If you think your daughter is autistic, please get in touch with your pediatrician or family physician as soon as possible. Early intervention is key! If you are curious to learn more about autism, make sure to check out what is Autism Around the World like and sign up for our newsletter below.