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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. There has only been a very recent initiative to explain Autism Symptoms in Girls.
Along the journey to our daughter’s diagnosis, I desperately looked for information online of autism symptoms in girls.
Surprising was how little there was on how autism affect girls in comparison to boys. Through out experiences, I have gathered quiet a bit of information.
Surprising, was the finding out how often autism diagnosis in girls are overlooked and misdiagnosed.
The only information I could come across was Aspergers in girls. While Aspergers has been as diagnosis on the spectrum (until the DSM 5), it is no the only form of autism a female can have.
Autism Symptoms 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 speech at 19 months, it was enough to send us straight to the mercy autism center for a diagnosis at 23 month.
Our son showed a ton of the 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 diagnosis for them at age 8 & 11! 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. One day, I believe there will be a ton of information out there that explains how autism affects a female brain. As a parent with three children diagnosed with autism, the one thing I can offer is to share my experiences.
Today, I am sharing the autism symptoms in girls that our youngest daughter showed. Hopefully by doing so, it will give light to other parents searching for those same answers.
If you believe your child may have autism, or any symptoms that are not “normal”, please contact your doctor. Only a licensed professional can provide an autism diagnosis.
Autism Symptoms in Girls Checklist
- Intense emotions
All of her emotions are so extreme! When she is happy, its overwhelmingly happy. If the pencil she likes breaks she not just sad, shes extremely upset and you would think someone ran over her dog. all of her emotions, no matter which are so intense.
- Speech delay
She had a speech delay (no regression) at 2 years old. She still has a lisp and has troubles with “r” and “l” sounds that are in the middle of the word.
- Sensory Needs
When it comes to touch, she has to have very soft clothing with no tags. When it comes to noise, she is quiet the opposite of my son with autism. Overwhelming noise and sight actually makes her hyper.Rarely will those 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 resemble that of a child much younger.
When it comes to autism symptoms 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 in the moment. She only understands after you point out a sad face, frustrated tone, or other emotional cue that can be seen. She cannot pick up these cues on her own.
- Sleep Issues
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 girls 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 every 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 autism symptoms 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.”
- Little Parent
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 feel 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 sons diagnosis, but the psychiatrist noticed it immediately.
- 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 interest 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 interest 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.
- Coping Skills
Unexpected transitions and a lack of proper coping skills is a real problem. There is a lot of frustration when she feels she does not have enough time to finish what she wants. This is not based on actual time, but perceived time.
- Nature Focused
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 mid though or mid sentence. She has a very hard time starting a conversation, which in return gives her the appearance of being shy.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions stated in this blog are my own. I am only a parent who is on the same journey, not a doctor. If you believe your child may have autism, or any symptoms that raise a red flag, please contact your doctor. Only a licensed professional can provide an autism diagnosis.
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Alicia Trautwein is an autism parenting coach living in Missouri. She is the creator behind The Mom Kind, a website dedicated to parenting neurodiverse families. She is one of the head creators behind the #WeLoeveMoms campaign and is also featured in the “Amazing Moms” coffee table book by Hogan Hilling & Dr. Elise Ho. She shares her expertise along with her experience in parenting children, both with and without autism.