The autistic female. If she makes eye contact, connects socially, and -shock horror- smiles; how do you spot her?
When I was diagnosed, I started reading everything. Stories, studies, stats. The word ‘autism’ made me flinch, I had very little understanding of what it meant – and even less of what it would mean for me as a female. And I re-read my medical records. Soooo many times I presented with issues that now stand out for me as being tohu (signs) of takiwātanga (autism). And it’s not anyone’s fault: it’s how things are rigged – the origins of autism come from studying boys. (Girls can present differently, who’d have thought?)
The Internet is a jewellery box of stories and tests etc. to give you an idea of how autistic girls experience the world. For me, the key elements are:
- Senses – processing the world with super-sensitivity.
- Intensity – in feeling, thinking, and being.
There’s a pretty epic list of signs and traits in girls here*
*They refer to Autism as Asperger’s because of when it was written (before Asperger’s was removed as an official diagnosis), but so much of it resonates with me – and may with you or your girl 🙂
It’s everywhere: people being told by medical professionals that they (or their child) ‘can’t be autistic because…’ This is why it’s important to talk to medical professionals who understand the different ways autism presents in females. Chances are, if you have a strong feeling; you’re right. Keep going until you get what you need. Keep talking until someone hears you.
The lists of signs and traits of autism in girls did two things for me:
- Freaked me out: So, how much of me is me, and how much common “symptoms of a disorder”?
- Confirmed that I was not alone: Validated my diagnosis, honored my quirks, made me real.
It’s a journey.Getting the diagnosis, learning the traits, adjusting to the new world. But it’s beautiful. It connects you to who you really are. Don’t go looking for the ways that being autistic makes you wrong or different, go looking to understand more about who you are and what works for you in the world. Give yourself the time to sync up – I’m still tripping over my language and fumbling through the ‘coming out’ process. But after a lifetime of beating myself up for being me, that is already a miracle.
Thank you! Thank you for the emails, LinkedIn-ees, FB-ing, and high-fives on the street. Whenever I read or hear; “I just watched your TEDx Talk and…” my heart still bangs – I’m worried I’ve upset or offended someone. Someone’s angry or wants to argue. And I’m okay with that (you know, ish! As in – I understand the consequences of putting myself out there), but I’m also really grateful. Your words and stories (and high-fives) affirm both my decision to come out, and my certainty that the world is softening in all the best ways. (No one’s been mad yet, but I’ve been sent apologies and confessions – which is almost as scary!) (Scary aka an honour, a revelation, and a responsibility.)
I’m also being asked a lot about getting an adult diagnosis – I’ll post on that, too 🙂