DisabilityScoop: autistic girls are sometimes invisible

Feb 05, 19 DisabilityScoop: autistic girls are sometimes invisible

From DisabilityScoop

Girls On The Spectrum Often Go Unnoticed

Nichole Lowther has heard the word her whole life.

Bright, even charming, she nonetheless never felt comfortable in groups or making small talk. A hard worker, she had a tough time finding or keeping a steady job. Could it have been her unvarying wardrobe, her lack of eye contact, her encyclopedic knowledge of “Star Trek?” Then there were the times in public when a loved one would pull her aside and plead, “Be normal.”

But a few years ago, when her son Matthew, now 6, wasn’t meeting developmental milestones despite early intervention services, Lowther took him to a specialist. The doctor noted certain telltale behaviors of autism — walking on his tiptoes, rocking, wiggling fingers near his eyes.

“I said those weren’t autistic behaviors, because I do them,” Lowther, of Burlington County, recalled telling the doctor. “She said, ‘Have you ever been tested?’”

So, at age 42, Lowther was tested. Textbook autism, she was told.

“It was such a relief,” Lowther said. “I was like, ‘OK. Now a whole lot of my life makes sense.’”

For women and girls living on the autism spectrum, diagnosis too often comes late, if at all. Though boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — the country’s fastest-growing developmental disability — are estimated to outnumber girls by 4-1, experts now say that may be because many females are overlooked, their symptoms dismissed or misread.

“If girls are chronically diagnosed later than boys, they’re missing that most valuable treatment time,” said Diana L. Robins, head of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute’s Research Program in Early Detection and Intervention. Research has shown that children who get treatment before age 2 or 3 show the most improvement.


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External Resources

Support program: Autism Sibling Support Initiative

Support program: Sibling Support Project

Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council

Maryland Early Intervention and Special Education Services

Administration for Community Living

Pathfinders for Autism

Disability Scoop

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