Dear Jacqui, My daughter is 13 years old and behaves in unusual ways that I think she may be on the autism spectrum. I have thought this since she was very young. Please can you give me some advice about this?

Thank you for this very important question regarding girls and the autism spectrum. It is currently thought that many girls and women have missed having the correct diagnosis because they present differently to boys and men on the autism spectrum. They are better at camouflaging their symptoms therefore a diagnosis may be difficult. It should only be made through a team of experienced specialists including a paediatrician, speech and language therapist and psychologist. Other diagnoses need to be ruled out although there can be co-morbid presentations such as an eating disorder, sensory processing disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and personality disorders.

Some of the characteristics of girls on the autism spectrum are:

  • Struggling with social situations although cope by some avoidance
  • Difficulty with social interactions and social imagination although cope through imitating others
  • Problems with subtle and reciprocal social communication skills; they can be controlling and domineering
  • Having obsessions for a longer period of time and more intensely, often to do with nature or a world of fantasy
  • Having intense emotions especially anxiety, agitation or distress and an inability to be comforted by affection or distraction
  • Having under or over responsiveness to sensory input that interferes with daily living

These skills can be developed and supported through my practice.