While diagnostic rates between women and men with autism continue to remain uneven, current trends show that only 1 in 4 children diagnosed with autism are female. It is important that the autism community continue to identify and support women on the spectrum. Through awareness professionals and parents alike will better be able to identify the main reasons for the discrepancy is diagnosis numbers. These discrepancies can be contributed to by both gender biases and women’s compensatory strategies that camouflage autism.
Camouflage, while many women with autism feel it is necessary to navigate social interactions, is exhausting and emotionally taxing. Furthermore, camouflaging can lead to exacerbated behaviors that arise through emotional exhaustion (e.g. poor emotional control, fatigue, dietary changes) and can result in misdiagnosis. Awareness allows for us to more appropriate identify, diagnose, and support women with autism.
What is camouflaging?
The difference between how people seem in social contexts and what is happening to them on the inside. Camouflaging also requires the development of compensatory strategies and making techniques to cover up the difficulties inherent in social communication. These compensatory strategies include compensation and social masking.
Compensation is the development of explicit strategies to make up for deficits in social communication. Nonverbal examples include learning from social media, copying body language or facial expression of others. While verbal strategies include using memorized scripts or phrasing, repeating phrases or tone, or asking questions of others to minimize the time you have to speak.
Social Masking is the minimizing or hiding of autistic traits to appear “typical” and present a different identity to the world. Masking can result in hiding feelings and emotions, bottling up anxiety, thoughts, and self-stimulating behaviors, or a hyper-focus on eye-contact or the impression you made on the other person.