Autism now affects 1 in 59 children in the United States. There is a ton of information on symptoms, but those symptoms seem very specific to boys. Only in the last few years has there been proper research to understand autism symptoms in girls.
Along the journey to our daughter’s diagnosis, I desperately looked for information online on autism symptoms in girls. This was four years ago now, but the information wasn’t there.
The only information I could come across was Aspergers in girls. While Aspergers has been diagnosed on the spectrum (until the DSM 5), it is not the only form of Autism a female can have.
While Autism does present differently in girls, there are still core symptoms associated with Autism no matter what the gender is of the individual. Autism is a developmental disability. It affects the way individuals communicate, behave, or interact with others. There is no one cause for Autism, and it affects everyone differently. These symptoms can range from mild to very severe.
All individuals with autism display difficulties in the following three areas:
- communication (verbal & non-verbal)
- relationships – Struggling with relating to others & their environment
- lack of thought & behavior flexibly
Autism Symptoms in Girls
In 4 months, our son received an autism diagnosis at 23 months old. We noticed symptoms very early on. When he started regressing in his
Our son showed a ton of red flags for Autism. Regression in speech, obsession with trains and order, spinning, inconsistent eye contact, etc.
Both of our daughter’s journeys were very different. We received a diagnosis for them at ages 8 & 11! My autism diagnosis came at age 33! 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. Today, I am sharing the symptoms of Autism in girls that our youngest daughter showed. These are pretty similar to my personal experiences and my oldest daughters. However, we also each have our own unique experiences with Autism. Where one thrives, the other struggles.
If you believe your child may have
All of her emotions are so extreme! When she is happy, it’s overwhelmingly happy. If the pencil she likes breaks, she is not just sad, she’s extremely upset, and you would think someone ran over her dog—all of her emotions, no matter which is so intense.
She had a speech delay (no regression) at two years old. She still has a lisp and has trouble with “r”, and “l” sounds in the middle of the word.
She has to have very soft clothing with no tags when it comes to touch. She is quite the opposite of my son with Autism when it comes to noise. Overwhelming noise and sight make her hyper. Rarely will those cause a meltdown like emotional & 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 resembles that of a child much younger.
When it comes to symptoms of Autism in girls (and boys!), understanding others’ emotions is a huge struggle! This is an issue with all three of our autistic children. Our youngest daughter does understand others’ emotions, but not at the moment. She only understands after you point out a sad face, frustrated tone, or other emotional cues that can be seen. She cannot pick up these cues on her own.
She has always had some problems with sleeping. Even when she was around one or so, she rarely could get to sleep independently or at a reasonable time.
Her anxiety can be pretty bad at times. This is a separate diagnosis, but a lot of it stems from not understanding things. She often completely ignored tasks 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 girl 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 ever 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 symptoms of Autism in girls is difficulties with social interactions. Our daughter struggles with maintaining friendships. The most common issue is her being “bossy” and “controlling.”
She doesn’t understand relationships and tries to act like a parent to older siblings and adults. Even when speaking to adults, she does not speak as a child.
Can’t Let Go
This is a big one. No matter how minor the issue may be, she cannot let it go if she feels she has been wronged, even after a solution has been given. This also includes not understanding when something isn’t an issue that involves her.
Best Friend Issues
This is where we have a hard time understanding that we can have more than one friend, but our friends can also have other friends. Often, 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 overlooked. She has adapted well without early intervention but struggles with keeping eye contact. She will often make eye contact briefly once and rarely again in the remainder of a conversation.
I only noticed it after my son’s diagnosis, but the psychiatrist noticed it immediately. A huge factor in understanding the symptoms of Autism in girls starts with parents recognizing symptoms.
Intensity of Interests
This is where things get complicated. Most of her interests are similar to other girls her age. However, the intensity of those interests is much more. She loves tiny puppy dolls, but she has a collection of over 100 and knows every detail about them. Some of her interests are unconventional, though. She also has an obsession with collected empty toilet paper rolls (to use for crafts, but never does, collects) and pine cones. She even crafts habitats for the tiny pine cones.
Unexpected transitions and a lack
Struggles with Communication
This list serves as a starting point in your journey of determining if your daughter is on the autism spectrum. If you think your daughter is autistic, please get in touch with your pediatrician or family physician as soon as possible. Early intervention is critical! If you are curious to learn more about Autism, check out Autism Around the World.