10 Signs Your Daughter May Have Autism
Historically, autism has been more prevalent among boys than girls, but it’s not uncommon for girls on the autism spectrum to go undiagnosed. Autism often presents itself differently in young girls — and because of the different social norms between boys and girls, symptoms may be easier to overlook. Girls with high intelligence levels may be able to mask the markers of autism with compensatory behaviors, which means that a diagnosis doesn’t come until much later. The following are signs that may indicate if your daughter has autism. If many of these signs seem familiar, you may want to consider seeking an evaluation.
10. Intense, Limited Interests
Girls with autism often have passionate interests, typically in topics that seem age-appropriate and socially acceptable, such as literature, music, or animals. However, her interest in the topic may be extremely limited or specific.
9. Issues With Sensory Processing
Struggles with sensory processing are common among both boys and girls with autism. Though girls may exhibit more dramatic swings in their reactions. One moment, your daughter might not seem to be responding to certain sensory stimulation. A short while later, she may be exceptionally sensitive to smells, loud noises, or bright lights.
Many children experience meltdowns, but for girls with autism, these reactions can be particularly age-inappropriate. This often stems from girls struggling to deal with frustration and managing their emotions when they’re upset.
7. Difficulty With Language
When girls with autism are young, they may be diagnosed with a language disorder. While treatment and therapy may help, you may find that it doesn’t quite cover all of the bases. Hyperlexia, which is characterized by a precocious reading ability but includes difficulty with comprehension, is particularly common for girls who are later diagnosed with autism.
6. Passive Behavior
When girls with high-functioning autism are young, they often exhibit passive behavior when playing or interacting with their peers. Your daughter may allow other children to speak for her during the day. During playtime, she may want to play the same game over and over again, and may always opt to assume a more passive role.
If a girl with autism exhibits unusual social behaviors in elementary school, it may not look the same as her male counterparts who are on the spectrum. Teachers might describe your daughter as extremely shy, quiet in social situations, or a loner.
4. Difficulty Keeping Friends
As some girls with autism reach their preteen and teen years, their social interactions might begin to slip. You might notice that your daughter is losing friends, or that she starts to seem oblivious to social cues. This is often due to an inability to cope with her more complex social world as she matures.
3. Unusual Choice of Playmates
Because they may have difficulty managing interactions with their peers, girls with undiagnosed autism might select unusual playmates, such as kids who are much older or much younger. You might also notice that when playing with younger children, your daughter does not take a leadership role, but prefers a more passive part.
2. Discrepancy Between School and Home Behaviors
As with boys, anxious behavior is a common sign of autism among girls. Unlike boys, who may express their anxiety in obvious ways at school, some girls with autism are often able to mask their feelings. When they are not in school, this suppressed anxiety can come out in sudden outbursts. This discrepancy can be dramatic; you might be surprised that your daughter’s teachers don’t report similar behavior.
If your daughter has autism, she may display unusual attention to organization. You might see her painstakingly arranging her toys or belongings, often over and over again. Pay attention to solitary play — behavior that looks like playing might actually be your daughter organizing and rearranging her toys.
Girls with autism are often highly intelligent, high-functioning, and skilled at masking their symptoms. By trusting your instincts and staying observant, you can be the best possible advocate for your daughter, and can make sure that she gets whatever care she may need.