Identification of Autism in Girls: Role of Trait Subtleties, Social Acceptance and Masking.
Keywords:Girls and Autism, masking, traits, social acceptance, anxiety
In reaction to the increased amount of autism research and the greater prevalence of autism in boys, this study explored if autism traits in girls are more socially accepted and if this might be a factor in girls masking their difficulties/needs and prevent early identification. Using a Pragmatist paradigm, ten semi-structured interviews were carried out with five parents of daughters with autism, four teachers of female students with autism and a young woman with autism. The findings indicate that the traits of autism often present more subtlety in younger girls. It is this subtlety that suggests that their traits may be socially accepted and therefore a factor in their under-identification. The data also revealed that girls increasingly mask their social difficulties as they reach adolescence, as social pressures increase which simultaneously elevates anxiety. In conclusion, this study highlights that those involved in identification/intervention of autism should be aware of the trait subtleties of autism in girls, masking and mental health in order to improve identification.
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