For many years, autism was primarily viewed through a male lens, with diagnostic criteria and research heavily focused on boys and men. Consequently, countless autistic women went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, often attributing their challenges to other factors such as anxiety or depression, and even being misdiagnosed with personality disorders. However, with advancements in understanding the complexity of autism and the recognition of its varied presentations, more women are embarking on a transformative journey of self-discovery, finding solace and validation in the autistic community.
The process of an autistic woman realising her own neurodivergent identity after her child’s diagnosis can be a profound and empowering experience. As they delve into the unique characteristics of their children, they often recognise familiar traits within themselves. This realisation ignites a quest for self-understanding, as these women begin to unravel a lifetime of experiences, challenges, and strengths through a new autistic lens (though of course they have always been autistic).
While the reasons for delayed diagnosis in women vary, societal expectations and gendered norms play a significant role. Autistic women often develop strategies to mask their autistic traits, mimicking socially accepted behaviours and conversation and camouflaging their struggles. This masking can be exhausting and lead to immense internal turmoil, resulting in a delayed recognition of one’s own autistic identity.
As more research and awareness about autism in women continue to emerge, diagnostic criteria need to evolve to encompass a broader range of experiences. Professionals are becoming better equipped to identify and diagnose autistic women, acknowledging the unique ways in which autism may present internally. This progress has paved the way for many women to finally understand themselves and seek the support they need.
The journey of self-discovery for these women is not just about understanding their own autistic identity; it is also about fostering a greater acceptance and understanding of autism in society as a whole. By sharing their stories, we hope to contribute to a more inclusive and compassionate world, where neurodiversity is celebrated and where all individuals, regardless of gender, can embrace their true selves.