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Historically it was thought that women and girls were less likely to be autistic, however recent research has highlighted the challenges in identifying autism in women and girls. It is now recognised from research, clinical practice and anecdotal reports that many autistic females or those who demonstrate the less traditionally obvious traits of autism are not recognised. This can result in misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, or women and girls not being diagnosed at all.

It is often said that the differences that autistic women and girls experience are of a more subtle presentation, or may appear so to others. Some autistic women and girls feel that they are masking their autism to try and hide the fact that they feel different. They may copy behaviour from others around them, and can be exhausted by the constant effort to appear similar to other people, or might be unaware they are ‘masking’ in the first place. This more subtle presentation of autism is also a major barrier to clinicians and other professionals recognising autism and understanding the experiences of autistic women and girls.

As a result of this many women report feeling unsupported and not fully understanding themselves potentially resulting in mental health problems. 

This module aims to support diagnosticians to better understand autistic female characteristics and therefore enhance confidence to diagnose those individuals successfully. 

The philosophy of all our online modules is to put the autistic voice at the centre. This module has been developed in conjunction with autistic women and leading clinicians. Contributors have included a focus group of autistic women, autistic content writers including Lana Grant, Sarah Hendrickx and Dr Wenn Lawson and clinicians including Dr Judith Gould.

The module should take approximately 120 minutes to complete and will have a range of interactive features including exercises and scenario based learning, reflective activities, short film clips and questions to ask.

While managed by the NAS, the project will also be overseen by the Autism and Girls forum. The forum is an external reference group which was formed to raise awareness of autism in women and girls. Content development has also included filming with several autistic women and three leading clinicians, including Dr Judith Gould. Dr Gould has also been involved in reviewing the content.

Cost and availability

This module has been funded by the Pears Foundation. They have supported the development of the module, along with enable free access for the first year (until March 2019). The module is now accessible for £30 + VAT. You can access it here.

Events and information

As well as our Women and Girls module, we have information on our website which explores some of the issues relating to autism and gender.

Watch our episode 3 of Spectrum Live: Women and Girls

In this episode, we brought together a group of autistic women and Dr Judith Gould to share their experience, knowledge, and expertise.

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By phone: 0300 303 4313

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