In the NHS's guidance for dealing with people with autism, there were no provisions for women's differing needs. As Monica Blakemore, founder of Autism Women Matter, told VICE in January, "It's a sort of double discrimination: being female, and being disabled."I talked to Laura (not her real name), a university student at a London, who was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at the age of eight. She was lucky her diagnosis was fairly quick – her mother was "pushy", due to the hard time she was having at school at the time."I've always had very strong interests for certain lengths of time," she tells me. "At that point it was animals. All I wanted to read about animals. We had to keep a reading diary noting what we have read, and, after noticing my lack of variety, my mum banned me from reading them. Not that she could stop me, but I was such a slow reader that I would then be accused of having nothing in my reading diary. I got so scared of reading that I physically couldn't read anything more complex than, say, Animal Ark for years."Playtime was always the worst. At first it was okay. It was a time that I could spend alone, talking to the trees or playing 'ball on the wall', but that was time that I could get away. Then the teachers got involved. It was hell, being forced to join games I had no interest in with people who had no interest in me. It was like an outdoor prison."
It's a sort of double discrimination: being female, and being disabled.
So what can be done to improve things? The consensus is that earlier diagnoses are imperative. "All research shows that an earlier diagnosis of ASD, followed by appropriate interventions, will optimise the person's life chances," says Reynolds.Povey says the issue is one of understanding: "We need to improve understanding of autism in every sector of society so that the unique difficulties women face will be recognised and more will face a diagnosis."Steps are being taken, thankfully. The NAS has been involved with Autism in Pink, a project looking into the experiences of women with the goal of developing new approaches to support and education. Dr Judith Gould, who works at the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism, is amending the questions asked of girls during the diagnosis process. Plus, according to Povey, the Lorna Wing Centre has seen an increase in women seeking diagnosis in recent years – all very positive things.A big effort is still needed so that more women get a proper diagnosis, though. More research, more studies and, perhaps most of all, a concerted effort to reach out to women and change the male biases that, under the surface, still dominate the world of autism.@Debaser92On the subject of mental health, my good friend recently lost his brother. Suicide is the biggest cause of death in men between the ages of 20-45 – men are often afraid to reach out and talk about their problems and we need to change that. If you have any spare change, please donate to Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)Previously: My Autism Doesn't Make Me a Robot
"We need to improve understanding of autism in every sector of society so that the unique difficulties women face will be recognised and more will face a diagnosis." – Carol Povey, Director of the NAS's Centre for Autism