Why is it determined so often (in hindsight)

It was last weekend World Autism Awareness DayAnd this week is National Autism Week. Perhaps when you hear the word “autism” you immediately think of a character like Rain Man or Sheldon The Big Bang Theory† But autism is about more than just being good with numbers and being socially awkward. It is also more than a disease that only affects men. But why does it appear that more men are diagnosed than women? There are several reasons for this, according to research.


Well, you probably already have an idea of ​​the word “autism”. Social discomfort, tantrums, ignoring or not understanding established rules of conduct, avoiding eye contact, etc. The common denominator here is that it mainly revolves around things that the environment often finds disturbing. This is where there is a significant difference in recognition of autism in boys versus girls.

in conversation with health The researcher says Anne Fleur Stubert From the North Holland Autism Team on the difference in diagnosis: “This starts at an earlier age. Boys have more tantrums (…) Girls mainly look at social behavior in their environment.” She continues, “They quickly learn to mask their autism with socially desirable behavior. They often continue to do so for a long time, until autism is not always detected.” But that doesn’t mean that girls with autism don’t have problems – they are often exhausted from the constant acting and hiding they do, and quickly feel “the difference,” without being able to clearly explain why.

psychologist Marilyn Bezemerone of the founders A network that unites females in the Netherlands (FANN), here he joins a conversation with a journalist Ilona Pratt at. She says girls internalize their problems more, while boys show them more in their behaviour. “The environment is more likely to experience this behavior as a problem or as a problem, so something is done about it sooner,” she explains.

private interest

We often also associate a file Uncanny Amount of knowledge on a specialized topic. Star Trek For example, whether cars, space travel, Lego, etc.

But when you think of autism, have you ever thought of the little girl who really knows all about horses? Or the woman who can tell you exactly which episode of grey Each character made their first or last appearance? Bezemer explains that these kinds of “semi-obsessive” private interests are less likely to be seen as alien to women: “Girls with autism take it in a little more than average. It’s very important during the diagnosis process to inquire more deeply about this.” If you’re just looking for skewed characteristics, you’re already one step behind,” says Bezemer.

writer Bianca Toepswhich book But you don’t look lonely at all! He wrote and was diagnosed at age 26, adding: “If a man with autism knows all about trains, people think: Yes, typical autism. But a girl who knows all about horses does not include autism. Because horses are girls, autism is often associated with In the media with childish things: trains, car brands, license plates. If a girl does not recognize herself in this matter, then she is unlikely to receive the correct diagnosis. ”

Diagnostic gap

In general, this leads to a significant difference in the number of diagnoses made. American writer Rudy Simon, who has also been diagnosed with autism, states that one girl out of every four boys is diagnosed with autism. Pratt writes that this corresponds roughly with the Dutch numbers. “This percentage is in line with official figures from the Dutch Autism Registry, a collaboration between the Dutch Autism Association (NVA) and the Free University: in the 2020 publication, 78 percent of active participants under the age of eighteen are male and female. 22 percent are female.”

In short: these diagnostic methods may be much better. Misdiagnosis causes many problems, and the lack of visible autistic women does not make identification easier for others. “Often, women with autism feel anxious for a long time before they know what’s wrong with them. Many of them were first diagnosed with other diagnoses, such as a personality disorder,” reads on the NVA’s website. Fortunately, there appears to be more and more interest in autism in women – although there is still a long way to go.

Source: FANN, Santé February 2020, Margriet, NVA, Ilona Braat | Photo: iStock

Leave a Comment