Christine McGuinness on hereditary autism in her family
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Autism is neither an illness nor a disease. It merely means your brain works in a different way compared to others. Worryingly, many women with this condition tend to be misdiagnosed and misunderstood. This disparity has been also highlighted by Christine McGuinness in a new documentary. Fortunately, awareness of signs that can appear in women could be the first step in seeking help.
Contrary to popular opinion that autism overwhelmingly targets men and boys, autistic people also include women and girls.
Christine McGuinness, 34, opened up about her life with autism in a new BBC One documentary titled Christine McGuinness: Unmasking My Autism.
The presenter and television personality also highlighted the gender gap in early diagnosis of autism.
Speaking in the documentary, McGuinness said: “I was really nervous about doing a documentary based on autistic women and girls because there are boys and men out there who are autistic too and I didn’t want it to come across as sexist.
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“But there are so many women being diagnosed later in life because it is misunderstood and they’re masking or not showing it.
“It’s so important that it changes because those women probably needed help and support when they were girls at school.
“I remember it being the worst time of my life to the point where I didn’t want to learn.
“There was just so much going on in my head. It’s sad to think there are teenage girls who are feeling exactly the same.”
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Data suggests that around 42 percent of women and girls with autism receive at least one misdiagnosis before finding out they have autism, according to Psychology Today.
Furthermore, the National Library of Medicine reports that on average girls, who have mild symptoms of autism, are diagnosed two years later than boys.
The National Autistic Society explains that the gender gap in diagnosis exists because of stereotypical ideas about what autism looks like.
In school, autistic girls may be more likely to be part of a friendship group, so teachers may not notice their differences.
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Their academic achievements may also mask that they are facing difficulties in other areas.
The charity states: “Some of the core characteristics of autism are having ‘repetitive behaviours’ and highly-focused interests.
“Stereotyped examples of these include rocking backwards and forwards, and a fascination with trains.
“However, in autistic women and girls these behaviours and interests may be similar to those of non-autistic women and girls, such as twirling hair and reading books, and as such may go unnoticed despite the greater intensity or focus typical for autistic people.”
According to experts and charities, other signs of autism in women may include:
- Copying people who don’t have autism as a means to fit in and hide signs
- Being quieter and hiding feelings
- Working “extra hard” to fit in and preparing for social situations in advance (for example, rehearsing possible conversations).
For more information and advice about autism in women and girls, visit the National Autistic Society here.
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