‘We weren’t visible’: growing awareness leads more women to autism diagnosis

‘We weren’t visible’: growing awareness leads more women to autism diagnosis

Melanie Sykes described the experience of her autism diagnosis at the age of 51 as “life-changing” and one that helped her make sense of previously unexplainable struggles she had faced. It is also part of a wider trend, with an exponential rise in the number of women being newly diagnosed with autism in adulthood in the past two decades. Experts say the increase is being driven by a growing awareness that autism is not, as was once the perception, a “male condition” and that there can be subtle differences in how autism presents in females. Francesca Happé, the director of the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London, said: “It’s a phenomenon at the moment. There’s been a lot more awareness and a lot of women coming for a first diagnosis in mid-life.” This is reflected in the shifting male-to-female ratio of autism diagnoses. In 1998, 18% of new diagnoses in England were of females, increasing to 23% in 2018 . Studies based on active screening of children rather than diagnostic records suggest that the ratio for those meeting current diagnostic criteria is closer to 3:1. Happé says that diagnostic criteria themselves have been skewed towards […]

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