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  • Ana C. DiRago, Ph.D.

Autism Spectrum in Women

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects social communication and behavior. It is commonly thought of as a condition that primarily affects children, but it is increasingly being recognized in adult women. In this blog post, we will explore some of the unique challenges and characteristics of ASD in adult women.

Late Diagnosis

ASD is often diagnosed in childhood, but many women are not diagnosed until later in life, sometimes not until their 20s, 30s, or even later. This is because the diagnostic criteria for ASD have historically been based on male behaviors and may not reflect the ways in which women present with the condition.

Social Challenges

Women with ASD may struggle with social communication and interaction, which can lead to difficulties in making friends and building relationships. They may have difficulty understanding social cues, such as body language and tone of voice, and may struggle with initiating and maintaining conversations.

Sensory Sensitivities

Many women with ASD have sensory sensitivities, such as being overly sensitive to certain sounds, smells, or textures. This can be overwhelming and lead to anxiety, meltdowns, or avoidance of certain situations.

Special Interests

Women with ASD may have a deep interest in a particular subject, hobby, or activity. They may spend hours researching, collecting, or engaging in this interest, often to the exclusion of other activities. This intense focus can be an asset in certain careers or creative pursuits.

Executive Function Challenges

Executive function refers to a set of mental processes that allow us to plan, organize, prioritize, and execute tasks. Women with ASD may struggle with these skills, leading to difficulty with time management, task initiation, and completing tasks in a timely manner.


Masking is a term used to describe the practice of hiding one's ASD symptoms in social situations, often by imitating neurotypical behavior or suppressing stimming (self-stimulatory behavior). Women may be more likely to mask their symptoms, which can lead to feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and social isolation.

Co-Occurring Conditions

Women with ASD are more likely to have co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. It is essential to recognize and treat these conditions in conjunction with ASD to achieve optimal outcomes.

In summary, autism spectrum disorder affects women differently than men, and recognizing the unique challenges and characteristics of ASD in adult women is essential for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Contact Dr. DiRago to learn more about evaluating women who might be on the Autism Spectrum.

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