The women who don’t know they’re autistic

Let’s call her Sophie. The description we’ll give could be that of any woman who is on the autistic spectrum without knowing it. Because such women are intelligent and used to compensating for communication impediments they may not be consciously aware of, they can slip through the cracks of our still-inefficient diagnostic procedures.

World Autism Awareness Day takes place every April 2, and in 2018 the focus is on the empowerment of women and girls with autism. Much work clearly remains to be done: studies indicate that one woman for every four men is diagnosed with readily identifiable “low-functioning” autism, yet only one woman for every nine men is diagnosed with “high-functioning” autism – that is, autism without intellectual disability. The gap between the two rates indicates that many autistic women are likely to remain undiagnosed.

Today, Sophie, who lives in France, has a job interview. If you could see her nervously twisting her hair, you might think she’s anxious, like anyone would be in the circumstances. You would be wrong. Sophie is actually on the verge of a panic attack. At 27, she just lost her job as a salesperson due to repeated cash register mistakes – and it’s the eighth time in the last three years. She loved maths at university and is deeply ashamed. She hopes the person hiring will not bring up the subject – she has no justification for her professional failures and knows that she is incapable of making one up.

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