It’s been too long since I wrote a blog post. Since the last time I posted, a few things have happened that I did not feel inclined to share online in the present tense. My husband broke his ankle, and my daughter started her last year of high school. While I haven’t felt overwhelmed by either of these events, I’ve definitely had some bittersweet, melancholy days because both are proof that the past is slipping away.
My daughter will soon turn 18, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about which path she’ll take in the transition to adulthood. For those of you who don’t know me in real life or are new to this blog, I will add that my daughter has autism. She was not diagnosed until age 14, despite inquiries on my part to mental health professionals, speech therapists and the like that began when my daughter was two.
I think there’s a strong bias against the diagnosis of autism in girls and women. Perhaps this is the case because it is possible that autism is defined by how it manifests itself in males. Has anyone taken the time to study females with autism to see if they share symptoms in common that aren’t seen as often in males?
As time passes since her diagnosis, I have a growing confidence I myself am one of the uncounted women on the autism spectrum. This is not a case of a mother’s desperation to empathize with her daughter. I can think of several individuals in my family tree who likely lived their whole lives unknowingly on the spectrum. My daughter and I are just the latest ones who carry this unique way of perceiving and relating to reality and the people we encounter in it.
I will close this post with a picture I took of my daughter while she waited for the bus on the first day of this school year. Notice the smile. When she was two and was in speech therapy because she hadn’t spoken a two-word sentence, the staff told me that it was unlikely that she had autism because she could smile at me and hold my gaze. Maybe this is a another example of a gender bias in how autism is defined. My daughter has been able to mirror the gaze and facial expressions of a few people during relatively brief encounters. I’ve experienced the same thing myself. I can enjoy the company of a particular person for a limited amount of time, and then I’ll need solitude to recover.
Autism in girls and women is still an undiscovered country.