The struggles of women who mask their autism
To compensate, Jennifer says she practices how to act. Before attending a birthday party with her son, for example, she prepares herself to be “on,” correcting her posture and habitual fidgeting.
She demonstrates for me how she sits up straight and becomes still.
Her face takes on a pleasant and engaged expression, one she might adopt during conversation with another parent. To keep a dialogue going, she might drop in a few well-rehearsed catchphrases, such as “good grief” or “go big or go home.” “I feel if I do the nods, they won’t feel I’m uninterested,” she says.
Over the past few years, scientists have discovered that, like Jennifer, many women on the spectrum “camouflage” the signs of their autism.
This masking may explain at least in part why three to four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with the condition. It might also account for why girls diagnosed young tend to show severe traits, and highly intelligent girls are often diagnosed late. (Men on the spectrum also camouflage, researchers have found, but not as commonly as women.)