Updated: Feb 4
Women & Autism
Are you a woman who was misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for many years to find out as an adult you were autistic? Were you a girl in school who went without support throughout their entire education? Did you ever become employed with no support put in place due to being undiagnosed, misdiagnosed which lead to leading from one job to another or even job loss?
I’m going to share a bit of autism awareness in women and a way forward in supporting autistic women in owning a business
Autism in Women
Many autistic women are not even visible to see. You would hardly ever notice their traits even as children, let alone adults. Many girls often perform what we call “masking” which is where we essentially try to fit in with every one else being “neurotypical” because deep down we already know we’re different from them but hardly ever know why unless we are diagnosed. A lot of women have either gone undiagnosed for years into their adulthood or even elderly stages. Some, like myself went undiagnosed as well as misdiagnosed. Women have been infact misdiagnosed with mental health disorders such as Bipolar or BPD due to the similar traits they have in common with autism. However the differences are Bipolar would usually begin in your 20s, BPD is a much more complicated diagnosis and they can infact often mimic many traits of autism that if the mental health services are aware of autism running in families, particularly if autism runs on both parents side. They don’t usually like to diagnose the patient with BPD also unless they have enough evidence to show it definitely is both which can take years!
There has been a lot more autism awareness in women as of late. Latest with a celebrity, Christine McGuiness, Paddy McGuiness Wife, was diagnosed in August this year of 2021 at age 33yrs. Her children however, were diagnosed very young because of the awareness this generation has really increased! What many aren’t aware of however, is how autism can infact affect women particularly but what you should also know is they will look, act and even sound like every other neurotypical being out there.
Types of things you need to consider and not assume they do not have autism are that women:
· Can be as sociable as any other woman out there
· Can make eye contact regularly or some may have fleeting eye contact
· Can be as emotional as any one else
· Can be empathetic
· Can sometimes use and understand sarcasm too if they have self taught
· Can sometimes understand jokes or sarcastic jokes
· Can have things changes even last minute and hide how anxious they are really feeling which becomes invisible to the eyes of others around them.
Women will tend to look, act, and behave as if they’re not struggling or in distress especially around work, education or in a social situation but believe me when I tell you this, they are having a battle inside without the right supportive network and adaptions put in place for them. This is for employers to be aware of if you feel you want to keep them in your industry and want to support them long term.
Unpopular traits in Women
Autistic women can tend to not recognise a person’s face when they have seen them many times in another environment regularly. For instance, if we saw a doctor and we always see the doctor in that same building or office, that is how our brains register them to be in that area at all times. If we then saw the same doctor in the streets or in a shopping centre, anywhere outside of that building, we may find it difficult to recognise and remember who they are. Often people mistake this for “amnesia” or “short term memory loss” in women.
Some actions of a woman are mistaken for also OCD which can also be linked to the disorder but would need a thorough assessment for this. For example, an autistic woman may be given a task, they do this task over and over in a similar way that their actions are being repeated, if they are changed however or an employer tells them to change this, they can become distressed or anxious inside but on the outside they may not be registering tasks properly, will become slow with actions, can even cause them extreme fatigue or they may even just go blank and may not even beable to communicate with others around them because they’ve had to process in a new task, try and perform this, as well as trying to deal with their anxiety, stress they are hiding deep within because they don’t want their boss to think they’re a freak!
What can be done if you want to own a business instead
If you are looking into self-employment so you’re able to work your own pace as an autistic woman:
· Do a lot of research first
· Ask friends who you know are working their own pace
· Organise yourself first, getting the right equipment if needed
· Find your right routine – schedule days, times, how and where you want to work that’s comfortable for you
· Find balance – work around times you feel comfortable working and don’t rush into anything
· Find support if needed e.g. support worker, key worker or someone you know and trust
· Find clients you want to work with and know they will be understanding of your needs and support – declare your diagnosis, don’t hide it from them! Be honest with them so you can be yourself around them and not put yourself in anymore distress
· Work at a pace you feel comfortable with – if it’s slow that’s fine, if you prefer a fast pace that’s fine also, remember you are your own boss
· Remember you can say “no” to a client if you don’t feel like you could work with them, as stated above you are your own boss!
It’s taken me over a year to prepare everything in my business and even now I’m still not quite there. My self employment is around 3 services (Interior Design, Pet Care I.e. dog walks, pet sitting, free advice on clicker training and Seasonal Basic Garden Maintenance) Two in which my husband and I do together with the pet care and seasonal gardening. I get support each week by a support worker, I also adapted myself in which I do not deal any of calculations of invoices for tax returns each year, I have my own accountant who also works with adults on the spectrum who actually is owns her own small business too! So we all feel comfortable! If you can get adapted and have a great supportive network around you who you feel comfortable enough to be yourself, share any concerns or even the positives of what’s working for you and have them noted, then you will be well within your way to becoming a successful business owner!
A married autistic mother of 1 & family business owner who loves to raise autism awareness to help employers/employees & business owners