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Women on the Spectrum:

How A Late Diagnosis Can Affect Every Aspect of One's Life, Including Long-Term Mental Health

Imagine going decades feeling as though you are the odd one out, struggling with social interactions and communication, and not being able to understand why there seems to be a disconnect. Making and maintaining friendships is difficult, and you feel as though you are constantly “acting” to fit in, or feeling overwhelmed in one-on-one or group situations.

For many women with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), this is their reality. Autistic women often go undiagnosed for years, as the symptoms of ASD can be difficult to identify. In addition to social differences, they may also experience sensory sensitivities or repetitive behaviors. These symptoms are often misinterpreted as anxiety, depression, OCD, and ADHD, resulting in misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, which can be detrimental to a woman’s mental health and overall well-being. 

But when diagnosed later in life, many experience a sense of relief and affirmation - although they still have to grapple with long-term effects on their mental health. They must navigate relationships and employment while addressing unresolved issues caused by lack of diagnosis earlier in life. A late ASD diagnosis brings both comfort and complexity.

Men get diagnosed four times more than women because the symptoms of ASD differ between them. While men with ASD are often hyper-focused on specific interests, women tend to have more subtle, social differences. Many are also inherently good at masking when it comes to social interaction and communication. This can make it difficult for women to receive a proper diagnosis, especially given the prevalence of gender stereotypes..

When women are diagnosed with ASD later in life, they may struggle with coming to terms with their diagnosis. They may feel a sense of loss for the years they spent undiagnosed and wonder how their life would have been different if they had received support earlier. It's essential for women to receive proper care and support after a late diagnosis, including cognitive therapies, social skills training, and medication if necessary.

Firefly Autism is a nonprofit organization led by ten incredible women, with the collective goal of ensuring early and accurate ASD diagnosis, with minimal wait times. Firefly offers individualized treatment plans, and most importantly, celebrates all individuals on the autism spectrum.  Our adult support services help connect everyone on the autism specturm with the community they need. 

If you are interested in learning more from women who have gone through the struggle of delayed diagnosis, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let them know that you would like to be involved in our adult support services group and get connected to the services that will help improve your life!