Autism in Girls is Often Misdiagnosed
Research shows that autism is more frequently diagnosed in boys than in girls. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. Increasing evidence, however, suggests that the reason for the diagnostic discrepancy may be the fact that women and girls are more likely to be misdiagnosed. The truth is that “higher functioning” girls with autism are being lost and overlooked. Girls with autism are often being misdiagnosed with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Some are never diagnosed with a condition. This lack of proper diagnosis can lead to long term consequences for girls.

Different Presentation

Autism is a developmental disorder that is typically demonstrated by two kinds of behaviors: deficits in communication and social skills and repetitive or restricted behaviors. Most "higher functioning" girls with autism don't present the same as boys with the condition. Girls are better at "camouflaging" their condition, and typical autism characteristics can be masked. Girls are often better at learning social skills such as how to make eye contact, hold conversations, and utilize social scripts. This social interaction with peers can lead to a delay in diagnosis as problems with social skills is a typical symptom of autism.

In addition, girls tend to have restricted and repetitive behaviors that are not easily recognized. When looking for an autism diagnosis, medical professionals look for the typical repetitive behaviors exhibited by boys. However, girls may have these same behaviors manifested in a different way. In fact, according to a 2015 study , many girls with autism never demonstrate repetitive or restricted behaviors. This diagnostic bias leads to many girls not receiving the assistance they need.

Change in Diagnostic Guidelines

It is clear that new non-biased diagnostic guidelines must be put into place in order to ensure that girls with autism are promptly and properly diagnosed. This will enable these girls to receive the necessary services and assistance. Australia has instituted new national guidelines in an effort to help with the early diagnosis of girls with autism. These new guidelines take into account that girls tend to hide or mask their behavior and show different symptoms than boys. The hope is that early diagnosis will make a difference in the lives of girls and women with autism.

If you or a loved one has a mental illness or intellectual/developmental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.
Elizabeth Kelley
Criminal Defense Attorney
Elizabeth Kelley is a criminal defense lawyer with a nationwide practice specializing in representing people with mental disabilities. She is the co-chair of The Arc's National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability, has served three terms on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and serves on the Editorial Board of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section Magazine.  Learn more .
Further Reading
Behind Bars for 66 Years
As Leigh Ann Davis of The Arc’s National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability asks "How many more people like him exist in our prisons and jails?" People with intellectual/ developmental disabilities are particularly vulnerable to being wrongly accused and fogging false confessions. Read Now
Elizabeth was recently appointed by the President-Elect of the American Bar Association to the Commission on Disability. In that role, Elizabeth will continue her advocacy on behalf of people with mental disabilities in the criminal justice system.
After surviving mental illness, he works to keep others like him out of jail
After struggling with mental illness and substance abuse, and then being charged with petty theft, Justin Vople successfully completed a jail diversion program in Miami, Florida. Now as a peer specialist, he helps others get the same second chance. 
He couldn’t speak as a child. Now this autistic student is giving a commencement address
Cheers to Bruno Youn who graduated from Claremont McKenna College last month. At three years old, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Fast forward: he delivered the commencement address for the Class of 2019!
Author Chats Radio
Listen to Elizabeth's interview with Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren about her book A Court of Refuge: Stories from the Bench of America's First Mental Health Court. Judge Wren started the mental health court in Broward County, Florida in 1997 in response to the huge number of people with mental disabilities who revolved in and out of the courthouse door -- people who needed treatment, not punishment.  
Books & Videos
FREE E-Book! Families' Guide to Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

When your family member with a mental disability has been arrested or charged with a crime, it can be a confusing and challenging experience that leaves you unsure of where to turn for answers. Here are some key things families can do to help the defense attorney handling their case.
Representing People with Mental Disabilities: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Best Practices Manual

Edited by Elizabeth Kelley, this book is available for purchase from The American Bar Association. It contains chapters devoted to a variety of issues confronted by people with mental disabilities in the criminal justice system such as Competency, Sanity, Malingering, Neuroscience, Jail and Prison Conditions, Working with Experts,and Risk Assessment. Chapters are written by academics, mental health experts, and criminal defense lawyers. In the Introduction, Elizabeth writes that "This is the resource I wish I had had many years ago."