A study at Anglia Ruskin University is currently underway to assist with early diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorder however what makes this study even more unique is who the individual that is spearheading it. “The project is being led by Hannah Belcher, a PhD student at Anglia Ruskin University, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 23.”
The study is specifically interested in female diagnoses as only one fifth of girls are diagnosed before the age of 11 compared with over half of boys diagnosed before the same age. The study consists of an online screening tool which aims to survey 6,000 people in an attempt to understand the scale of how many women are still going undiagnosed.
“Hannah said: The main aim of this research is to help quicken the identification of girls on the spectrum, offer them the support they need and help them achieve their full potential. Teachers, therapists and doctors see isolated problems in girls but are failing to see the bigger picture. I was diagnosed when I was 23, considerably late by male standards but unfortunately fairly average for females on the spectrum. “
Many women with ASD do not present with the typical symptoms and as the study this study proposes that a lot of women don’t even consider that they might have autism, but instead think they have social problems. There are a lot of women who may be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder however that correct diagnosis for many of them may be autism.
“Hannah said: And contrary to the Asperger’s stereotype I do not like trains, I’m not particularly fussed about numbers, I can look people in the eye and I have never hacked into a computer! Instead I have good friends and enjoy music, films and photography.”
Dr Stagg, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University and supervisor of the study states that autism is often incorrectly viewed as a male condition. However he highlights that not enough is known to be certain of a greater prevalence in males or it may be that females are better at coping with the symptoms by copying others and therefore masking the social effects of autism.