Boys, especially white, upper middle class boys, get diagnosed with autism at very young ages and get all the support that their parents can find. I’m a girl with autism. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 19 years old. I went through my first semester of my first-year at Gettysburg, not knowing anything about myself except the fact that I just didn’t fit in anywhere.
Unlike the stereotypical autistic boy, a girl on the spectrum doesn’t have language delay problems, or interest in technical things. Instead, we are shy, less prone to aggressive outbursts, desiring to make friends, very smart, very stubborn, very creative, very imaginative, hypersensitive to stimuli, have very good memories (especially for things we’re interested in), have poor eye contact (mostly with strangers), enjoy arranging things, create fantasy worlds, have obsessive interests, and have what may seem like over the top emotional reactions (Autism and Girls: The Hidden Gender poster).
I keep being told that I don’t seem autistic, but that’s because most autism research is done on boys. Autistic girls don’t look the same as autistic boys; just like neurotypical girls don’t look like neurotypical boys. Also, I’m high-functioning, which means I’m verbal, unlike the stereotypical nonverbal autistic person. Autism is not a linear spectrum — the way people typically think of a spectrum.
It is more like the graph where the center is the neurotypical person — and if the autistic person is closer to the center, they are more high functioning. If the autistic person is farther away from the center, it becomes more difficult for the autistic person to function in the neurotypical world with more social impairment, communication impairment and/or repetitive behaviors and interests.