It is becoming more apparent in recent years that many females with autism spectrum disorder (autism) have not been identified, sometimes until adulthood. Most of what is known about early signs of autism is based on predominantly male symptomatic presentations or data gathered from females with autism who are severely affected by autism and co-morbid conditions such as intellectual developmental disorder. One of the issues contributing to the under diagnosis of females is that the presentation of symptoms or traits and developmental histories of females with autism may not be the same as those of males. There is a gap in the research literature regarding the early presentations of autism in females, particularly for females with age-appropriate language and cognitive abilities. We interviewed parents of adolescent and adult females with significant autism symptoms or traits (but without intellectual developmental disorder). Interviews asked about developmental histories and parent recollections of differences they may have noticed in their daughters' early years. We also interviewed a group of parents whose daughters were not showing significant signs of autism but had similar social isolation and anxiety. Interpretative phenomenological analysis methods were used to analyze conversations with parents as a way to determine what seemed most salient to them about their daughters' early years without being influenced by symptom checklists. We found communication differences, restricted or repetitive interest and social communication differences to be recurring themes in the reports from parents interviewed. Learning about what early development in females with autism might look like can help us to reformulate our identification and assessment procedures for young children, particularly females who show developmental differences that have not previously been associated with autism.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





autism spectrum disorder, females with autism, development, early identification



Included in

Counseling Commons