High Functioning Autism in Teenage Girls Symptoms

Unveiling high functioning autism in teenage girls. Discover the unique challenges and effective strategies for managing symptoms.

Understanding High-Functioning Autism

High-functioning autism refers to individuals on the autism spectrum who have average or above-average intellectual abilities. Understanding the unique talents and challenges associated with high-functioning autism is essential for providing appropriate support and intervention. It is important to recognize that individuals with high-functioning autism have diverse talents and challenges, and strategies that work for one person may not work for another. Let's explore the unique talents and challenges of individuals with high-functioning autism and the variability of effective strategies.

Unique Talents and Challenges

Children and teenagers with high-functioning autism often demonstrate exceptional abilities in various skills and talents. Some individuals may have specific and obsessive interests, which can be utilized to broaden their learning experiences in other subjects. These interests can serve as a source of motivation and engagement in academic activities [1].

However, high-functioning autism also presents challenges that can impact various aspects of an individual's life. Difficulties with social interactions, communication, and sensory processing are common challenges experienced by individuals with high-functioning autism. These challenges may manifest differently from person to person, highlighting the importance of individualized support and intervention strategies.

Variability of Effective Strategies

While there are evidence-based strategies and interventions for individuals with high-functioning autism, it is essential to recognize that what works for one individual may not work for another. The effectiveness of strategies can vary depending on the unique strengths, challenges, and preferences of each person. Additionally, strategies that are effective one day may not be effective the next, highlighting the need for flexibility and ongoing assessment of the individual's needs [1].

To determine effective strategies for individuals with high-functioning autism, it is important to consider their strengths, interests, sensory sensitivities, and communication styles. A person-centered approach that focuses on building upon strengths and addressing challenges can help tailor interventions to meet the specific needs of each individual.

By understanding the unique talents and challenges of individuals with high-functioning autism and recognizing the variability of effective strategies, we can provide appropriate support and create an inclusive environment that fosters their growth and development.

Gender Differences in Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) manifests differently in girls compared to boys, according to recent research. The historical focus on boys in early studies of autistic children has made it challenging to use existing diagnostic criteria. This has resulted in presentation disparities and missed diagnoses in girls.

Presentation Disparities

Girls with autism may exhibit fewer intense autism traits compared to boys, which can make it harder to recognize the condition. This difference in presentation can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses, potentially impacting their lifetime and increasing the risk of co-occurring conditions like anxiety [2]. The ability of autistic girls to "blend" among their friends and camouflage their autism traits may contribute to these disparities. Different play styles and social interactions may make it easier for them to mask their traits, especially in their early years. However, as they enter adolescence, the increasing social and relationship demands may make it harder for them to continue masking, leading to later diagnoses.

Missed Diagnoses in Girls

Autism diagnosis is more common in boys, with a ratio of three-to-one. Many autism diagnoses in girls are "camouflaged" and missed, contributing to the disparity. A predictive model estimates that 39% more women should be diagnosed with ASD, but biases among healthcare professionals and diagnostic tools contribute to the missed diagnoses in females.

Autistic girls may not exhibit some of the "classic" traits commonly associated with autism, leading to delayed diagnosis. They may learn to mask their autistic traits or overcompensate for them to appear more neurotypical to others. This masking behavior can make it challenging for healthcare professionals to identify the underlying condition.

Understanding the gender differences in autism is crucial for early identification and appropriate intervention. By recognizing the unique challenges faced by girls with high-functioning autism, we can work towards improving diagnostic tools and increasing awareness to ensure that all individuals receive the support and resources they need. For more information on autism symptoms in girls, visit our article on autism symptoms in girls.

Symptoms and Challenges in Teenage Girls

Teenage girls with high-functioning autism may exhibit various symptoms and face unique challenges that can sometimes differ from those typically associated with boys. It is important to recognize these differences to ensure appropriate support and intervention. Two key areas of symptoms and challenges in teenage girls with high-functioning autism are repetitive behaviors and interests, as well as social and emotional difficulties.

Repetitive Behaviors and Interests

Autistic girls often engage in repetitive behaviors and interests as a way to find predictability and comfort in their environment. These behaviors may include re-reading the same book, watching the same program repeatedly, or writing extensively about a specific topic. By engaging in these repetitive activities, they create a sense of stability and control in their lives.

Social and Emotional Difficulties

Teenage girls with high-functioning autism may experience challenges in social interactions and emotional regulation. Some autistic girls may present in an internalized way, meaning they may internalize their problems, leading to increased anxiety and difficulties expressing themselves verbally. This can sometimes result in situational mutism, where they are unable to speak in certain situations. These internal presentations may contribute to misdiagnosis and hinder understanding of their autistic traits [4].

Autistic girls may also exhibit "camouflaging" or "masking" behaviors, where they learn to hide or compensate for their autistic traits to appear more neurotypical. This masking can involve imitating social behaviors and suppressing their natural autistic tendencies. While this masking may help them fit in socially, it can lead to delayed diagnosis and make it more difficult to identify their autistic characteristics [3].

It is important to note that some girls with high-functioning autism may have fewer and less intense autism traits compared to boys, which can contribute to missed or delayed diagnoses. This delay in identification may impact their lifetime and increase the risk of developing co-occurring conditions such as anxiety [2].

Understanding these symptoms and challenges in teenage girls with high-functioning autism is essential for early identification, appropriate support, and effective interventions. By recognizing and addressing their unique needs, we can help autistic girls navigate the challenges they may face and provide them with the necessary tools to thrive.

Co-Occurring Conditions

Individuals with high-functioning autism may often experience co-occurring conditions that can further impact their daily lives. Understanding these conditions and their relationship with autism is essential for providing effective support and intervention. Some common co-occurring conditions include ADHD, anxiety, and depression.

ADHD and Autism

ADHD, which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, affects an estimated 30 to 60 percent of people with autism, compared to 6 to 7 percent of the general population. The symptoms of ADHD can overlap with those of autism, making it challenging to distinguish between the two conditions. Common symptoms of ADHD include difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

The co-occurrence of ADHD and autism can pose unique challenges. Executive functioning, which involves skills such as planning, organizing, and impulse control, may be affected in individuals with both conditions. This can impact their ability to regulate emotions and behavior, leading to impulsivity, defensiveness, and avoidance of anxiety-inducing situations [6]. Treatment for ADHD in individuals with autism may involve behavioral strategies and, in some cases, medication.

Anxiety and Autism

Anxiety is another commonly co-occurring condition with high-functioning autism. Over 90% of autistic teenagers experience bullying, peer rejection, or other forms of social challenges by the age of 14, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety and difficulties in social interactions [6]. Autism itself is a frontal lobe condition that affects executive functioning, and anxiety can further impact an individual's ability to regulate emotions and behavior.

Understanding and managing anxiety in individuals with high-functioning autism is crucial for their overall well-being. Strategies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation techniques, and social skills training can be beneficial in reducing anxiety symptoms and improving social interactions.

Depression and Autism

Depression can also co-occur with high-functioning autism. It is important to recognize the signs of depression in individuals with autism, as they may present differently compared to neurotypical individuals. Symptoms of depression in individuals with autism may include persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and social withdrawal.

As with any mental health condition, seeking professional help is vital for proper diagnosis and treatment. A comprehensive approach that combines therapy, support, and potentially medication can help individuals with high-functioning autism manage depression effectively.

Understanding the co-occurring conditions that often accompany high-functioning autism is crucial for providing appropriate support and intervention. Identifying and addressing these conditions can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Teenage Autism Management

Managing high-functioning autism in teenage girls involves addressing specific areas of concern, including hygiene and self-care, as well as coping with changes and milestones.

Hygiene and Self-Care

Autistic teenagers, including girls, may struggle with understanding the importance of hygiene and self-care. It is essential to provide guidance and tips to help them navigate these aspects of daily life. This is especially important for girls as they reach puberty and experience menstruation. Open communication and education about hygiene practices, such as using tampons or sanitary pads, can help girls with autism feel more prepared and confident during this stage [7].

Parents and caregivers can provide clear instructions and visual aids to assist with establishing a routine for personal hygiene. Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps and using visual schedules or checklists can help autistic teenagers follow the sequence of activities involved in personal care. Additionally, incorporating sensory-friendly products and creating a comfortable environment can make the process more enjoyable for them.

Coping with Changes and Milestones

Teenage years bring significant physical changes and social milestones, which can be particularly challenging for individuals with autism. Autistic teenagers may have difficulty adapting to these changes and may require additional support and understanding from their parents, counselors, or psychologists [7].

Open and honest communication between parents and teenagers with autism is crucial during this time. Providing a safe space for teenagers to express their feelings and concerns can help alleviate anxiety and promote a better understanding of the changes they are experiencing. Explaining social expectations, such as dating, friendships, and social interactions, in a clear and straightforward manner can also help autistic teenagers navigate these milestones.

Seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, can provide additional support for autistic teenagers as they cope with the challenges of adolescence. Therapeutic interventions, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, and applied behavior analysis, can assist teenagers in developing essential skills and strategies to navigate the social and emotional aspects of their lives [7].

By addressing specific areas of concern, such as hygiene and self-care, and providing support for coping with changes and milestones, parents, caregivers, and professionals can help teenage girls with high-functioning autism navigate the challenges of adolescence and promote their overall well-being.

Therapeutic Interventions

When it comes to managing high-functioning autism in teenage girls, therapeutic interventions play a crucial role in improving social skills, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life. Here are three effective therapeutic interventions commonly used:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a widely recognized and evidence-based approach that can be beneficial for teenagers with high-functioning autism. CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs, replacing them with positive and realistic ones. This can help reduce feelings of loneliness and promote socialization with peers. Through structured sessions with a trained therapist, teenagers learn coping strategies, problem-solving skills, and techniques to manage anxiety or depression. CBT can be an effective tool in improving social interactions and emotional regulation for girls on the autism spectrum.

Social Skills Training

Social skills training is another vital therapeutic intervention for teenage girls with high-functioning autism. These programs aim to teach individuals how to navigate social situations effectively. Social skills training typically involves learning to read non-verbal cues, understanding social and emotional rules, and solving social problems. This can be done through one-on-one sessions with a therapist, group settings, or specific programs like the Secret Agent Society, Westmead Feelings Program, Social Thinking Program, Stop Think Do, or the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS). These programs provide structured guidance and practice opportunities to develop and enhance social skills. By participating in social skills training, teenage girls with high-functioning autism can improve their social interactions and build meaningful relationships with peers.

Peer Training and Modeling

Peer training is an intervention that involves teaching typically developing children strategies to interact with autistic individuals. This approach creates more opportunities for social skill development in teenagers with autism. By providing peer support and modeling appropriate social behaviors, peer training enables girls with high-functioning autism to learn and practice social skills in a natural setting. Engaging with peers who have been trained to understand and support their needs can have a positive impact on the social development and integration of teenage girls with high-functioning autism. This intervention fosters inclusivity and acceptance within social environments.

By combining therapeutic interventions like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), social skills training, and peer training and modeling, teenage girls with high-functioning autism can develop the necessary skills to navigate social situations, manage emotions, and enhance their overall well-being. It is important to remember that each individual is unique, so interventions should be tailored to meet their specific needs and preferences. Consulting with healthcare professionals and therapists experienced in working with individuals on the autism spectrum can provide valuable guidance and support in selecting the most suitable therapeutic interventions.


[1]: https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/a-teacher-s-brief-guide-to-teaching-more-advanced-students-on-the-autism-spectrum

[2]: https://www.verywellhealth.com/differences-between-boys-and-girls-with-autism-260307

[3]: https://www.verywellhealth.com/signs-of-autism-in-girls-260304

[4]: https://autismawarenesscentre.com/how-do-autistic-girls-present-differently-than-boys/

[5]: https://www.autismspeaks.org/medical-conditions-associated-autism

[6]: https://attwoodandgarnettevents.com/10-challenges-your-autistic-teenager-likely-faces-every-day/

[7]: https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/autism-in-teens-puberty-expectations-symptoms/