Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome: An Exploration of the Female Diagnostic Experience
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Current research regarding autism has established gender inequity in diagnosis, with the focus of diagnosis and phenotypic understanding as male dominated and biased in construction. This suggests for high-functioning autistic individuals, the female presentations of autism are under-diagnosed with potential negative effects, but it remains a limited and poorly understood area of research. This research aimed to explore the phenomena in further depth and facilitate contribution to emerging understandings by illustrating the experiences of adult females identified and diagnosed under the diagnostic terminology of ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’ or ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ in the United Kingdom. To explore this subject matter, a qualitative approach was adopted with the utilisation of 17 adult female participants and an online self-report questionnaire. Thematic Analysis was utilised to explore the participant accounts of both autism and diagnostic experience to generate themes from within the data. Four main themes were identified: ‘The Autistic Identity’, ‘Barriers to Diagnosis’, ‘An Adult Diagnosis’ and ‘Femininity of Autism’. Participant experiences were consistent with existing theories in relation to female phenotypic existence, the masking of impairments due to stigmatisation as well as the indication of identification and professional understanding issues. However, the current research also highlighted the effects of a delayed diagnosis, the availability of support services and the utilisation of online support communities as indicative of further enquiry. The implications of this exploration may motivate contribution to quantitative measures, awareness and further phenotypic research.
B.Sc. (Hons) Psychology
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