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My journey as an autistic girl Meg Parker TEDxYouth@CaterhamSchool

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

In this powerful talk, Meg shares her journey to being diagnosed with autism and her life since. Meg is a secondary school pupil in the UK. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at


Unknown Speaker 0:12

When I was in your five, we used to stand in line to wait to go to music class. As we stood there, people would get into groups to talk to each other. Everyone always seemed to know exactly where to stand, what to say, and when to talk. I remember wondering, what the heck is wrong with me? Why am I not getting this? It seemed like everybody was on a different level than I was. Or rather, I was on a different level than they were. At the time. It didn't actually seem like I was different. It just seemed like I was quirky. Cheers later, we went in about depression to a psychiatrist. I came out with the diagnosis of autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurological disorder that affects communication and behavior. It affects one in 54 children worldwide. It was first noted in 1943 by a man named Leo Kanner. And from there today, the range of the range of behaviors and people that have ASD has broadened. Until now, both children adults still get diagnosed every day. There's just one problem with this model that diagnosis hundreds and 1000s of people. It doesn't actually fit everybody. This model of behaviors that we use is a male model, based off studies and research that have been primarily based around boys, and doesn't always fit girls. So what is the difference between boys and girls? oddly enough, it starts all the way from an early age. Rachel Hiller, a professor in the University of Bath conducted two studies in Australia about the gender differences between boys and girls with ASD, but with no learning different difference. What she found, while interviewing the caretakers, of girls and boys with autism, was that while was that there were some similarities like later speaking. But while while girls bar boys were tend to isolate themselves from others, girls tended to obsess over friendships, and try harder and harder to fit in. Likely much more likely to be making friends or even one or two like minded allies. girls would try their hardest to fit in doing everything possible to figure out how to make it work. Girls also were more likely to for emotional outbursts and meltdowns at home, and have an a more fights with parents. Girls were also more likely to experience authority and to end depression than boys. But girls were also more likely to try and mimic behaviors, like eye contact and toy playing, while boys would tend to more likely to line up toys and play with them in a completely separate way. Another difference between boys and girls is that they experience wildly different views of school day. For girls, they'll spend all day pressing down their emotions autistic symptoms, masking it all. Girls are less likely to make socially inappropriate comment, have volume control, and, and have volume control and have harder time understanding around them. procedures were less likely to focus on girls as boys tended to have be more hyperactive, and were more likely to struggle with classroom behavior. We all this results in a phenomenon called the four o'clock explosion that's almost exclusively found in girls. Girls will spend all day repressing everything from their personality to their emotions, and when they get home, they release it all with parents and emotional outbursts and doing whatever they need to do to release all this energy and frustration. This This means that teachers and parents have homes completely different views of what a girl's personality is actually like. And this can result in psychiatry is finding it harder to diagnose girls as they have not sure who to trust with these different views.

Unknown Speaker 4:44

The biggest difference between girls or at least the most well known is mimicking a masking that is exclusively in girls. Girls are more likely to mimic around them and try to fit in with everyone around them. Using this to mask autistic symptoms. In science, this means that everyone from parents to teachers, as psychiatrists will find it harder to die to find and recognize girls with autism. All in all, many people might think this is a good thing. But I need to make one thing very, very clear. Girls are just as autistic as boys have the same problems understanding and coping with social situations that normal people don't, and, but no, and have the same signs and symptoms, and are just as amazing without Isabel boys. So, with the symptoms, everything, it is harder to recognize girls and boys started with teachers. Teachers are the ones who usually make referral for neurological disorders. So if they're not the ones that organize autistic symptoms, children are less likely to get a diagnosis for anything. Starting off with teachers, on average, pay less attention to girls since girls are quieter from social pressures than boys, especially autistic girls. And teachers are more likely to focus on the hyperactive voice to or disrupting the class and the girls. In the Rachel hilar seconds study of autism, she interviewed teachers about the conversational skills of a set of girls, teachers found no problems with the conversational skills of half the girls in the set. Well, psychiatrists and professionals only found no problems with the conversational skills of 17% of those same girls. All this means that teachers are less likely to make a referral or even recognize that a girl is autistic in the first place. Getting referral means going to a professional, but personal are also affected by this bias, starting with the very basis of what they diagnose autism with their model. This model is a list of behaviors and science to recognize autism and the extent to entail The extent to how it affects people. But this model is based around boys, for example, hyper fixation, boys are more likely to hyper fixate on things like trains, mechanics and video games, commonly stereotyped ones but more commonly found that boys girls are more likely to hyper fixate on something that's actually not uncommon and new usually not unmanageable, like fashion or collecting shells or stamps. This means this obsession is, is focused, though on it with an artistic intensity and can last from adolescent from preschool years to adolescence. This means that one of the key ticks in the box as professionals have to do fiber fixation often isn't found, and can mean that girls can go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed with autism. The biggest group though affected by this bias is the general public and the media, specifically parents. In the media, a lot of things we see are heavier stereotyped, especially autism. Even autistic boys are heavily stereotyped with what people think autism looks like. But it's always autistic boys in the media. Can you remember one time you've seen an autistic girl on the news, or in a show? Girls with autism are just not recognized by the media. And the parents don't see what an autistic girl looks like compared to an autistic boy. This makes it harder for parents to notice that their girls quirkiness or symptoms, line up with things they've read or seen about autism, and makes them less likely to go in to check if a girl is autistic or not, and can make even girls feel like they don't have autism, or that they're or that people not believe girls to have autism, because they don't line up with the traditional symptoms that people recognize.

Unknown Speaker 9:11

All this What? So why is there this difference between girls and boys? One theory is the extreme male brain theory, which focuses on idea of fetal testosterone. We're, we're in development, boys have different behaviors from the chemicals in their brain. And then girls. Another theory is that a mixture of social and environmental factors have forced girls to adapt throughout time and making them and forcing them to be better at fitting in than boys ever had to. Another theory is that we're simply not recognizing girls with them flying under the radar of teachers and psychiatrists. All this means that when you're going in for a diagnosis, girls are more likely to get misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed. A quote from Dr. camela. Peng states that I feel like autistic girls are more likely to be garbage anxious, simply because it challenges the gender stereotype. Her getting a misdiagnosis or not getting a diagnosis at all, can have really horrible effects for girls, it can mean that they are not able to get early intervention or help with growing up. Or it can mean and it can mean that girls are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression the boys who say fd all of this stuff is changing. As we move forward, more researches more studies and more people are looking at girls and boys the differences and or just increasing their their variation of their sets and research meaning that our behavior and our understanding of the behaviors and differences are expanding. peep more people with autism are friends with autistic people or the family of autistic people are speaking up and sharing their stories and getting words out there to tell and try to get other people to stand up. But we can all do more. As people we can all go online and look up what what artistic girls are doing and autistic women, we can ask people around in our lives, if they're autistic and how it tried to help understand and really connect with people around us. As teachers and psychiatrists and professionals, we can you can try and look at your list of behaviors and double check the girl around you you're not you're not labeling them and making assumptions about them. And you can try to actually check if there's something special with them. As parents, we can look at our children and see what is going on with them. And maybe if those fights

Unknown Speaker 11:47

or outbursts

Unknown Speaker 11:48

or silences and no eye contact actually means that a girl is autistic. And girls out there who felt like me who feel like me. Look inside yourself and really see if maybe simply because your symptoms don't line up with the boys doesn't mean you're not artistic. We can all do better to stop more girls from falling through the cracks. Today, I wear my headphones in school, and I focus so much better. today. My friends, family and teachers all understand that I'm autistic and act accordingly. Today, I feel more like myself and I am happier than ever. today. I am autistic and today I am a girl Thank you

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