Autism in Women and Girls Being Under-Diagnosed: Research Autism Holds First Ever UK Conference to Examine Issues

News Release Date: 25 February 2010

Research Autism today hosts the first in a series of 'Research Autism-Lorna Wing' conferences and seminars which will examine the issue of autism spectrum conditions (ASC) in women and girls. The national charity has brought together some of the world's most eminent experts in the field for the first time ever in the UK.

The conference was prompted by Professor Christopher Gillberg's recent findings regarding under-diagnosis of autism in females. The aim of the day is to seek further insight into the possible reasons for under-diagnosis of girls and women, and to explore the particular issues surrounding the education of girls with ASC and of women in employment. Furthermore, the day will also examine the links between eating disorders and ASC in women and girls.

Notable speakers include: Dr Lorna Wing; a founding trustee of Research Autism and Consultant Psychiatrist for the National Autistic Society (NAS). And also Professor Christopher Gillberg, Consultant Psychiatrist, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, who will present clinical perspectives on diagnosis of women and girls with autism, as well as on assessment and intervention. In addition, Nadine Stavonina de Montagnac (a.k.a. Rozagy), award winning screenwriter, artist and writer with autism, will present her own personal experiences of living with the condition and having a family with ASC.

Other speakers include: Dr Jacqui Ashton Smith, Principal of the Helen Allison School, Kent, NAS, who will discuss pertinent issues relating to the education of girls ; Professor Marie Harder, University of Brighton and David Perkins, Head of Prospects, the NAS supported employment service; who will both look at the personal perspectives of communication, change and relationships within the workplace; and finally Professor Janet Treasure, from the Institute of Psychiatry, London, who will speak on eating disorders in girls and young women with ASC and the implications for their diagnosis and treatment.

Richard Mills, Research Director of Research Autism said: 'We are concerned with the under-diagnosis and misdiagnosis of girls and women with autism spectrum conditions (ASC). The consequences of this can have potentially disastrous repercussions for their subsequent treatment and final outcome. Over the last decade we have found that boys with autism are mostly being diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 7. However, with the exception of the most obvious cases, girls are being diagnosed in adolescence or adulthood, if at all. This can often be due to many differing factors between the sexes in the early years, particularly in areas such as language and social skills. With the new Autism Act today's conference is so timely, as we need to recognise the particular difficulties that women and girls' with ASC face and increase awareness of their concerns amongst key professionals. This vulnerable group will continue to face further social isolation, communication difficulties, low self-esteem and additional conditions such as eating disorders and anorexia unless we improve recognition.'

Geoffrey Maddrell, Chairman of Research Autism said: 'The reason why we commissioned the Research Autism-Lorna Wing series of conferences and seminars was primarily in order to highlight issues concerned with aspects of autism of particular importance to individuals with autism and their families, but less well known or indeed possibly not covered at all elsewhere. In fact, we may not know the exact causes of autism in women and girls' or indeed the rest of the population. But what we do know is that there is an essential need for better coordinated and informed responses across the lifespan of each individual; the starting point for this has to be scientific research. Research Autism will continue to play a leading role in this work; through our own research, conferences, and by objectively evaluating autism interventions. Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life and support social inclusion for those with autism spectrum conditions and their families.'

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Notes to editors:


Bernard Fleming, Information Manager, Tel. 020 3490 3091, email info@researchautism.net

Research Autism


Research Autism is the only UK charity dedicated to the production of quality, trusted information on autism treatments and other approaches. Its Information Centre is informed by world experts and accredited by the NHS Information Standard, an independent kite-mark of reliability and quality. It guides people through the minefield of interventions on offer, allowing them to make informed decisions based on impartial, factual information, including risks and hazards. Its research programme is derived from the priorities of autistic people and families and addresses areas that affect everyday life. 

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25 Oct 2017