Lots of autistic girls are very sociable. They want friends and spend a lot of time and effort trying to build friendships. However, the social rules which govern friendships can be difficult for them to understand, and friendships can become fraught. This causes unhappiness and feelings of frustration and isolation.
Recognising facial expressions or working out what someone really means can be difficult for autistic girls, making it hard for them to read a social situation. People’s responses to them are surprising and bewildering, and can make autistic girls feel confused or tense.
Some autistic girls have little understanding about social rules. They can speak to adults as though they were their friends, and not change their language to suit the social situation they are in. This can make autistic girls very vulnerable – they can be overfamiliar with people they don’t know. Autistic girls also can also overshare personal information which puts them at risk.
Many autistic girls have a great imagination, and can be good at pretend play. They can spend a long time indulging in elaborate imaginary worlds, which can be complex and full of detail. Their imaginary worlds can be developed over long periods of time, and can dominate play; the girls might be able to talk about their imaginary world in depth. Sometimes when life is challenging the girls can spend more time in their imaginary world than in the real world, as this is a mental place of safety for them. Their control over their imaginary world can be very comforting.
Autistic girls often have special interests. When they are young these interests can include age-appropriate topics such as horses or animals, boy bands or books or films. However, the intensity of their interest and how long the special interest lasts that is different. Autistic girls are more like super fans or experts, knowing a lot about a very specific topic. They might spend a lot of time thinking and talking about their special interest, and they could become preoccupied by it.
Sensory needs can also add to a complicated picture.
Autistic girls may be particularly sensitive to noise, bright lighting or touch; may hate wearing tight clothing or particular fabrics; or conversely, may love super tight clothes, or need to have their hair tied back in a tight ponytail every day.