What does autism in girls look like?
Quite simply it looks really different. 

No two autistic girls are the same. Each has their own character, likes and dislikes and will have an entirely unique way of doing things.

Autistic girls can appear to find social interaction reasonably easy on a superficial level. When they are younger, they can mimic socially appropriate behaviour, without understanding what they are doing or why they are doing it. This is called masking. It has the effect of hiding their difficulties.

Social Interaction

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.


Some autistic girls experience anxiety, and they may need to exert a high level of control over their environment and the people in it. This can result in quite ritualised behaviour, inflexible routines and meltdowns when unplanned events occur.

Autistic girls often want to please, and will spend all day at school trying very hard to do the right thing and be like everyone else. They often do not want to draw any attention to themselves, and don’t want other people to know that they are struggling. Sometimes they spend all day at school pretending everything is fine; only to go home and have a meltdown or a shutdown because they are exhausted.


What can you do?

  • Clear routines and structure at home can be a great help.  A timetable of what is happening, with pictures, makes it clear what is going to happen.
  • Communication is key. Make everything explicit. Explain why you are doing something, or why you talk to someone in a certain way.
  • Identify triggers and talk about how to cope with them or avoid them.
  • Create a calm space in your home where they can recharge their batteries.
  • Display clear visual rules in your home and refer to them.
  • Talk about emotions as they happen and name them to build their emotional vocabulary.  
  • Explain, explain, check understanding and explain again!

With the right support and guidance, autistic girls are successful, self-aware, proud, happy and independent young people, able to live and study independently and pursue a variety of careers.

What does autism in girls look like? At Limpsfield Grange we think it looks awesome!

Mrs Wild



‘Limpsfield celebrate differences in my child while preparing her for the neurotypical world.’

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