Autistic Women and Girls – What we already know


Autistic Women and Girls

The Scottish Strategy for Autism sets out its outcomes and priorities for autistic people in Scotland. The strategy’s aims to improve the inequalities faced by autistic people across four outcomes:

  • A healthy life
  • Choice and Control
  • Independence and
  • Active Citizenship

The strategy recognises that autistic women and young girls face additional inequalities and challenges. This is because autism is underdiagnosed in females and often misdiagnosed as some professionals perceive autism to be a condition for males. This misperception often leads to autism not being diagnosed in girls and women until much later than when boys and men are diagnosed. To address this the strategy supports the education of health professionals to ensure they have educational resources and training available to them to enable them to recognise autism and diagnose it in girls and women.

Whilst we appreciate that although much has been done, there is still so much to do and that is why we have committed to raising understanding and changing practice across all sectors. It is important that autistic females are understood and welcomed within their own communities and supported to be as independent and active as they wish to be. That is why we have committed to supporting national autism public awareness campaigns. Work begins on this in Spring 19.

Work has been funded to support this including:

Right Click e resource for Woman and Young Girls

This project saw Scottish Autism and the Scottish Woman’s Autism Network (SWAN) collaborate to provide a resource for women and young girls to help support them in social situations and settings. For example what autistic woman should expect at health appointments and bra fittings. The resource is available here.

SWAN: Under Our Wing Mentoring Project

The SWAN Mentoring Programme is a pilot project funded by Scottish Government through Scottish Autism. The aim to provide autistic women the opportunity to participate in a holistic, experiential learning programme underpinned by autistic led peer support, to build skills, confidence, feelings of empowerment.

The programme will include training in mentoring skills delivered by an award winning practitioner and experiential outdoors learning sessions commissioned for us by the Forestry Commission, computer software workshops and more.

Women and girls with Learning Disabilities

The Keys to Life – Learning Disabilities Strategy sets out its outcomes and priorities for people with learning disabilities in Scotland. The strategy aims to improve the inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities across four outcomes: learning disabilities are empowered to

  • live healthy and active lives
  • learn to reach their full potential
  • participate in an inclusive economy
  • contribute to a fair, equal and safe Scotland

The refresh of The keys to life, is due to be launched on 13 March this year, aims to address issues like parenting, relationships and sexual health for girls and women with learning disabilities. We want to protect the rights of people with learning disabilities to become parents, addressing the need to provide effective, early and on-going support to keep families together, including producing an easy read version of NHS Health Scotland’s Parenting Guide ‘Ready Steady Baby’.

We will also commission the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory to produce better data on women who become mothers and their children who become adopted or looked after, and working collaboratively with health and social care partnerships to address stigma and discrimination associated with the rights of people with a learning disability to have children.

We recognise the rights of people with learning disabilities to enjoy and maintain healthy relationships, including sexual relationships. We will address the discrimination around the reproductive rights of women and girls with a learning disability to be given appropriate relationship, sexual health and parenting education, to be empowered around their own reproductive health and to have access to advice and services.