I have always been aware of the existence of male bias in the recognition and treatment of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions. However, it was in 2006 whilst working on the outreach team in greater Manchester, as key worker to three women diagnosed with autism and additional complex needs, that I truly realised the depth of misconception and lack of understanding surrounding ASD in the female condition. I have since been committed to developing this research field and serving this overlooked community.

The experiences of autistic women and girls are still hugely misunderstood by most and it remains more common for men and boys to receive a clinical diagnosis of autism. In 2017 research, R Loomes calculated it as low as 3 : 1 for male to female diagnosis, indicating a clear diagnostic gender bias. 

Autistic females are more likely to have symptoms which go unnoticed and often internalise behaviours which can manifest in damaging ways, such as anxiety and extreme depression, and even externalise with self-harming behaviours. Fortunately, we are in changing times with a growing acknowledgement and acceptance for women to look and be experienced differently.

Hannah’s PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London, explores how we might attain a better understanding of sex differences and similarities in the autism profile so that we can move towards a clearer and more individualised identification of autism in both females and males, thus improving the quality of life for them and those close to them. 

Hannah is also working with St. Giles Trust to improve service provision for women with mental health and complex support needs in England’s Criminal Justice System—a project which will help some of the most at-risk and in need women in the system. For more information on the prison project click here.


If you would like to discuss an issue related to female autism with Hannah please do get in touch.