The consequences of non- or misdiagnosis of girls with learning disorders

As stated before in this chapter, living in a male-centered¬†society¬†and¬†living with a disorder¬†that¬†is¬†mostly¬†researched and studied by and on¬†men¬†causes problems in the lives of girls and women with ASD and ADHD.¬†As the UN stated in 2017, women suffering from¬†this¬†intersectionality ‚Äúplaces them at higher risk of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation‚ÄĚ.

Looking back at the personal story that was presented at the start of this chapter, it is not hard to imagine what consequences a wrong or overlooked diagnosis can entail on a girl or women. Despite the exposure to sexual or physical abuse, the consequences to their mental health can be tragic.

A result of the lack of knowledge and research about women with ASD and their needs is significantly influencing women‚Äôs mental health. At the same time, it affects the physical health of women.‚ÄĮ Due to a lower self-esteem and self-consciousness, these women are more prone to suffer from physical abuse and self-harm.

The negative impact on the mental health that is caused by the incorrect treatment of women with a disorder does not spontaneously. Usually, a mental health issues develops over a longer period of time. Bauer (2001) found that when women with a developmental disorder live with families that never expect them to build any form of a romantic long-term relationship or live on their own, they are more likely to have lower self-esteem. When women are not encouraged to develop themselves and reach a certain personal growth might have a strong effect on their lives.

‚ÄúThey¬†(women)¬†have grown up absorbing the social stereotype that women with disabilities are asexual and are a burden to their families, and they feel that this type of life has now been thrust upon them.‚ÄĚ – Baylor College of Medicine, n.d.

As can be found in the overview of symptoms, difficulties with social relationships, particularly friendships, are an indication of ASD. It does not necessarily require physical abuse for a woman to lower her self-esteem and self-confidence. However, statistically seen it is difficult for women with any disorder to establish a long-term relationship. This, again, is a result of the societal expectation of them being unable to live an independent life (Hiller, Young, & Weber, n.d.).

Next to the idea of the perfect partner, society has specific¬†expectations¬†of what the ‚Äėgood‚Äô housewife or mother¬†looks like.¬†For example, the common symptoms for¬†men¬†with¬†ASD¬†are restricted social skills or getting very upset¬†when they get asked¬†to do something. Those characteristics are not¬†seen as¬†‚Äėuseful‚Äô for a woman¬†in order to¬†perform appropriately in a male-centred society (Russo & Denmark, 1984).¬†Therefore, it is not hard to imagine what women with¬†ASD¬†or ADHD have to face when they are open about their disorder.

Another way the lives of women with disorders is affected, is through the impact on women’s educational paths. Women with any form of disability or disorder are likely to receive less education during their lives than girls without a disorders or boys with a disorder. This group of women is up to five times less likely than women without a disorder to successfully complete eighth grade. Furthermore, girls with disorders are far less likely to become women without any college education. To be more precise, approximately only 16% of all women with disorders, but 31% of all women without disorders enter college (Bauer, 2001).

The impact of anxiety on girls with a learning disorder

It is essential to remark that from a young age, these women have tried hard to fit in, tried to be normal and hold it all together. They often feel like something is wrong with them or that there is something wrong with who they are. These women have been severely misunderstood. Their behaviour and social skills are seen as abnormal. They have been desperately denying who they really are, because no one recognised the true root cause for their overall behaviour.

there was a picture here but it’s gone of some quotes about how girls feel

This can result in a serious, long-term effect on the mental health of these already vulnerable individuals. These women are socially isolated, highly misunderstood and their behaviour is categorised as deficient to what is considered normal. Experiencing this on a daily basis could lead to regular emotional melt-downs, self-harm, eating disorders and a shockingly high rate of attempted suicide.

A study carried out by Cassidy and Rogers (2017) that focused on the prevalence of suicide attempts amonst women that were diagnosed with ASD later in life. They found that 66% of women with ASD have attempted suicide. What is more disturbing, is that one third of this group committed suicide.

The way anxiety is experienced

As described, anxiety plays a big role in the life or girls and women with ASD. Below, you find two different definitions of anxiety. One that is retrieved from a common dictionary and suggests the experience of anxiety for neurotypical people and the other from the perspective of a teenage girl with ASD. It clearly shows the intensity of challenges that girls and women with ASD can face in their everyday life.

For many girls and women, finally being diagnosed with¬†ASD¬†means relief. Finally, after being labelled with all kinds of negative labels, they are being labelled correctly. After years of not fitting in anywhere, they can be associated with the very first label that recognises and appreciates their differences and does not put them down as deficits. It provides them with the first reliable and neutral explanation of what they are experiencing. One they can identify with. Diagnosis gives an answer and serves as a Why. Lastly it supports girls and women to be able to embrace, be and stand for who they really are.‚ÄĮ¬†

Look back at the story of Ginny

You now know what the possible consequences of mis- or non-diagnosis of ASD and ADHD can be. Think back of Ginny’s situation. The non-diagnosis or in 2nd grade could have grave consequences for her life.

Using both scenarios, think of the possible effects in the (socio-emotional and cognitive) development of 8th grade Ginny and the effect on her overall life. Compare the outcomes.

What are some key points in her development that are different in both scenarios? In what way does the diagnoses of ASD impacts her life?

Scenario 1: Ginny is not diagnosed in 2nd grade and is only diagnosed with ASD in 8th grade.

Scenario 2: Ginny is diagnosed with ASD in 2nd grade.




Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book