A University of Cambridge study from 2013 revealed that girls presenting with eating disorders such as anorexia score more highly for autistic traits. ASD people of both genders are notoriously picky eaters. As a side-effect of their sensory processing difficulties, undiagnosed girls with ASD may be finding it physically difficult to identify the sensation of hunger or may have an aversion to the textures and tastes of their food.
“It should be standard to screen for ASD when a girl presents with an eating disorder,” Dr Marshall says.
Adult women with ASD may battle with additional mental health problems, often caused by stress and anxiety due to their ASD. Many higher-functioning ASD sufferers will be able to have a career and maintain a superficially “normal” life, yet aspects of life such as mothering may be very difficult. Sensory sensitivities can make the mess and chaos of babies and small children difficult to deal with for a mother with ASD, Dr Marshall says. (…)
Puberty can be a minefield for girls with ASD, for whom uncertainty is a big source of anxiety. In Anna’s case, her tendency to take things literally took a comic turn when Catherine showed her an animation showing changes to a girl’s body.
“The video showed a girl going from flat-chested to fully bosomed in about 15 seconds. Anna screamed and ran away,” Catherine said.
“I realised she thought it was going to happen as fast as it did in the video. I went back over it and explained that it would happen very slowly. She looked terrified at these animated bosoms that just shot out!”