Uncommon or Underdiagnosed? The Effectiveness of the Current Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Women
Children need to develop in positive learning environments with proper educational and developmental supports to achieve their highest potential and have positive postsecondary outcomes. Since students with disabilities often struggle with accessing curriculum without necessary supports, accuracy in early childhood detection and intervention of developmental delays is very important in the field of Special Education. While the diagnostic criteria of many common developmental delays are becoming more consistent and accurate at identifying children who may have special needs, there are still many factors that educators and diagnosticians are not considering when creating and evaluating said criteria. The idea of camouflaging, or “masking”, emotions or behaviors could be a factor to consider when looking at the disproportionate representation of male to female children receiving special education services in the US. Masking or camouflaging in psychology is a term that means the ability to conceal one’s emotions or reactions in order to achieve a desired outcome. This skill develops quickly in young girls, and can make diagnosing many mental health disorders or general health issues very difficult as key behaviors/symptoms can be suppressed or not severe enough for concern. If a child is masking behaviors associated with a developmental disability, like Autism Spectrum Disorder, they may not receive early childhood interventions until much later in life which may affect their success in the classroom. Knowing that masking occurs in young children, there is a need to evaluate the effectiveness of the current diagnostic criteria of Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disorders to see if girls are under-diagnosed due to alternate manifestations of common signs due to gender and gender norms.