If you have watched Bollywood movies like Barfi and My Name is Khan, you might probably know what autism is. For the unknown, autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. While time and again, there has been a debate about how men and women respond differently to autism, there has been a recent study that has put the difference rather clear.
In a study published in the journal Autism, which was recently presented at the British Science Festival at the University of Warwick, researchers from the University College London talked about a phenomenon known as 'social camouflaging'. They believe it may help those with autism avoid detection.
Describing it specifically, they said that some autistic people use strategies to hide traits associated with the condition during social interactions. Scientists believe that raising awareness about camouflaging among doctors could help reduce the number of missed autism diagnoses.
Specifically, women may not be diagnosed with autism as frequently as men. This is because they are better at hiding the common signs of the condition. The conclusion was drawn based on an online survey, which measured gender differences in camouflaging in autistic and non-autistic adults.
“The effect wasn’t as big as we were expecting,” said Dr Will Mandy, from University College London, one of the authors of the study. She added, “What I’m finding interesting is how ubiquitous camouflaging is. When you start to dig into why, it’s quite alarming; for starters it’s experienced as an obligation rather than a choice. It’s very often about self-preservation, avoiding bullying or attack.”
As explained in the study, the common camouflaging behaviours include learning how to make eye contact, or suppressing urges to move in physical ways.
“In its most complex form, [social camouflaging] involves the adoption of a persona. In women particularly, this might involve observing other women or girls who appear to be popular, and copying their gestures or clothing,” said Mandy.
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