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you don't look autistic sign to show that female autism checklist doesn't apply

Female Autism Checklist : Throw Away The Textbook!

Have you seen the female autism checklist? It makes for some interesting reading, and it was the first thing I laid eyes on, in the run up to my formal diagnosis.

My autism diagnosis came out of the blue, I wasn’t expecting it at all. I suppose you could say I was a shining example of someone blinded by the outdated stereotypes of what autism and ADHD ‘look’ like!

I was coming to the end of my ADHD assessment and the psychiatrist very gently and kindly explained to me that he was referring me for an ASD assessment. Now, tests had never been a strong point during my educational journey, but apparently, I scored very highly when it came to the ASD ASSQ test! He explained why he was referring me and gave me some resources to look into, whilst I awaited assessment.

As I started to look into autism, my whole world started to make sense. From the struggles and challenges through my childhood and teens to the trials and tribulations of adult life. As I sat and reflected on where I was in the moment, I couldn’t help but wonder how I hadn’t realised. Now I knew, I could see all the signs and evidence before me. 

The confusing female autism checklist

But as I researched, ahead of my diagnosis, I became confused and overwhelmed by the female autism checklist. The lists of traits that I *should* have was so confusing for me. Some of it resonated deeply with me, other elements didn’t at all. I started to think there must have been a mistake and that when I had my ASD assessments, I’d be told I wasn’t autistic. That wasn’t the case, the two psychiatrists I saw as part of my assessment both agreed, conclusively – this was one test I was a high achiever at, apparently! 

So, maybe you’re like me, you’ve perused the literature, your seen the female autism checklist and you’ve poured over traits and checklists, and you’re confused by what you’ve read? 

Do you feel you’ve got a handle on what autism is? Or do you feel a bit baffled, confused, or even (like me) frustrated that you’ve been reduced to a checklist??

We’re told that autism is a checklist of traits, but it’s time to think again. For many autistic and ADHD entrepreneurs and leaders in particular, such descriptions barely scratch the surface.

Autism, a spectrum as vast as a rainbow, cannot be confined to the bullet points of a textbook. If you’re seeking a cookie-cutter definition, this isn’t the place. But if you’re looking for a deeper, more nuanced understanding—read on.

woman tearing up a female autism checklist to show we are more than a checklist

Time to tear up the female autism checklist!

My belief is that we have our core traits, as individuals, but they are shaped by many other factors. Our childhood, our environment, our socioeconomic background, culture, ethnicity, life experiences and trauma – and many other things too. No two people have the same autistic or ADHD traits, and we don’t all experience our traits in the same way.

We are ALL unique, that is why textbooks and checklists are a complete waste of time. I am all for ripping up the female autism checklist if I’m honest. 

Of course, I appreciate that having a female autism checklist has some value, in so far as it gives us a starting point where we can identify as being autistic. I understand the need to have diagnostic criteria, but let’s face it – the current diagnostic criteria are woefully inadequate, especially when it comes to females, as all of the criteria and research have been carried out on white middle-class boys. I’m going to resist the urge to rant here….so let us move on swiftly!!

What’s important to understand, is how your traits affect you. And this will change throughout your life, depending on your environment and what you’re exposed to. It will depend on the people in your life, trauma, health, and stresses in your life. Your autistic traits will be fluid, not static – and you’ll need to learn to deeply understand your neurodivergent self so that you can have the most supportive and healthy environment in which to exist.  No female autism checklist will help you there!

This is why I believe it’s vital to align your life to your values, passions, goals, and dreams, to truly understand your strengths and challenges, and be able to assess your needs at any given moment in your life.

I felt like I was scrabbling around in the dark after my diagnosis. So many lists, checkboxes, and advice on what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Reels of videos and text telling me what I’d be thinking, feeling, needing, and how I’d be acting. Except that wasn’t MY experience. My experiences are unique to me, and yours are to you too. You’re so much more than a female autism checklist or textbook explanation, and you definitely don’t belong in a box labelled ‘autism’. 

Now it’s time to forget all that you’ve heard and start a journey of radical self-understanding, acceptance, and compassion!

Throw away the checklist and live authentically

smiling autistic female entrepreneur to show that throwing away checklists brings joy

Here’s some tips to help you navigate the world of female autism checklists and textbook explanations of what autism is and isn’t….

The Textbook is Just a Starting Point
Yes, the textbook offers an introduction, the checklist helps you identify your core traits, but it’s akin to describing the universe by looking at a single star. Diagnostically, professionals often rely on the DSM-5, which provides a foundation. However, autism is more than repetitive behaviors or challenges in communication. It’s an intricate dance of strengths, challenges, passions, and experiences.

Every Individual is Unique
No two autistic individuals are the same. Just like neurotypical people, every autistic person has a unique personality, set of interests, and life experiences. checklist of diagnostic traits does not take into account the vast diversity within the community, particularly when you consider that these diagnostic traits are outdated and based on white middle-class boys! What’s a strength for one might be a challenge for another.

Evolution of Understanding
Historically, autism was profoundly misunderstood. Today, with extensive research, we understand autism as a spectrum. Even within the past decade, our comprehension has evolved exponentially, highlighting the dangers of adhering rigidly to dated notions. However, societal stereotypes and views of what autism *looks* like are wildly outdated, in my opinion. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told I don’t *look* autistic! 

The Entrepreneurial Autistic Mind
As autistic entrepreneurs and leaders, our traits can be a superpower in the entrepreneurial realm. Think of the precision, the innovative approach, the tenacity. Many of the world’s leading innovators and thinkers display traits that resonate with autism. We’re looking at a wealth of untapped potential, a veritable goldmine for industries that crave outside-the-box thinkers. We are the innovators and catalysts for unparalleled success, of that I am sure! 

We're in this together...

group of women to show mutual support

 Stereotypes are outdated, damaging and responsible for causing isolation and disconnection, in my opinion. The myths surrounding autism—like lacking empathy or being robotic—are damaging, outdated, and, frankly, wrong.

The spectrum showcases a rich range of emotional depth, sensitivity, and profound insight into human nature. I would be so bold as to argue that many autistic women I know are more empathetic and emotional than the majority of neurotypical women I know. 

We, as a society, seriously need to start listening to the unique experiences of individuals. We need to listen and BELIEVE what they are telling us, not dismiss them, because they don’t fit into the female autism checklist or box that has been crafted by society. This is an area that needs radical change, urgently! 

According to a report by the National Autistic Society, over 700,000 individuals in the UK are on the autism spectrum. That’s more than 1 in 100. You cannot try and label and categorise 700,000 people (probably more) into a succinct checklist or tick box. It’s crazy to think that that is even possible. As I previously mentioned, so many factors play a part in how someone experiences their autism, and equally, how others experience it too.  

I’ve covered the impact and success of neurodivergent leaders in previous blogs, and it’s no secret that I believe that our autistic traits can bring innovation and success in new and exciting ways. 

Autistic professionals are already making waves in various fields. Tech giants like Microsoft and SAP have already recognised the potential and are actively recruiting from the neurodiverse community. Why? Because they see beyond the textbook.

It’s time we moved past rudimentary and restrictive definitions. It’s time we celebrated the spectrum in all its glory. For the autistic and ADHD entrepreneurs and leaders out there, remember: your strength isn’t in fitting a mould but in breaking it. Embrace your unique perspective, your distinct approach, and let’s redefine success, one venture at a time!

Be inspirational!

glow in the dark book to help to share your story

This is the thing I love most about us collectively becoming authentic leaders and standing together. We get to be inspirational, authentic leaders, for the next generations to come. We are the ones that get to tear up the female autism checklist right now, so that it doesn’t even exist for future generations! 

I would love to invite you to think about your own unique autistic traits, and how they have helped to shape your success. Where have they influenced your life in a positive way, and helped you?  How can you share your story, so that we start to smash apart these outdated legacy stereotypes of what autism *looks* like, so that society accepts, embraces, and celebrates neurodiversity – for all of the wonderfully unique talents and skills it brings?   

Because here’s the thing, our younger autistic girls are watching us. They are watching us to see what is possible, figuring out what their futures will look like. So, lets show them that anything and everything is possible, and give them the confidence to be bold, authentic, and successful leaders of the future! Are you with me…….?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog on the female autism checklist.  Until next time, stay bold, stay brave, and keep shining your beautiful, unique light.

I’d love to see you over in our Facebook Community if you’re not already there. Click on the button below to join our supportive group for female entrepreneurs and leaders (or those committed to showing up fully in their lives!). We are UK based, but you’re welcome to join if you’re not UK based. Nikki x

PS. Have you taken my Success & Happiness Quiz yet? It’s super insightful, and you’ll get bespoke advice, based on your answers. Are you ready to find out if you’re living life for yourself, or others?? Then click to take the Quiz!