Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Autistic Diagnosis Criteria are Limiting for Men Too

I write a lot about how the diagnostic standards for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are not an accurate portrait of autism. I’ve shared in previous essays that the symptoms of autism are primarily based on external behavior that differs from neurotypical norms. Furthermore, the symptoms are also primarily based on observations of white-cis-gendered-upper-middle-class boys.


This is why many autistic women, myself included, go undiagnosed. The symptoms criteria leave out the internal experience of autism, as well as how it presents in people who were not socialized as boys.


The majority of my essays about late identified autism are focused on the experiences of autistic women. I am a cis-woman and feel most comfortable writing about my lived experiences.


As I shared more and more of my essays, I was initially surprised when some men commented that my essays resonated with them. However, as I took time to think about it more - it made sense to me. Just because someone is a man does not mean he will automatically fit the current ASD symptoms.


Autistic art therapist Jackie Schuld shares a watercolor illustration of man with eyes closed.
"Disconnected From the Self" Watercolor by Jackie Schuld

Gender is a social construct. How we teach boys and girls to act, feel, and think is a product of our culture. Many individuals find these gender norms constricting and harmful. For example, our culture provides less opportunities for boys to express and accept themselves emotionally. As a result, men often feel alienated from themselves and cannot connect emotionally with other men. That is a disservice to their humanity. It also means that my essays about the emotional experience of autism may connect deeply with men.


Furthermore, even if an autistic man fits the ASD diagnostic criteria, the criteria still don’t capture the lived interior experience. Most of my essays focus on what it internally feels like to be autistic. It makes sense that this would resonate with autistic people, regardless of gender.


 

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