Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

The Correlation Between Intelligence and Undiagnosed Autism in Women

I’m an autistic art therapist in private practice, which means I get to tailor my practice to my specialities. When I started to refine my niche, I chose to specialize in highly intelligent women with overwhelming thoughts and emotions.


What I didn’t realize is that my niche would attract a higher than normal amount of undiagnosed autistic women.


A Painting of a woman on top of abstract colors
"Missed" Mixed Media Collage by Jackie Schuld

Why is that?


First, undiagnosed autistic adult women are often very intelligent. It is usually their intelligence that enabled them to go undiagnosed in school and throughout childhood.


They typically excelled in their classes and were heavily praised for their intellect.


They did so well that people did not stop to take a closer look at how the individual was feeling internally.


High intelligence also helped these individuals to learn masking and camouflage skills - skills that hide how they feel internally. They learn to control their external behavior to try and fit in. They may have a desire to rock side to hide or hum, but they quickly learn that behavior is perceived as “weird” or “socially different” and thus do not.


So why isn’t this the same with autistic boys? It’s largely due to the unconscious ways we socialize boys and girls. Girls are encouraged to be nice, fit in, emotionally express, and be calm. In contrast, boys are encouraged to be more exuberant. They are not as frequently chastised for active behavior.


Thus, we are far more likely to see external behaviors of autism in boys, such as outbursts or stimming behavior.


Girls, in contrast, become adept at holding everything inside. They frequently feel intensely different or weird, but do everything they can to hide it. This often results in feelings of depression and anxiety.


When adults in their lives see they’re struggling, they often attribute it to the individual’s intelligence. They think they struggle to be happy, fit in, and socialize due to their exceptional intellect. Their mind is exceptional - they just don’t realize it’s an exceptionally AUTISTIC mind.

 

I provide art therapy for late-identified autistic people or those who think they might be autistic. You can learn more here.

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