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      Autistic women’s experience of intimate relationships: the impact of an adult diagnosis

      , , ,

      Advances in Autism

      Emerald Publishing

      Women, Autism, Sexuality

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          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.



          The purpose of this paper is to explore the experience of intimate relationships of women who have been diagnosed with Autism in adulthood.


          Semi-structured interviews were used to interview eight participants. The data were transcribed and analysed using the interpretative phenomenological analysis method.


          Four overall themes were identified. These included “Response to the diagnosis and receiving more information about Autism”, “Factors influencing dating behaviour”, “Sex and sexual experiences” and “Experience of intimate relationships as a person with Autism”.

          Research limitations/implications

          The results of this study have implications for both research and clinical practice as it highlights the areas in which women newly diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) could benefit from support.

          Practical implications

          The study hopes to add to the limited existing research on adult women with ASD.


          To date no similar research has investigated the same phenomenon through a similar method.

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          Most cited references 14

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          Is Open Access

          Quantifying and exploring camouflaging in men and women with autism

          Autobiographical descriptions and clinician observations suggest that some individuals with autism, particularly females, ‘camouflage’ their social communication difficulties, which may require considerable cognitive effort and lead to increased stress, anxiety and depression. Using data from 60 age- and IQ-matched men and women with autism (without intellectual disability), we operationalized camouflaging in adults with autism for the first time as the quantitative discrepancy between the person’s ‘external’ behavioural presentation in social–interpersonal contexts (measured by the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) and the person’s ‘internal’ status (dispositional traits measured by the Autism Spectrum Quotient and social cognitive capability measured by the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test). We found that the operationalized camouflaging measure was not significantly correlated with age or IQ. On average, women with autism had higher camouflaging scores than men with autism (Cohen’s d = 0.98), with substantial variability in both groups. Greater camouflaging was associated with more depressive symptoms in men and better signal-detection sensitivity in women with autism. The neuroanatomical association with camouflaging score was largely sex/gender-dependent and significant only in women: from reverse inference, the most correlated cognitive terms were about emotion and memory. The underlying constructs, measurement, mechanisms, consequences and heterogeneity of camouflaging in autism warrant further investigation.
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            Social challenges and supports from the perspective of individuals with Asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum disabilities.

            The study describes the perspectives of individuals with Asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum disabilities (ASDs) regarding social challenges and supports. Eighteen adults with ASDs were individually interviewed. They were asked to describe their experiences navigating their social worlds, and recommend effective social supports and strategies for improving social connectedness. Qualitative analyses of the interview transcripts revealed a number of common experiences including a profound sense of isolation, difficulty initiating social interactions, challenges relating to communication, longing for greater intimacy, desire to contribute to one's community, and effort to develop greater social/self-awareness. Commonly recommended social supports included external supports (e.g. activities based on shared interests, highly structured or scripted social activities, and small groups or dyads); communication supports (e.g. alternative modes of communication, explicit communication, and instruction in interpreting and using social cues); and self-initiated strategies for handling social anxiety (e.g. creative/improvisational outlets, physical activity, spiritual practice/organized religion, and time spent alone).
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              Understanding autism: insights from mind and brain.

               Uta Frith,  E. Hill (2003)
              Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication as well as repetitive behaviours and restricted interests. The consequences of this disorder for everyday life adaptation are extremely variable. The general public is now more aware of the high prevalence of this lifelong disorder, with ca. 0.6% of the population being affected. However, the signs and symptoms of autism are still puzzling. Since a biological basis of autism was accepted, approaches from developmental cognitive neuroscience have been applied to further our understanding of the autism spectrum. The study of the behavioural and underlying cognitive deficits in autism has advanced ahead of the study of the underlying brain abnormalities and of the putative genetic mechanisms. However, advances in these fields are expected as methodological difficulties are overcome. In this paper, recent developments in the field of autism are outlined. In particular, we review the findings of the three main neuro-cognitive theories of autism: theory-of-mind deficit, weak central coherence and executive dysfunction.

                Author and article information

                Advances in Autism
                Emerald Publishing
                12 March 2019
                : 5
                Issue : 1 Issue title : Women, girls, and autism spectrum disorders: part I Issue title : Women, girls, and autism: part I
                : 38-49
                Adult Autism Assessment and Intervention Service, Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
                Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Science, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK
                South London and the Maudsley NHS Trust, London, UK
                East London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
                New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling, Middlesex University , London, UK
                Author notes
                Elizabeth Kock can be contacted at:
                622834 AIA-09-2018-0035.pdf AIA-09-2018-0035
                © Emerald Publishing Limited
                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 25, Pages: 12, Words: 7337
                research-article, Research paper
                cat-HSC, Health & social care
                cat-LID, Learning & intellectual disabilities
                Custom metadata

                Health & Social care

                Autism, Sexuality, Women


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