The purpose of this paper is to explore the perspectives of healthcare professionals on autism in adult females with intellectual disability (ID), including regarding the gender ratio of autism, the clinical manifestation of autism in females, and the recognition, screening and diagnosis of autism.
The questionnaire was developed following a review of the relevant literature and distributed to professionals within three healthcare trusts as well as members of two clinical research groups. The questionnaire was completed by 80 ID healthcare professionals. Data were aggregated and analysed using Microsoft Excel.
ID healthcare professionals had a lack of recognition of the smaller gender ratio of autism in patients with ID as compared to those without ID. Most respondents reported believing that autism manifests differently in females; with women demonstrating a greater ability to mask their symptoms. A considerable proportion of participants reported feeling less confident in recognising, screening and diagnosing autism in female patients, with many endorsing a wish for additional training in this area.
These findings suggest that ID healthcare professionals are keen to improve their skills in providing services for women with autism. Training programmes at all levels should incorporate the specific needs of women with ASD, and individual professionals and services should actively seek to address these training needs in order to promote best practice and better outcomes for women with autism.