Ep. 119: Autistic Girls – Overlooked and Underrecognized with Megan Beardmore, PhD, NCSP

Feb 7, 2023 | 0 comments

I have been asked this question from parents and from colleagues: Is it autism? And this question is more often asked when we are talking about girls. So the conversation today with guest Dr. Megan Beardmore is about autistic girls and about understanding the less obvious presentations of autism. 

Many autistic youth feel misunderstood and research shows that being autistic leads to increased risk for a host of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and others. For many, an accurate diagnosis can be life changing. But it’s not enough to uncover a diagnosis. In fact, it’s not the goal. The goal is to understand struggles, identify strengths, and provide the individual and their family with appropriate tools, strategies, and support moving forward. 

Dr. Megan Beardmore and I have this important conversation about this overlooked population of autistic girls.


Show Notes:

[3:06] – Over the past few years, the prevalence of autism has increased. What has contributed to that?

[4:40] – The neurodivergent community has also become more vocal about themselves on social media.

[5:54] – Girls are often diagnosed later than boys even when they present with the same behaviors. Dr. Beardmore shares some of the things they look for that are less obvious in girls.

[7:40] – Generally speaking, females tend to have a little more social savviness that makes them better at masking.

[9:12] – Social camouflaging works until it doesn’t and internalizing symptoms can be harmful to mental health.

[11:04] – Dr. Beardmore describes the common conversations she has when identifying autistic girls and the questions she asks.

[13:15] – There is a distinction between self-awareness and understanding the self within a relationship.

[14:19] – Oftentimes, autistic individuals, especially girls, are hyper aware of other people’s body language and facial expressions.

[15:43] – There is a misconception about empathy when it comes to autistic individuals. They aren’t without empathy, but rather that they don’t know what to do with it.

[18:57] – Rigidity is often a struggle for autistic individuals but in general, girls internalize this stress while boys tend to outwardly show their emotions.

[21:11] – Regardless of gender, those with high intellectual functioning are more likely to fly under the radar and be overlooked.

[23:01] – Internalizing symptoms are common in girls and create a delay in seeking help and a diagnosis.

[25:49] – The purpose of an assessment isn’t to find a diagnosis. It’s to help know what to do after a diagnosis.

[27:57] – Understanding why an autistic person behaves the way they do is important for the individual and their family. It validates their experience.

[29:14] – Once they have a diagnosis, some people choose to share and some don’t.

[30:18] – As a parent, develop a sense of safety for your child to talk to you.

[31:18] – Look out for rigidity, stress, signs of depression, or other mental health issues.


About Our Guest:

Dr. Megan Beardmore is a licensed school psychologist with expertise in assessment and treatment of children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related neurodevelopmental disorders. Originally from Iowa, she received her graduate training at the University of Arizona where she practiced in schools and community mental health settings providing therapeutic services as well as diagnostic evaluations. During her predoctoral internship, she served as the evaluation coordinator at a K-8 school, a role that involves conducting assessments to determine special education eligibility. Dr. Beardmore then received specialized postdoctoral training in the assessment and treatment of children with ASD at The Help Group and UCLA. She later worked in a nonpublic, multidisciplinary school where she developed and implemented a social skills program for students with social-communication and behavioral challenges. Currently, Dr. Beardmore works at Spectrum Psych Los Angeles splitting her time between conducting psychological evaluations and providing outpatient therapy. Her focus in assessment tends to target psychoeducational, social-emotional, and autism-specific referrals. In therapy, she draws upon a flexible, integrative blend of evidence-based (e.g., CBT) and holistic (e.g., mindfulness, somatic) interventions. 


Connect with Megan Beardmore:

Links and Related Resources:

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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.