For years, autism research has been mostly male-centric. This resulted in boys and men receiving autism diagnoses much more frequently than girls and women, which has then lead to the assumption that biological males are more likely to have autism than females. However, this is not the case. In fact, the male-to-female ratio of those with autism is much closer to 3:1.
As awareness continues to spread and we focus more on representation and looking at autism as a whole, more and more of the younger generation are taking note and speaking up. The same goes for Paige Layle — a 19-year-old eyelash technician from Ontario who has autism. She started using the social media platform TikTok to spread awareness about autism and the many different ways it can present, as well as provide some advice based off of her own experiences.
The most important aspect of Paige’s message that hopes to spread is that autism doesn’t follow the traditional stereotypes that are often portrayed in media. She uses herself as her main example saying, “I am overly social, I give way too much eye contact, I’m really good in social situations.” Paige adds that how her autism presents is not typically portrayed or discussed, and that a lot of other women with autism have similar expressions.
Paige didn’t receive her autism diagnosis until she was 15, and emphasizes that this is still considered early when considering a female diagnosis. At the time, she was hospitalized and ended up receiving an anxiety, depression, and OCD diagnosis along with autism. “The diagnosis has changed my life for the better. I can understand myself so much better, which is so beneficial for social situations, school/work life, and most importantly being alone,” Paige explained. “I can now function alone and understand my emotions better.”
To spread awareness about the autism spectrum disorder, and specifically how it can impact women, Paige began creating educational TikTok videos. “I decided to start making videos because of an audio that was going all over TikTok that was making fun of autistic people,” Paige recalled. “I hated it. I feel like many people don’t understand how many people are autistic.”
Her four-part series gained over 1 million views per video, an focused on how autism works and how this may differ in women. Paige discusses ‘masking’ and how this processes of adopting the behaviors of those around you to ‘blend in’ is done a lot more often by girls, resulting in a missed diagnosis. However, just because girls are better or more readily willing to ‘mask,’ doesn’t mean it is any less difficult for them. “Masking is the most exhausting thing in the world,” Paige explains.
To follow along with Paige on her journey as she continues to tackle autism awareness, check out her TikTok account!