Large increase in teenage girls identified as having a disability

2 mins read

Thursday 9 February 2023

Tags: disability, autism, diagnosis, census, waiting times

New ONS census data out this week has found that there has been a large increase in the number of disabled girls aged 10 to 14 and 15 to 19 years of age. Between 2011 and 2021 the numbers rose from 6.8% to 12.2% in England and 7.1% to 13.3% in Wales.

Contact thinks this is due to a combination of factors including later diagnosis in girls for autistic spectrum conditions, plus a greater awareness of autism. As well as the fact that girls are more likely to have mental health problems in their teen years, as shown by various studies.

More likely to mask

Amanda Elliot, Contact’s Health Lead, said: “Autistic girls are more likely to mask – many going undetected in primary school because in early years there’s a lot of parallel rather than socially interactive play and they can be academically able. And the early years system and professionals are not as good at recognising the signs of autism in younger girls.

Unacceptable waiting times

“Difficulties start to emerge with the increase in hormones at the same time as more academic and social demands. There needs to be better diagnosis of autism in the early years to ensure children, both girls and boys, get the help they need as early as possible. Waiting times for diagnosis for autism also need addressing urgently as some are waiting an unacceptable length of time.

“We know that there is a rise in post 18 diagnoses, which we believe is because it is much easier to get an adult autism diagnosis that a child diagnosis – far fewer barriers.” 

Help is available

  • We have information about getting a diagnosis and what support is available without diagnosis.