A 19-year-old is going viral on social media after sharing a series of videos surrounding her experience with autism — and the biggest misconceptions she hears about her condition.
Paige Layle, an eyelash technician from Ontario, Canada, posted the clips to her popular TikTok page, calling the series, “Autism in girls.”
The four videos, which have received millions of likes were praised by several of her followers as a “flawless” and “honest” look into what she faces in her daily life.
“Girls usually end up showing different traits than guys do,” Layle says in her first clip. “Which is why it can take us years to get diagnosed.”
The teen goes on to reveal that she was 15 when she was diagnosed with autism — a delay she blames on a lack of research regarding how symptoms manifest differently in women. Meanwhile, Layle notes, she has a male friend who was diagnosed at age 2.
“A lot of people, when they think of autism, they think of [people who are] not super good in social situations. But for a lot of girls, it’s the complete opposite,” Layle explains in a subsequent TikTok, noting that her “totally broad” assessment doesn’t apply to everyone. “I am overly social, I make way too much eye contact.”
Layle says in her videos that she believes some of those gender differences are due to “masking,” a process in which autistic individuals hide their symptoms by copying the social behaviors of others around them. The teen adds that, in her experience, women are much better at it than men.
“You subconsciously know that you’re ‘weird.’ You don’t know how to act or how to be,” Layle says of masking. “So you just pick up everything else.”
Layle also addressed another reason she thinks people misunderstand her condition. The 19-year-old told BuzzFeed that people often assume she doesn’t have autism not only because of her behavior, but also because of her appearance.
“I get [this] a lot, that because I’m good-looking, nothing can be wrong with me — so I want to show that mental illness is diverse,” she said.
And there’s plenty of research to up many of Layle’s claims. A 2019 study into gender differences among people with autism found that men are three times more likely to be diagnosed on the spectrum, a statistic partially tied to the “camouflaging” of traits by women.
Overall, those differences can lead to women being “missed by current diagnostic procedures,” the study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, concluded.
While Layle consistently notes in her videos that she only wants to speak from her own experience, she does hope her platform — which includes 200,000 TikTok followers and 10,000 Instagram followers — can help people understand autism better. She told BuzzFeed she felt a similar understanding after learning about her own condition.
“The diagnosis has changed my life for the better,” she said. “I can understand myself so much better, which is so beneficial for social situations, school/work life, and most importantly being alone. I can now function alone and understand my emotions better.”
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