Paige Layle spoke out about living with autism because her case is atypical of what people usually associate with the disorder

By Joelle Goldstein
March 11, 2020 03:48 PM
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Credit: Paige Layle/Instagram

A 19-year-old woman who lives with autism is being praised after she went viral on TikTok for explaining the disorder in women, with hopes that people will stop perpetuating an unrealistic stereotype.

Paige Layle recently posted a four-part video series on the social platform, explaining how autism affects females after she became frustrated that so many assumed she didn’t have the disorder, according to BuzzFeed.

The eyelash technician from Ontario, Canada explained that those assumptions were due to the way she presented herself and interacted with others, which was atypical of what people typically associate with autism.

“I get a lot that because I’m good looking, nothing can be wrong with me — so I want to show that mental illness is diverse,” Layle told BuzzFeed.

It wasn’t until Layle stumbled upon another TikTok video that featured people making fun of those living with autism that she decided to take action and make her educational videos.

“I feel like many people don’t understand how many people are autistic,” she told the outlet.

Credit: Paige Layle/Instagram
Paige Layle
| Credit: Paige Layle/Instagram

Each of the videos focuses on a particular topic about autism, with her first explaining how the disorder presents differently for women compared to men.

“When doctors were studying autism, they only studied males,” she explained in the clip. “This makes it harder for anyone else to be diagnosed because everything is based off the male brain.”

Layle went on to note that it typically takes girls years to be diagnosed because they are especially good at “masking” or hiding their traits and adopting the behaviors of people around them who do not live with autism.

Boys, meanwhile, are generally not as skilled at masking, which is why they usually receive their diagnosis within the first few years of their lives, Layle explained.

The eyelash technician later emphasized how using the phrases “high-functioning” — something she often received after disclosing she had autism — and “low-functioning” were offensive because “it’s a reminder that I’m masking,” which she called “the most exhausting thing in the world.”

In her case, the TikTok personality said she was diagnosed at age 15, partially because she never showed signs of being “less social” — a trait often presented in people with autism, namely men, that has since become a stereotype of the disorder.

“I am overly social, I give way too much eye contact, I’m really good in social situations,” Layle explained, noting that many girls with autism present these traits too.

Layle also said that girls with autism tend to live with mental disorders, disclosing that she currently has seven, including OCD.

“All of these mental illnesses stem from having autism, but OCD, anxiety, and depression are very, very common, especially in girls,” she explained.

Speaking to BuzzFeed, Layle explained that her autism and mental illness diagnoses came after she attempted suicide as a teen.

“I was an urgent case to talk to a special child psychiatrist who diagnosed me at the time with anxiety, depression, OCD, and autism,” she told the outlet.

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Despite those challenges, Layle said having a clear diagnosis has helped her navigate life better.

“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,” she explained to BuzzFeed. “I can now function alone and understand my emotions better.”

Since posting the four TikTok videos, the clips have been collectively viewed over 8.5 million times. Layle also uploaded two other videos on her page, one discussing OCD while the other is titled “autism diaries.” Both have been viewed thousands of times.

Besides educating viewers, Layle said creating the videos has been beneficial to her own mental health.

“I find the videos help me a lot and it seems to be helping even just a few people out there and I love that,” she wrote on Instagram in November. “Thanks guys. It’s overwhelming to think of who cares about me when I thought no one did.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.