Paige Layle — a 19-year-old eyelash technician from Ontario, Canada — has autism. But a lot of people assume she doesn’t.
“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.
To spread more awareness about autism, Layle started posting educational videos on TikTok. “I decided to start making videos because of an audio that was going all over TikTok that was making fun of autistic people. I hated it. I feel like many people don’t understand how many people are autistic,” she said.
Layle posted a four-part series explaining how autism works and how the condition presents differently in women than in men. She talked about how girls are diagnosed with autism a lot later than boys usually are because they’re better at “masking” their traits — aka adopting the behaviors of people around them who don’t have autism.
“I was 15 when I got diagnosed, and that’s considered early for a girl,” she said in the video. “I have a guy friend who’s autistic and he was 2 when he got diagnosed.”
She also went into the broad spectrum of autism traits in girls. In Layle’s case, she’s overly social, performs well in social situations, and uses too much eye contact — all of which directly contrast the stereotype that people with autism are antisocial.
“It’s also very common for girls with autism to have other mental disabilities or mental disorders as well,” she said in the video. “I have seven.”
In one of her videos, she expressed a concern about the terms “high functioning” and “low functioning.” “Get high functioning and low functioning out of your vocabulary,” she said. “High functioning is basically a label that you can use to be like, ‘Oh, your autism doesn’t affect me that much.'”
When people call her “high functioning,” it just reminds her that she’s masking. “Masking is the most exhausting thing in the world,” she said.
Layle was diagnosed with autism at 15 years old, when she was hospitalized after attempting suicide. “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 said.
“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. I can now function alone and understand my emotions better,” she said.
I’m so impressed with Layle for sharing her story and helping educate the public on such an important topic. You go girl!