Most autistic women do not know they are autistic. Autism is severely under-diagnosed among women due to the common misconceptions people have on autism, misconceptions which are based on the way men exhibit autistic traits. Just so you know: men and women do not exhibit autism in the same way and for decades psychologists didn't even think women could have autism! Autism in women is harder to detect and harder to diagnose and you will see why through this post. Of course, I'm not a mental healthcare professional so this is just my unprofessional opinion based on myself and the different literature I've read regarding autism in women.
Remember: autism is a spectrum, while all autistic women exhibit the same signs of autism, they're all different and manifest autism differently!
There might be some mild spoilers in this post too!
1. Cassie Ainsworth (Skins UK)
Character's background: Cassie Ainsworth is a British teen who's portrayed as a spacy, eccentric girl who's suffering from anorexia.
Why I think she’s on the spectrum: From the start, Cassie is a character who has a rich inner world, a deep thinker who's often lost in her thoughts, philosophizes and checks out (blank stare), which is a common trait of autism. She spends her time observing her surroundings and picking up on things others do not such as Sid having a crush on Michelle. Cassie also finds refuge when alone. She easily reads people and understands them. She has unusual speech patterns aka she speaks in an airy way and often repeats certain words such as "lovely" and "wow" (echolalia). She often has facial expressions and body movements that not common. She's very honest and blunt and often says what's on her mind (she famously said to Sid that just because his dad is dead doesn't mean that he can whatever he wants). As for her having anorexia, it has been documented that anorexia and autism can overlap. While only a very small number of people who are on the spectrum also suffer from anorexia, this link definitely exists. Indeed, both anorexic and autistic people have anxiety and wish to have control over something since they don't have control over their life. Here, they're controlling their weight. This is also her special interest (subject she's obsessed with, a common trait of women who have Asperger's).
2. Amélie Poulain (Amélie)
Character’s background: Amélie Poulain is a Parisian waitress who goes on a quest to help people around her with their problems.
Why I think she’s on the spectrum: One of the biggest signs that Amélie is on the spectrum is her hypersensitivity to sounds (she hates sounds that are too loud, high-pitched or sudden), odors and textures (she hates the smell and texture of newspaper), being touched or shoved etc. People on the spectrum are hypersensible to the 5 senses: we can hear small sounds, we smell things more intensely, can have a great dislike for certain textures (chewy textures for example), dislike touch, be sensible to the light. She also admits to be sometimes obsessed with certain food as well as hyperfocusing (or having a special interest) over certain things (mobile games, cleaning her vinyls, encyclopedias and scientific facts). She has a fixed routine and doesn't stray away from it (every day she spends 1 hour playing mobile games). She stims (aka she repeats the certain movements as a calming method) since she says she's always tapping her fingers on everything throughout the day. Other stimming habits autistic people can have (and neurotypical people as well but not at the same regularity): twirling one's hair around one's fingers, scribbling, blinking repetitively, rearranging objects, pacing, biting one's fingernails, cracking one's knuckles and more. She loves observing others and reading them. She has a wild imagination, thinks outside the box and is often in her own world.
3. Beth Harmon (The Queen’s Gambit)
Character’s background: Beth Harmon is an American orphan born in the 50s who has a passion and talent for chess and thrives to dominate the male-only world of chess.
Why I think she’s on the spectrum: Beth is another perfect example of an autistic woman. She has a rich inner world as she often plays chess in her head, a strong ability to think in a non-linear way (aka her thoughts are going all over the place at once). Her special interest is clearly chess (aka her obsession is chess). She's often seen observing others and not speaking much. She is a non-conformist who decides to compete in a male-only field, despite what others think of it. Beth has a hard time understanding implicitness: when she's invited at a slumber party, she fails to understand when other girls implicitly ask her if she has a boyfriend, taking what they said literally. When her birth mother dies, her reaction is noted as strange as she's very quiet and closed off. In fact, she might be shutting down, which is a reaction people on the spectrum can have when they're experiencing a great shock.
4. Lily Iglehart (Sex Education)
Character’s background: Lily Iglehart is an English teen who's obsessed with losing her virginity.
Why I think she’s spectrum: Lily is a great example which shows the diversity of female autistic representation. Here, her special interest is sex. Unlike autistic men, autistic women often obsess over topics/hobbies that are common for women which is often why people don't pick it up. Autistic men will obsess over uncommon hobbies such as trains while autistic women will obsess over makeup. These special interests can be reading/writing, music, fashion, celebrities, fandoms, cooking, sports, drawing, social/environmental issues like ecology (see Greta Thunberg who's been diagnosed with Asperger's) etc. The only difference is the intensity of such interests. Autistic women will literally be obsessed with this topic/hobby instead of just liking it. Lily is hyperfocused on sex and losing her viriginity. She's also obsessed with erotic cartoons featuring tentacles that she spends her time drawing. Her having a specific passion is a common trait for autistic girls and women. Lily behaves in a non-conformist way as she spends several episodes proposing sex to random boys at school, doesn't care what others think of her. She also has a rich inner world and wild imagination, though it is focused on sex with tentacles. She often can't read others' reaction to her and can't pick up social cues.
5. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
Character’s background: Hermione Granger is the smartest witch of her class as well as Harry Potter's best friend.
Why I think she’s spectrum: While this is controversial for many Potterheads (because, you know, autistic is the synonym of the r-word), Hermione definitely shows a lot of autistic traits. Let's start by the fact that Hermione is higly intelligent, a "walking encyclopedia" (often nicknamed "Miss Know-It-All) and is very organized. She's very rigid in her beliefs and has fixed obsessions such as saving house elves from their conditions. Her special interest is magic. She has unusual speech patterns such as infodumping about magic all the time. She often has difficulty understand others' emotions and is very blunt. She has a fixed routine of studying at the library as she dislikes loud sounds. She takes criticism to heart. She also adopted her cat Crookshanks because no one wanted him (autistic women often, in childhood, rescue or collect animals). As the story progresses, Hermione seems to adapt more and more to others... which for me is just a sign that she started to "mask" her signs. Unlike autistic men, autistic women have a greater will to integrate and will often "mask" their symptoms, that is to say they're going to mimick the behaviors of neurotypical people to fit in. It can be mimick their speech patterns, way of dressing, hobbies and more. This is one of the reasons it's hard to diagnose autistic women - because they hide it! Hermione has also a lot of empathy (notably for the house elves) and intensely relate to others' emotions.
6. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan (Bones)
Character’s background: Temperance Brennan is a famed forensic anthropologist who solves crimes.
Why I think she’s spectrum: This character is so obviously on the spectrum that I don't even know how to break it down. First of all, Bones is highly intelligent, has unusual speech patterns, is very rigid in her beliefs and has a hard time understanding implicitness. Her special interest is anthropology. She often says inappropriate sentences or acts inappropriately due to her not grasping unwritten social rules. She also admits to having been bullied in the past (autistic women are often bullied at school).
7. Sawako Kuronuma (Kimi Ni Todoke)
Character’s background: Sawako is an introverted school girl, often mistaken by her peers as Sadako, the horror movie character, because of her scary aura and long black hair.
Why I think she’s spectrum: Sawako is a deep thinker who's often in her own world. She has trouble understanding implicitness and can't pick up social cues. She also has a difficulty to behave like neurotypical people do and is very socially awkward, for example she can't smile without looking scary or greet people correctly. She tries hard to fit in and makes friends and wishes she was sociable as Kazehaya. She's also very honest and blunt.
- Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter): First of all, Luna is a non-conformist. Though people call her "Loony Lovegood", she doesn't care much about it. She's good at reading situations and people and thinking outside the box, she famously told Harry that Voldemort wanted him to isolate himself.
- Amy Farrah Fowler (The Big Bang Theory): she's obviously on the spectrum given her unusual speech patterns, rigidity in her ways and behaviors, special interest for science etc.
- Sonya Cross (The Bridge): she's one of the only "officially" autistic women on this list. But since I didn't watch this show so I can’t do a break down.
- Astrid Farnsworth (Fringe): I have never watched Fringe but she's a popular guess.
- Allison Reynolds (The Breakfast Club): popular guess as well. While I've seen the movie, I was too lazy to break down this one but I definitely think she's on the spectrum
- Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo): I have never seen this movie or read the book but this is a popular guess.
- Daria (Daria): another popular guess
Popular guesses I don't think are on the spectrum:
- Phoebe Buffay (Friends): While Phoebe shows some autistic traits (unusual speech patterns, rich inner world, unexpected reactions/behaviors), I don't think she's on the spectrum, I think she's just the result of her dysfunctional family and years living in the streets.
- Jessica Day (New Girl): Jessica Day shows some autistic traits as well (unusual speech patterns, rich inner world, social awkwardness), but I think she's just an "adorkable" character or maybe has ADHD at best.
- Sugar Motta (Glee): Sugar Motta introduces herself as having Asperger's but aside from her rudeness, OP doesn't think she has Asperger's. She's a stereotype of what a lot of neurotypical people think people who have Asperger's act like.
To read more "signs" of autism, check out this list of 100+ autistic traits
Of course, this is just my opinion, not the truth!
Sources: me, various literatures, this article