Professional Interview Series: Professor Uta Frith

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This is the first in a series of interviewing professionals in the area of Autism, Aspergers and related conditions. It is with great honour that I was given the opportunity to interview Professor Uta Frith.

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Tania: Welcome Professor Frith and thank-you for agreeing to an interview with me. I am honoured to be interviewing a world expert on autism spectrum conditions. What attracted you to make a career in cognitive neuroscience and Autism?

Professor Frith: In the 1960s, when I started out as a PhD student, autism was hardly known and cognitive neuroscience did not exist. I had now idea that my career would take me deep into these mysterious directions. I suppose it was the very mysteriousness of autistic children, which attracted me to study them.

I was interested in development because I had been very impressed by lectures on Piaget by Ernst Boesch, Professor of Psychology at my University, Saarbrücken. Also at that University I was able to attend amazing Ward Rounds where different psychiatric cases were presented. This experience made me very curious about the mind and what was normal and what abnormal. I naively hoped that studying children at young ages might bring me closer to origin of the mind.

I was very fortunate to train in Clinical Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, a happening place in the 1960s, the place where Behaviour Therapy was pioneered. I intended to find a way to do research from the very beginning: It was very clear to me that we were distressingly ignorant about the mind, and that research was a necessity rather than a diversion from clinical work. Fortunately, I was able to get to get to know cases of autistic children at the Maudsley Hospital under the guidance of Michael Rutter, who was then already widely respected as an authority on autism. His PhD student, Lawrence Bartak, an Australian, and I were contemporaries and often worked side by side in the very first established special schools for autistic children. We felt that the teachers were doing a fantastic job. The children seemed remarkably similar to us, no matter what school they went to. But we often wondered what to make of those few autistic children who stood out from the others because they were not just clever but they had excellent verbal abilities. How did they fit into the picture?

 

My mentors were the experimental psychologists Neil O’Connor, an Australian, born in Kalgoorlie, and Beate Hermelin, born in Berlin. They were pioneers of the psychological study of mental retardation. They were among the first psychologists in the world to ask whether autistic children differed in their cognitive abilities from those of other children with intellectual disabilities and whether neurophysiological measures, such as EEG, would tell us about their brain function. They were way ahead of their time. Their work opened amazing possibilities to understand the nature of autism by teasing apart abilities and disabilities.

 By good fortune, Lorna Wing worked next door in the Social Psychiatry Unit. As the mother of an autistic girl, Susan, she had unique knowledge of autism and already at that time questioned Kanner’s rather narrow diagnostic criteria. She was convinced it was possible to distinguish in even the most intellectually disabled children those who had the ability for reciprocal social interaction and those who did not. I myself was not sure I could do this, and was more confident when the children had some language and showed some islets of ability. Here really was a form of autism that I could instantly recognise, a rare form as it turned out.

 The neuroscience of autism only started in the 1990s when it had just become feasible to use scanners to look at the signs of neural activity (as reflected in blood flow) in the living thinking brain. Here the collaboration with my husband, Chris Frith, was the vital link. Without his know-how and his expertise I would never have dared to enter this exciting field.

Tania: You received your PhD in 1968. Since then, can you please comment on the changes and the explosion of knowledge and research in the field of Autism?

Professor Frith: Knowledge about autism has accumulated steadily. A number of TV programmes were shown that portrayed a rather bleak view of autism, but they increased awareness. When the film “Rainman” came out in 1988, it was probably the first time that autism had been presented in an adult, and also presented as not all-bleak. It also made people aware of some very positive qualities. I don’t mean the savant skills here, although they do create permanent sense of wonder, but I am thinking of the lovely emotional naivety of Rainman that contrasted with the devious machinations of his non-autistic brother.

One of the unstoppable changes in the conception of autism was the recognition of atypical cases and cases that were not learning disabled. The term autism spectrum and the term Asperger syndrome had been introduced by Lorna Wing, who long wanted to push apart the narrow categories of autism. At the same time, Michael Rutter and Susan Folstein pushed apart these categories as a result of their famous twin studies. In these studies it became clear that when a narrow definition applied to one identical twin, the other twin very likely had a milder form of autism too. In fact they found that there was a 90% concordance in identical twins, if the criteria of autism were broadened. This was ground-breaking work not only because it broadened the category of autism, but even more importantly, it established that there was a genetic origin. Only then could a psychogenic origin be ruled out decisively – i.e. the idea that autism was a withdrawal resulting from profound rejection. This pernicious myth was at last eroded.  

 One of the biggest changes in the awareness of autism, in professionals and the general public alike, was the rise of Asperger Syndrome. I edited a book in 1991, which contained my annotated translation of Hans Asperger’s original paper. It was surprising to me how eagerly it was received. One of the unanticipated consequences was that the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome became fashionable, so that a number of people with successful lives began to diagnose themselves and even famous figures from history. But being a geek and being socially inept are not sufficient. I think there is a big difference between having an autism spectrum condition and being a shy, unconventional and obsessive.

 The new DSM-V has abolished the diagnosis Asperger syndrome. It still needs to be seen what the consequences will be, but I tend to think this is the right move. The label served its purpose in raising awareness of the autism spectrum. There is after all general agreement that it is a variant of autism and part of a very heterogeneous collection of autistic conditions. The difficult task ahead now is to see whether it is possible to identify subgroups hopefully, in terms of neuro-cognitive phenotypes.

 

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Tania: Please tell us about Theory of Mind, the theory that you developed along with Alan Leslie and Simon Baron-Cohen, in the 1980’s. How do the brains of people with Autism and people without Autism differ in terms of Theory of Mind?

Professor Frith: I think the history of Theory of Mind research needs a historian. I feel rather too involved and will not be able to give an unbiased account. In my view, the first part of the story is to do with two Austrian psychologists, Josef Perner and Heinz Wimmer, who devised an ingenious test. This test could show whether a child attributed a belief to another person, i.e. an invisible mental state, and whether the child predicted what another person would do next on the basis of the belief. It had to be a false belief rather than a true belief. In the case of a true belief you can’t tell whether the other person acts on the basis of a real physical state of affairs or an invisible mental state of affairs, because there is no difference. But in the case of false belief there is.

The next part of the story brings in Simon Baron-Cohen who had started his PhD at the time and who did the first critical experiments. Alan Leslie acted as co-supervisor and had already been thinking about the importance of invisible mental states, such as ‘pretense’ in the make-believe play of very young children. This was very exciting to me as I knew from a study by Lorna Wing and Judy Gould that autistic children showed very poor pretend play compared to non-autistic but intellectually disabled children.

 Now I must mention Tony Attwood, who did his PhD at the same time, but quite independently, and conducted a different and most interesting study. He asked how well – if at all – intellectually disabled autistic and non-autistic adolescents use nonverbal gestures. The results were very surprising, since at the time most people expected that autistic children would not use gestures in any meaningful way. But they fitted in beautifully with the Theory of Mind hypothesis: The intellectually disabled autistic children were well able to use gestures instrumentally, i.e. to get something, but much less able to use gestures expressively, i.e. to communicate an inner feeling state.

 The story heated up as we did the first PET studies, with trepidation, and with a number of eminent collaborators.  Obviously only very able and very brave adult volunteers took part. One of them was Heinz Wimmer. The autistic adults came from the clinic of Christopher Gillberg and Stefan Ehlers in Gothenburg and were scanned at the Hammersmith Hospital in London. Here we compared what happened in the brain when people were reading Theory of mind stories compared to Physical stories, invented by another of my now famous PhD students, Francesca Happé. When PET was replaced by MRI scanners, many more studies were carried out, and many different tests were used, frequently invented by Francesca Happé. For example, cartoons that either depicted jokes that required a mental state attribution compared to jokes that did not. Perhaps most successfully, we contrasted short movies where animated triangles interacted with each other. In some of the movies the viewer can’t help attributing mental states to the triangles, but in others, where the triangles move randomly, such ‘mentalising’ is not spontaneously evoked.

 Many labs all over the world have used neuroscience methods to study Theory of mind in the brain, in autistic and non-autistic people. It is still very surprising to me that one particular network of brain regions comes out again and again as being primarily involved. This network reliably encompasses regions of the anterior medial prefrontal cortex and the superior temporal sulcus at the temporo-parietal region; but there are also other but seemingly more variable regions involved.

Tania: Please tell us about your current ideas and theories on Autism today, in 2013?

Professor Frith: I continue to be fascinated by autism and by theories that try to explain the core features. I believe that the Theory of Mind hypothesis has had to be updated, in such a way that we distinguish between unconscious and conscious mentalising. I now believe that it is the unconscious type of mentalizing that is somehow failing in autism, but not the conscious type.

 Here is the problem: Why do able autistic adults who have learned to mentalize and pass all known Theory of Mind tasks, nevertheless still show the sort of interaction and communication problems in everyday life, the very problems that are supposed to be due to poor mentalizing ability. Do they not have real mentalizing ability, or is the theory wrong?

 A study that I did with Sarah White (my last PhD student), Atsushi Senju and Victoria Southgate, a few years ago, tried to answer this question. In this study we used anticipatory eye gaze to assess unconscious mentalizing, and this  distinguished autistic from non-autistic participants. Neurotypical individuals anticipated in their eye gaze where a character would look for a hidden object on the basis of the character’s mental state. But there was no such anticipation in the autistic adults. So we can reason as follows: in everyday life fast interactions are the norm, and here the unconscious form of mentalizing matters more than the conscious form. However, there clearly are advantages to having conscious metalizing – what precisely are these advantages? New research is needed.  

 Perhaps the most surprising part of the story of Theory of Mind is that such a complex and high-level cognitive ability as mentalizing, i.e. “attributing hypothetical mental states to others and predicting what they are going to do next”, is actually quite basic and has a signature in the brain.

Tania: I am very interested in the female phenotype of Autism. Could you please tell us your thoughts on the gender differences between males and females with Autism? Clinical anecdotal evidence suggests that females are not being diagnosed until much later in life or misdiagnosed with other disorders. Could you comment on this please?

Professor Frith: I believe this question has at last attracted enough attention so that interesting papers are now appearing that are trying to provide some answers.

 The gender difference in autism has fascinated me for a long time, but I never got a chance to study it. My favourite hypothesis for long has been that there is a special protective factor in being female and a risk factor in being male. This goes with the finding that in most neurodevelopmental disorders there is an excess of males. There are a greater number of boys who have dyslexia, or conduct disorder, or attention deficits.

I wish there was more evidence as to the way autism is expressed in the behaviour of females. There is an idea that girls are more likely to conform and more likely to be compliant. I don’t know whether this is the case, or simply an expectation that is part of the stereotype of being female. In either case, affected girls would less often be considered in need of clinical help. They can ‘pass for normal’ as we know from the gifted women who lucidly write about their autism.

Tania: Please share with us what work you are currently involved in?

Professor Frith: I retired in 2006 and have no longer a research group or students. So what I am doing is not work.

At Aarhus University I am fostering a highly inclusive autism network. This is to provide a forum for discussion involving people with autism, parents, teachers, clinicians and researchers from neuroscience, epidemiology, psychiatry, brain pathology, anthropology and so on. I am hoping to facilitate research by bringing together people from these different backgrounds, who bring a refreshing perspective, and can offer new ways of answering persistent questions.

 I am still writing papers with colleagues, some based on work done some time ago, but fewer and more slowly, which gives me rather more pleasure. I have to confess that sometimes I am a ‘free rider’, that is a co-author who does far less work than the others. I am still very interested to read about new research and I am particularly happy if I see publications by my wonderful former students and colleagues, who are vigorously advancing the field.

Apart from this I have other interests too, for example, promoting women in science, thinking about how neuroscience might provide some tools and some insights to improve education.   

Tania: Could you please comment on the research related to brain imaging and Autism? What are your thoughts on Temple Grandin’s brain imaging results?

Professor Frith: I loved being involved in brain imaging studies. It was exciting, but we were still very much at the beginning of the development of the method, and we did all studies with rather small numbers of participants. Things have changed a lot: the techniques have improved and we can now trust them to be safe also for children.

 Still, brain imaging results are only as good as the experimental design that is used. More often than not, brain imaging studies are difficult to interpret because the statistical analyses of brain images is very complex and error prone.  The main misunderstanding is that the blobs you see on a brain are actual signs of nervous activity. This is not the case. The blobs are depictions of statistical differences and it is hard to get one’s head around this. Furthermore, the activity in nerve cells cannot be seen directly, all we see is increases in blood flow. The rationale is that the more active the nerves are the more oxygen they need, hence the more blood is flowing in their direction.

 Just like behavioural studies, brain imaging studies rely on pooling together data from many trials and from groups of people, basically to remove noise in the data and thus make them more reliable.

 This leads me to mention another misunderstanding: You can’t take one single person’s scan and tell from this whether they are autistic. This is true even when the scan is done in the manner of an X-ray, that is, they were just lying still in the scanner and you take beautiful photographs of the anatomy of the brain. With our present techniques you can discover if there are grossly deviant features, such as tumours or injuries. This is not the norm in the case of autistic brains. But there are subtle differences when you superimpose data from many brains on top of each other to compute reliable averages. Many such studies now exist, and they always report differences in lots of places, grey matter, white matter, cortical regions, subcortical regions and so on. But we don’t know what the differences mean. 

The Brain image of Temple Grandin’s brain does not look like that of other autistic people. It does not like the brain of a neurotypical person either. There are so many differences that it is difficult to name them all, but these differences are very difficult to interpret. Temple Grandin during her whole life has built up a number of important compensatory strategies, and these leave their imprint in her brain. If we had an image from her when she was younger it would likely look different from now.

 Incidentally, most images of autistic people look perfectly normal to the naked eye. Some brains are particularly large, but then some neurotypical brains can be large too.

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Tania: I hear you have become Dame Uta Frith. Congratulations and a well deserved title for you. For those of us here in Australia, could you please comment on the process of gaining the title of Dame and how that came about?

Professor Frith: This was a most unexpected and amazing experience, something that never ever crossed my mind. I have no idea how it came about as the process is shrouded in secrecy. Amazingly, some kind people must have believed in me and proposed me and never claimed the credit. So I do not know to whom I should show my gratitude. I have retained my German citizenship since I would have had to give it up to obtain a British passport. This did not seem right to me as my accent immediately reveals that I am German, even after 50 years of living in London. This means that my DBE is honorary. I can put the letters after my name, and I am immensely proud to be able to do this, but I should not be called “Dame Uta”, you know, just as Bob Geldof should not be called “Sir Bob”.  I received the insignia from David Willetts, Minister of Science, in a special and very nice ceremony on 31st January, where I was able to invite some of my family and friends. This was also my mother’s birthday, which I thought was a wonderful coincidence. There are only few occasions when ‘decorations can be worn’, but I did wear mine recently at a special Guest Night at Newnham College in Cambridge where I am an Honorary Fellow.

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Tania Marshall©. 2013. Interview Professional Series. All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.

I Am AspienWoman releases at #29 Amazon USA, #1 in Australia (2 categories)

I Am AspienWoman releases at #29 Amazon USA, #1 in Australia (2 categories) and 1st spanish world female autism conference

I Am AspienWoman, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols, is the sequel to the best selling IPPY Gold medal award winning I am Aspiengirl, Foreword by Dr. Judith Gould. This book is over 300 pages and explores areas including: social, communication, subtypes, sensory, strengths, challenges, work, family, gender and sexuality, stages leading up to a diagnosis, 24 mentors leg by Dr. Temple Grandin, who offer advice, a comprehensive screener of characteristics, the reasons for a diagnosis, disclosure and a strengths based exercise.
Amazon USA releases I Am AspienWoman paperbook at #29
Amazon USA released I Am AspienWoman this past weekend (August 22nd) at the #29 ranking in the Autism and Asperger Syndrome category and we are thrilled. The eBook version should be available any day now. The hardcover versions is set for release in the near future. All formats and will be available on Amazon USA, then Amazon UK, Canada and others stores as they roll-out over time

Amazon Australia releases I Am AspienWoman eBook Kindle at #1 in 2 categories. Barely released 1 week, we are thrilled to announce that I Am AspienWoman reached #1 in 2 categories August 29th, 2015.
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Free sample chapters
Free sample chapter of both I Am AspienGirl and I am AspienWoman are available upon signing up on the homepages at http://www.aspiengirl.com

Pre-orders of I Am AspienWoman eBook from the AspienGirl webstore
For those of you all who preordered I Am AspienWoman in eBook format, all you need to do is locate the invoice that was sent to you when you purchased your book. Clink on the link within the invoice and your eBook will download.

Pre-orders of I Am AspienWoman paperback from the AspienGirl webstore

For those of you all who preordered I Am AspienWoman in paperback format, these books will be mailed out early next week.

Pre-orders of I Am AspienWoman hardcover from the AspienGirl webstore

For those of you all who preordered I Am AspienWoman in hardcover format, these books will be mailed out as soon as the hardcover version is ready.

The book are now available on Amazon Canada and Amazon UK and the formats will become available as Amazon’s time frame allows.

Here is another sneak peek at a couple of interesting pages from the book, clients I have seen over the years.

World’s first Spanish females Autism Conference
This week Tania was honored to be invited to provide the welcome opening introduction for the World’s first Spanish females Autism Conference taking place this weekend, August 29th-31st, in Beunos Aires, Argentina. We will upload the welcome on Facebook. The conference program can be viewed here: http://mujerestea.com/2015/08/26/298-programa-final-jornada-haciendo-visible-lo-invisible-en-tea/
Soy AspienGirl
Soy AspienGirl is now available on Amazon USA and Amazon Spain at: http://www.amazon.com/SOY-AspienGirl-caracter%C3%ADsticas-talentos-Espectro/dp/0992360978/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440738556&sr=8-1&keywords=soy+aspiengirl
Asia Pacific Autism Conference (APAC)
We will be at the Asia Pacific Autism Conference (APAC) in Brisbane, Australia (Booth #30). APAC runs from 9th-11th September, 2015
You can purchase both books there with I Am AspienWoman hot off the press!
If you wish to email the author about her book, offer a testimonial or review, please email her at tania@aspiengirl with your comments or testimonials.
If you are having trouble downloading your eBook or any other questions or inquiries including Skype or in-person assessments, diagnoses, intervention, support, problem solving or interviews, articles, conferences and workshop or translations, please contact tania@aspiengirl.com
Best Wishes, remember to Be Your Own Superhero and enjoy the book
Team AspienGirl
#nomorefemalesleftbehind

I Am AspienWoman now on Amazon USA!

I Am AspienWoman, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols, and fabulous Mentor section headed by Dr. Temple Grandin is finally here on Amazon USA! It debuted at #39 (Disabilities) and #41 (Autism and Asperger Syndrome)

I Am AspienWoman August Cover

I Am AspienWoman August Cover, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols

To find I Am AspienWoman on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/AspienWoman-Unique-Characteristics-Females-Spectrum/dp/0992360943/ref=zg_bs_282950_44

The book is also available at http://www.aspiengirl.com

Back cover of I Am AspienWoman

Back cover of I Am AspienWoman

For more information on female Autism go to http://www.aspiengirl.com

About the Author

Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner. She is the author of I am AspienGirl(2014), I Am AspienWoman (2015) and AspienPowers. She currently works in busy full-time private practice, providing diagnostic assessments, intervention, support and problem solving consultations to males and females ages 2-76 years of age, in-person or via Skype. All inquiries to tania@aspiengirl.com

Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner.

24 Inspiring and Motivational Autistic Women and Positive Role Models

24 Inspiring and Motivational Autistic Women and Positive Role Models

I Am AspienWoman is a highly visual book describing the newly emerging Autistic female phenotype in over 300 pages and features 24 inspirational and motivating Autistic Woman who serve as positive role models, showcasing ability and possibility. This section is headed up by none other than Dr. Temple Grandin, whose strengths based positive approach I admire. The mentors come from countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Denmark and were chosen for their positive strengths based attitude, their personal abilities and their passion for advocating for Autism and/or helping others. Here is a snapshot of the Mentor section.

I Am AspienWoman August Cover

I Am AspienWoman, available September 1st, 2015, pre-order at http://www.aspiengirl.com

AspienWoman Mentors

AspienWoman Mentor

Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin

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Dr. Temple Grandin

Lauren Lovejoy

Chou Chou

Chou Chou Scantlin

Jen Saunders

Jen Saunders

Jen Saunders1

Jen Saunders

Maja

Maja Toudal

ShanEllis

Shan Ellis

Jeanette

Jeanette Purkis

Jeanette1

Jeanette Purkis

To see and read more about these inspirational mentors, pick up your copy of I Am AspienWoman, available in eBook, paperback and hardcover versions at http://www.aspiengirl.com

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Both books in combo paks for $10 off

About the Author

Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner. She is the author of I am AspienGirl

(2014), I Am AspienWoman (2015) and AspienPowers. She currently works in busy full-time private practice, providing diagnostic assessments, intervention, support and problem solving consultations to males and females ages 2-76 years of age, in-person or via Skype.

Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner. All inquiries to tania@aspiengirl.com

2015 All rights reserved Tania Marshall

Autistic Women, Diagnosis, Disclosure and Mythbusting

Taken from I Am AspienWoman (2015), release date September, 2015

I Am AspienWoman, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols, is over 300 pages and covers the entire lifespan from late teens to the elderly woman. Included is a mentor section including 24 inspirational and motivational Autistic woman, headed up by Dr. Temple Grandin.

Aspienwomanjune2015cover

A diagnosis does not always mean disclosure.  By this, I mean disclosure may not be helpful. It depends. In my work with women, I have had women who wanted a diagnosis just for themselves and planned to tell no-one (not even their partners family members), I have had people who have told the world, and I’ve had everything in between!  Disclosure can have positive or negative ramifications and it is context dependent. Once you have disclosed you cannot take it back, nor can you control how or what others will say or think. In an ideal world, it would be perfect if the workplace or educational institution or other people would act according to disability law or respond how you would like them to, but this is often not the case. It may or may not benefit you to tell people and the pros and cons need to be considered, even if a workplace says they are aware and accommodating of disability. What are the pros and cons of disclosure for you?

Be prepared that other people may not believe you

It is a common experience for women to be invalidated, disregarded and/or not believed after they disclose their diagnosis to family members, partners or friends. This is mainly due to a lack of education and/or awareness about Autistic females.

Other people may expect to see physical signs or behaviors to confirm to them that a woman is on the Autism Spectrum. They may compare her to the media stereotyped characters or the males they know or know of on the Spectrum. They may say inappropriate or upsetting things to the newly diagnosed, often coming from good intentions.  Other people on the Spectrum may not believe you or may say just as upsetting things. Educating others (by referring them to research or books) and self-advocating, where possible, may be helpful.

Be prepared for the stereotypes about females with Autism

In particular, educating others about how Autism in females presents and the sub-types. Some common stereotypes and myths regarding females include:

females are Tomboys, dislike make-up and clothing, don’t like fairies or the colour pink, females, cannot look at you and carry on a conversation, and more. In fact, the opposite is true. Whilst I have met some females like this, I have met many females who love pink, make-up, clothes, fashion and fairies. There is no one type of Autistic female. What are some scripts or responses you can have prepared ahead of time?

Another way of talking about a diagnosis without talking about the “A” word

Another way of discussing a diagnosis can be in the form of discussing characteristics, traits, abilities or challenges. For example, talking about neurodiversity and ‘different’ brains (just like there are different trees and flowers) can be a helpful analogy. Relating different trees or flowers to people gives others an understanding of different brain types. Learning to advocate for oneself is important and can be effective when done appropriately. The following are a couple of examples to get assist and reflect on:

“I’m the kind of person who likes to socialize for a little while but then I need a break to recharge my batteries”

“I’m the type of person who is really interested in talking about English literature and not so great with small talk”

“I’m an introvert and need more time alone than others so I can concentrate on my painting”

What are some ways you can explain your strengths and challenges? What are some ways you can advocate for yourself?

back cover

Tania is available for in-person or Skype or other remote consultations, assessments or problem-solving sessions. She offers bulk billing and sliding scales where applicable. To book appointments or discuss and/or book availability for presentations, conferences, publishing, translation and media interviews or inquiries, please email Tania@aspiengirl.com

Don’t forget to get your combo pack of I Am AspienGirl and I am AspienWoman for $10.00 off at http://www.aspiengirl.com and go to Page 2 to order

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner for her first self-published book entitled “I Am AspienGirl : The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Young Females on the Autism Spectrum”, foreword by Dr. Judith Gould.  The sequel to this book entitled “I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Adult Females on the Autism Spectrum”, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols is available September, 2015. Tania is currently writing the third book in her book series entitled “AspienPowers: The Unique Constellation of Strengths, Talents and Gifts of Females with Autism Spectrum Conditions”. The Spanish version of I am Aspiengirl , entitled Soy AspienGirl is now available. Tania’s work has been translated and/or cited in numerous publications including Sarah Hendrickxs’ recent release entitled “Women and Girls with an Autism Spectrum Disorder” (2015), foreword by Dr. Judith Gould.

Tania currently works in busy full-time private practice, providing diagnostic assessments, intervention and support to males and females ages 2-76 years of age. Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner.

2015 All rights reserved Tania Marshall

20 Reasons for obtaining an Adult Autism Diagnosis

20 Reasons for obtaining an Adult Autism diagnosis

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is about the relevance of obtaining a formal diagnosis or formalizing a self-diagnosis. My 2nd book, I Am AspienWoman alludes to this very topic through powerful images, experiences, thoughts and feelings of many adult autistic women. There are many valid reasons for obtaining a diagnosis and the majority of women who receive one explain the benefits in the book. I  have included a couple of pages from the book and you can now pre-order I Am AspienWoman, available in eBook, paperback and hardcover, at http://www.aspiengirl.com You will receive $10 off if you order an I Am AspienGirl© and I am AspienWoman Combo. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did writing it!

Aspienwomanjune2015cover

20 reasons for a diagnosis

20 reasons for a diagnosis1

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back cover

Tania is available for in-person or Skype consultations, assessments or problem-solving sessions. To book appointments or discuss and/or book availability for presentations, conferences, publishing, translation and media interviews or inquiries, please email Tania@aspiengirl.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner for her first self-published book entitled “I Am AspienGirl© : The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Young Females on the Autism Spectrum”, foreword by Dr. Judith Gould.  The sequel to this book entitled “I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Adult Females on the Autism Spectrum”, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols is available September, 2015. Tania is currently writing the third book in her book series entitled “AspienPowers: The Unique Constellation of Strengths, Talents and Gifts of Females with Autism Spectrum Conditions”. The Spanish version of I am Aspiengirl© , entitled Soy AspienGirl is now available. Tania’s work has been translated and/or cited in numerous publications including Sarah Hendrickxs’ recent release entitled “Women and Girls with an Autism Spectrum Disorder” (2015), foreword by Dr. Judith Gould.

Tania currently works in busy full-time private practice, providing diagnostic assessments, intervention and support to males and females ages 2-76 years of age. Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner.

© 2015 All rights reserved Tania Marshall

I Am AspienWoman Book Testimonials, Coming September 2015 and available for pre-order at www.aspiengirl.com

I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Gifts of Adult Women on the Autism Spectrum (Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols) is the sequel to the best selling and IPPY eLIT Gold Medal Award winning I Am AspienGirl (2014), Foreword by Dr. Judith Gould. To pre-order, go to http://www.aspiengirl.com/english

The book is available in eBook, paperback and a gorgeous hardcover version and can be bought separately or along with I Am AspienGirl.

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back cover

Aspienwomanjune2015cover

Have you ever wondered about a friend, a partner, a mother, sister or daughter? Wondered why she has said she feels ‘different’? Wondered why some things are so easy for her yet other things that most people perform with ease seem so challenging? Out of step with her peers, she may struggle keeping friends and a job, yet she has multiple degrees. She may be a gifted singer, yet she struggles with social interaction and performance anxiety. Maybe she was told she was shy and just needed to come out of her shell. Told she’d grow out of her social awkwardness. Maybe she had or has an eating disorder. Maybe she has been given too many ‘labels’? She may have spent years going to counselors, therapists, doctors or psychiatrists, with no real improvement or answers. Maybe Autism or Asperger Syndrome was mentioned but she did not resonate with the male profile or even with the stereotypical female profile.

Bright from early on, she may have single-minded focus, sprinkles of anxiety, sensory and social issues, be gifted in art, writing, research or singing. Maybe she is ‘Aspien’, an adult female with Asperger Syndrome or Autism. She has a unique constellation of super-abilities, strengths and challenges. She may feel or say that she is from another planet. Maybe nothing so far has really fit in your search for understanding her. Maybe she herself has been searching for self-understanding, or maybe she has recently self-diagnosed and is struggling to obtain a formal diagnosis. She may have a child or children on the Autism spectrum or it runs in her family and she is now recognizing it in herself.

If you are looking for a book on the often perplexing and unique adult female autism spectrum traits, then this is the book for you. This book showcases the female profile in a unique format, presenting a combination of images and quotes to illuminate the newly emerging Autistic female phenotype. This highly visual format showcases what Autism is like for females, as spoken by females on the Spectrum and those that love or support them. This book is about awareness and education of the female phenotype.

Drawing from years of practitioner experience, Tania Marshall takes you inside the world of adult females with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Current research supports an inherent gender bias with females being under researched. This book was specifically designed to be a ‘layman’s’ guide for the general population, professionals, family members, the education and psychiatric fields.

Foreword by Shana Nichols, PhD

“Having written an endorsement for I Am AspienGirl ®, and recommending it as a must read to anyone parenting or working with a girl on the autism spectrum (including the girls themselves), I was delighted to be asked by Tania Marshall to write the foreword for I Am AspienWoman®.

I began working regularly with AspienGirls in 2005, having developed ‘girls only’ social coping groups. At that time, there were no resources available for families that specifically addressed the issues faced by females, and limited research had been conducted with the goal of understanding the experiences of girls and women. Few clinicians had begun to specialize in this area, yet those of us who did knew that these girls and women have unique needs and that a subset of females present with behaviors and characteristics that can be quite dissimilar from their male counterparts. When viewed through a ‘male’ lens, AspienGirls and Women are often overlooked, missed, misdiagnosed, and misunderstood, resulting in a rallying call for the professional community to pay attention and work towards remedying the situation.

In recent years that call has begun to be answered. Over 15 studies addressing gender differences and the experiences of females have been published in professional journals in 2015 alone. Attendees at the annual International Meeting for Autism Research in 2015 were able to participate in a session devoted entirely to research concerning females on the autism spectrum. A number of clinical conferences with the goal of offering practical strategies and facilitating the understanding of females have popped up globally in the last two years, providing the opportunity to learn from professionals and from women on the spectrum themselves. Lastly, the number of books and resources that are available to families, professionals, and females has grown. I Am AspienGirl was a rich and unique contribution to this literature, and I am thrilled to say that I Am AspienWoman ® is equally creative and inspiring.

With its characteristic eye-catching photos and powerful quotes from members across the entire female autism spectrum community, readers of I Am AspienWoman will find no shortage of knowledge, illumination and encouragement – after all, an important message of the book is for women to be their own superheroes. I Am AspienWoman celebrates the strengths, triumphs, talents and beauty of females, yet does not shy away from a balanced discussion of challenges, concerns, and important yet often overlooked issues such as gender and sexuality, personal safety, mental health, and motherhood. Essential themes that run throughout include Identity, Connection, Validation, Self-Care, Inspiration, Strategies, and Optimism. Top tips from over 20 Real-life AspienWoman Super-hero Mentors offer a smorgasbord of suggestions and support.

The pages of I Am AspienWoman hold a diamond of a message for any reader. It may be big, life changing, and fabulously eye opening. It may touch your heart and whisper “I see you.” It may provide the much-needed words to explain, describe or share thoughts, feelings and experiences. It may open doors, or it may give a gentle push to close those that are no longer helpful. It may be a hint of Hope, or perhaps a spark of Superhero-ness. It may be all that is needed to get started, re-start or continue on the journey of becoming the best version of who you are: an AspienGirl or Woman, a family member, a friend, an educator, a professional.

As a field, we still have a long way to go in advocating for better understanding of female autism, educating and training professionals, developing appropriate assessments and treatments, and creating a community of support and inclusion for AspienGirls and Women. Given all that has happened in the last few years, I am encouraged that we are headed in the right direction. Thankfully there are those special books, like I Am AspienWoman, that act as a guide and an incredibly accessible resource. As with her prior book, Tania’s latest offering has not surprisingly leaped onto my recommended reading list.”

Shana Nichols, PhD
Owner, Director, Researcher                                                                                        ASPIRE Center for Learning and Development                                                             Author of ‘Girls Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum: What Parents and Professionals Should Know About the Pre-teen and Teenage Years’

“Tania Marshall has created a groundbreaking book. Most often we hear the voice of the parent or professional, at last we hear the voice of women with Aspergers. Aspienwomen can be totally inspiring! Thoroughly recommend.”

Carrie Grant
Vocal coach, judge and TV presenter
Judge, BBC 1’s Fame Academy and BAFTA Award winning “Glee Club.”
Presenter, The One Show
Author, bestselling book “You Can Sing”
Mother to two daughters on the spectrum
United Kingdom

“There is definitely a need for more information for individuals who get diagnosed later in life. Diagnosis as an adult can provide tremendous insight into why relationships were so difficult. When I was in college, I remember many older quirky adults who seeked me out and helped me. Today many of these people would be diagnosed with either autism or Asperger’s syndrome. One woman was the associate dean’s wife and she gave me many hours of emotional support during difficult social times in college.”

Temple Grandin, Author, USA
The Autistic Brain and Thinking in Pictures

In this sequel, to her first book Aspiengirl, Tania Marshall examines the topic of autism in women, utilising the personal perspectives of women themselves. Despite a greater awareness of autism more generally, autism in girls and women is only just beginning to receive wider attention and the majority remain undetected, in many instances leading unhappy unfulfilled lives and often struggling to survive. This ‘lost generation’ of women is only now beginning to have the nature of the condition and needs recognised. Despite the talents and qualities such women may possess, they largely remain disadvantaged and vulnerable. This is often compounded by a lack of self-awareness and by their families and a poorly informed professional community.

As with its forerunner the essence of this book is its attractiveness, readability and clarity. It will open eyes of the reader in so many ways and although adopting a positive tone throughout avoids trivialising or glamourizing the topic or pulling its punches. Tania Marshall does not shy away from difficult areas or topics and has sensible approaches to offer. I am sure it will have a wide appeal – from those women who are or suspect they may be on the autism spectrum, families and professionals in many fields such as employment, education, health and social support.

Richard Mills

Research Director, Research Autism, London

Hon. Research Fellow, Dept. Psychology, the University of Bath, UK

I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of young people and their families in the UK and Ireland during the last 20 years.  I am also lucky to be involved with practitioner research; previously developing our ‘saturation model’ for including young people with autism in mainstream education (Morewood et al, 2011) and most recently considering the impact of interventions through case studies (Bond et al, 2015).  This research is vital; however I always feel I understand most from listening to young people, hearing their stories and talking to their families.

AspienWoman is the latest book from Tania A Marshall, and a vital addition to the growing knowledge-base about females and autism.  The ‘first-hand’ accounts throughout the book support the outcomes of our research; a personalised approach is essential.  The comprehensive ‘real-life’ examples support a rapid increase in understanding and allow for a truly unique viewpoint; highlighting strengths and personal characteristics of the women who have contributed, skillfully linked and collated by Tania, drawing on a wealth of personal experience and expertise.

I am reminded of a quote one of our students, Megan told me once: ‘I feel rather positive about my Autism, because it is part of me and without it I would not be me anymore.’  Anyone reading AspienWomen will understand immeasurable more after reading it, as I have.  I am always learning, from our young people and their families; Tania’s contribution to this knowledge will have considerable impact, as I am certain that AspienWoman will for many, many others around the world.  Essential reading, if you are directly involved in working with young people, their families or women with autism, or if you just want to understand more about some of the amazingly talented individuals who have contributed to this amazing work.

Gareth D Morewood

UK Special Educational Needs Coordinator

Honorary Research Fellow, University of Manchester

Associate Editor, Good Autism Practice Journal

www.gdmorewood.com
“Once again, Tania has provided a visual conversation starter to demonstrate the wide and varied adult presentation of female autism. Featuring individual profiles of successful autistic women along with quotes from individuals and family members, this book will help to further increase the understanding that women with autism are out there – even if they are hard to spot”.

Sarah Hendrickx,
Autistic adult
Masters (Autism), Postgraduate Certificate (Asperger Syndrome)
Author of Women and Girls with ASD, Understanding Life Experiences from Early Childhood to Old Age. JKP, (2015)

“When reading Tania Marshall’s AspienWoman, the reader gets wave after wave of deep understanding about women with Asperger Syndrome, filled with affirmation, positive reinforcement and difficult facts softened with empathy.  This book is unique and sensitive and full of wisdom.  For those on the spectrum it will be like a breath of fresh air to be understood and lifted up. For those just wanting to learn more, it is an exciting journey full of revelation and hope. AspienWoman is not a book to read once.  It is a book to be absorbed over time.”

Kathy Hoopmann,

Author, All Cats have Asperger Syndrome, All Dogs have ADHD

The Essential Manual for Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in the Classroom

Tania, your book is a reflection of the bright and beautiful possibilities that await women on the autism spectrum. Many had said, “She will grow out of it,” but rather, your book shows that “We grow into it,” emerging from confusion and misunderstanding into a new appreciation of our unique and powerful profile. I am Aspien Woman is a celebration in word and picture, affirming our rightful place in the society in which we live!

Rachael Lee Harris

Psychotherapist specializing in Women and Girls on the Autism Spectrum.

Author of My Autistic Awakening: Unlocking the Potential for a Life Well Lived

As the parent of an adult son who was diagnosed with Aspergers after many years of misdiagnosis and assumptions, ie “little professor” “lazy’ and more + the spouse of a man who was diagnosed with Aspergers as well I enjoyed reading your book.

The layout of I Am AspienWoman is quite impressive. The photos are vivid. The self descriptive disclosures regarding living with Aspergers by individuals and family members provide a venue for other woman on the spectrum to identify with. The photos and self disclosures are uniquely reinforced with factual information regarding the bio/psycho/social characteristics of those on the spectrum by the author in a format that the laymen can understand. I Am AspienWoman takes Aspergers and living on the spectrum out of the clinical context and provides a human and real window into the meaning of living with Aspergers.

I Am AspienWoman focuses on the positive aspects of living with Aspergers. It does not focus on the deficits. For sure, this book portrays the challenges associated with being on the spectrum but the strengths that individuals possess due to having Aspergers is reinforced. This will be resultant in providing hope and  the reader perceiving themselves, or a family member who has Aspergers in a more positive light.

The unique combination of presenting bios of “real people”, challenges, and the strengths of individuals with Aspergers will provide a venue for not only appreciation of strengths but challenges that effect individuals on the spectrum as well. I Am AspienWoman cracks the heuristics of society at large and any misnomers regarding Aspergers.

Many different aspects regarding traits, characteristics, challenges  are portrayed which reinforce the individuality of individuals on the spectrum. As with neurotypicals, each individual possesses different traits, talents and personalities. Hence, this is not a cookie cutter diagnosis where everyone with Aspergers is talented in math or computers. 

Thanks Tania for writing a much needed and “human” book that many on the spectrum will seek out for positive role models and will cause  society at large to change their perception about individuals on the spectrum who they live, love, work and play with on a daily basis.

Mari Nosal M.Ed. Author

Ten Commandments Of Interacting With Kids On The Autism Spectrum And Related Commandments

When I first read I am AspienGirl last year, I knew immediately that we would be treated to sequels. I am AspienWoman takes up where AspienGirl leaves off, taking the concept through a beautiful age progression.  AspienWoman does not glamorize Asperger’s but rather gives a balanced, factual picture of the strengths and challenges that characterize this population. The short vignettes tell the stories of the lives of real people, told from both the perspective of AspienWomen themselves, and from those who surround them in life. Tania Marshall outlines common traits and needs of the AspienWoman, with which many women will identify.

This book is alive with pictures and stories of beautiful, successful AspienWomen. The focus is on the strength of those spotlighted, and includes personal tips for success from these role models to the reader. Reading the stories of this group of featured role models, it is clear that “different” does not mean “less”. Ms. Marshall also includes a section of ideas on how a professional might use I am AspienWoman to enhance the lives of women with Asperger’s.

I am AspienWoman throws a life line to young ladies dealing with a feeling of isolation or frustration due to Asperger’s Syndrome. Ms. Marshall offers a sense of community to this population, along with proof that success and happiness can be a reality for the AspienWoman.

 Linda Barboa, PhD

Author of:

Stars in Her Eyes: Navigating the Eyes of Childhood Autism

Tic Toc Autism Clock

Steps to Forming A Disability Ministry

And the Albert is My Friend series teaching children about autism.

Watch for AspienPowers: The Unique constellation of Gifts, Strengths and Abilities of Females on the Autism Spectrum, coming late 2015.

Aspienpowerscover

Book 3 of the series

Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner for her first self-published book entitled “I Am AspienGirl: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Young Females on the Autism Spectrum”, foreword by Dr. Judith Gould. She divides her time between private practice, research and writing. Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner.

Tania is available for Skype or in person assessments, support, intervention, coaching and problem solving sessions. Tania can also be contacted for interviews, workshops, presentations, conferences, articles, publishing inquiries and/or translations at tania@aspiengirl.com

Assessing the behaviors, traits and abilities of young females on the Autism Spectrum

Assessing the behaviors, traits and abilities of young females on the Autism Spectrum: For professionals and parents

Girls with high functioning Autism (Asperger Syndrome) often have subtler characteristics that lead them to be missed by professionals. Many (not all) are able to use compensatory strategies to mask their difficulties and these are learned from before they start grade school. Autism tends to be a condition of extremes; an either/or condition in which two girls who present quite differently can both be on the Spectrum. For example, one is shy, quiet and mute and the other is loud, has a lack of boundaries and talks too much. The both have social communication and interaction difficulties.

Girls on the Spectrum may present as shy, quiet and at times mute, taking a long time to warm up to situations or they may present as overly talkative, verbal and lacking boundaries.

The quiet girl can be described as passive, a follower, watching and observing her peers much of the time to learn what to say or how to act. She is very shy in social situations. The verbal girl is often dominating, described as “bossy and controlling”, often described as having to have the best at everything and have her own way. She dominates and controls social situations.

Both girls may not receive many birthday invites, prefer one or two close friends, prefer to play with younger or older children rather than their peers, prefer to talk to boys or have boys as friends.

The quiet type may be attracted to extraverted personalities who tell her what to do or are controlling towards her due to her passivity and shyness. The verbal type may be domineering and controlling in her interactions with others.

Why do girls who have an assessment not receive a diagnosis?

Females can and do make eye contact and can have superficial reciprocal conversations in initial interviews with professionals.

Females are reluctant to admit they are having difficulty and will say they have friends, that they know what to do socially, when they are actually socially confused

Females start learning, often from before grade school to camouflage their difficulties and pretend every thing is fine

Females will say everything is ok and there are no problems even in the face of contrary evidence or difficulties

Professionals are viewing the female as just a “shy” and/or “sensitive” child or a “hormone driven” teenager, when in fact they have Autism. Around the age of 12-13 are when the proverbial wheels may begin to fall off and the inability to cope comes to the forefront

Professionals may diagnose only the presenting issue (for e.g., anxiety disorder)

They may receive high scores on the ADOS but not enough for a diagnosis

The majority of assessment tools are based on males

Professionals are not trained in understanding the gender differences, the gender bias, the questions to ask, compensatory strategies and camouflaging techniques

Some clues look for in an assessment

The Social World

1. exaggerated facial mannerism or a flatter affect. Many girls I have worked with have a slight grimace to their smile. This is a clue that they may be having difficulties with their own non-verbal body language. Many childhood photos reveal either no smiling or a slight exaggerated smile or facial expressions

2. look for facial expressions not matching the mood or the situation being discussed. For example, it is common to observe smiling or laughing whilst talking about a situation that would usually be associated with a different emotion (and therefore a different facial expression and tone of voice).

3. many girls say they know what to do in a social situation but when asked, are not able to tell you what they would do or give an answer that leads to to believe otherwise. An investigation into levels and types of friendships and social skills often reveals difficulties

4. exaggerated non-verbal body language is often a clue. Some girls present in the clinic with body language that appears “odd”, unnatural or like they are acting with you in a conversation.

5. Many females are well-behaved (often too well-behaved) in school but the opposite at home (due to social exhaustion and holding it all in)

6. Many females are observed using behaviors or words from their peers, other people or television. They may copy, look like or act like others, taking on the characteristics, mannerisms, voice, sayings, of others.

7. Many females present in different ways depending on the situation and this can be confusing to family members.

8. Many females will tell you they know what to do in social situations, but the evidence is contrary and/or you will get the impression that they are confused or are not being truthful.

9. Some females may not apologize when they have made a social error and some females over-apologize due to being confused about social rules. Some females refuse to apologize even when it is plainly obvious it would be in their best interests to do so.

10. Many females are able to socialize quite well for small periods of time but them experience social exhaustion or a ‘social hangover’, needing solitude to recharge her batteries.

The Play World

1. Some girls have a preference to play with stereotypical boys toys, having no interest in dolls whilst others have an obsessive-like quality towards dolls and stereotypical girls toys (for e.g., collecting all barbie dolls).

2. Girls can often be observed spending the majority of their time putting together the scene of play, rather that actually playing. For example, spending the majority of time ensuring all the furniture, accessories and dolls are in the right place). They often have elaborate scenes of play set up and organized.

3. Whilst playing on their own, girls are often observed to be role-playing adults. For example, a girl may set up all her teddy bears bears, dolls, etc., and role play the teacher, doctor, nurse or other role. She may take attendance, give time-outs, write out lesson plans and/or teach class lessons.

4. Girls on the Spectrum are often far more imaginative than their peers. They are often observed pretending to be animals and/or imitating them. They may also have some difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy

5. A tendency to have imaginary friends and/or animals who are very real to the child, to the point that they may have table settings for them at the table, seats for them in the car, and so on.

6. Girls often spend more time playing with the family pets and/or on nature than their peers, having a natural affinity/gift in the areas of nature and animals. It is the intensity of the interest as compared to neurotypical peers that is key here.

7. May have obsessions with other people which can be observed as too clingy, not allowing the friend to have other friends, not giving them enough ‘space’, or obsessing over them

8. Females tend to have more avoidance traits and strategies when demands are placed on them

9. Some females may flitter from group to group in school not really having any real friends but giving the appearance of having friends, so that no one would pick up on this

Abilities, Gifts and Talents

Abilities, Gifts and Talents are plural due to the many females I have met who display multiple talents. These abilities often include:

hyperlexia/reading ability, perfect or near-perfect pitch, languages, art, performing arts (dance, acting/drama, singing, musical theatre, modelling, involvement in a band, comedy), the care of animals, mathematics, writing fiction and/or fan-fiction and/or poetry and/or songwriting, intelligence,

Mature interests may include interests advanced for her age (philosophy, psychology, opera, a language)

Immature interests may include an interest well past her developmental age (for example, my little pony, doll or teddy bear collections).

Some presentations

Some females present as more of a “tomboy” appearance (preferring an androgynous clothing style) and disliking make-up and sterotypical girls clothing

Some females present as a “ultra-feminine” or “princess” like appearance (love make-up, fashion, trends and shoes). they may spends time involved in shopping for clothes and/or designing clothes, perfecting the art of makeup and.or modelling

Regardless of presentation, a difference in terms of clothing as compared to her peers is usually observed. My screener which was the basis of I Am AspienGirlL The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Gifts of Females on the Autism Spectrum is here:

https://taniaannmarshall.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/moving-towards-a-female-profile-the-unique-characteristics-abilities-and-talents-of-young-girls-with-asperger-syndrome/

A female autism assessment tool I often use in conjuction with other tools includes this screening questionnaire developed by Kopp and Gilberg and it is excellent.

THE AUTISM SPECTRUM SCREENING QUESTIONNAIRE (ASSQ)-REVISED EXTENDED VERSION (ASSQ-REV), by Kopp and Gilberg

Kopp and Gilberg found that certain single ASSQ-GIRL items are often much more typical of girls than of boys with ASC. These items include “avoids demands”, “very determined” and “interacts mostly with younger children”. The ASSQ-REV is a new assessment tool that includes a set of “girl” items.

ASSQ-GIRL, 18 new screening items believed to tap into the autism phenotype of girls

ASSQ-GIRL item No Somewhat Yes

  1. Copies you (can be in a very discrete way)
  2. Episodes of eating problems
  3. No time perception*
  4. Too much sympathy
  5. Extremely interested in pop/ rock bands, soap operas or natural disasters
  6. Avoids demands*
  7. 34 Very determined*
  8. 35 Difficulties with choice; always avoids choosing
  9. 36 Difficulties with self-care*
  10. 37 Carefree or overmeticulous as regards physical appearance/dress
  11. Naïve
  12. Comes too close to others
  13.  Interacts mostly with younger children*
  14. Engages in dangerous activities
  15. Exaggeratedly fanciful
  16. Talks without content*
  17. Writes long stories (can be in stark contrast to level of talk)
  18. Acts or lives different parts (TV stars, videos, animals)

Note. *indicates items which were considered most specific in girls with ASD (see study V)

Aspienwomanjune2015cover

I Am AspienWoman is due for release September 2015 and available for preorder at http://www.aspiengirl.com

cropped-all-books-with-award.jpg3To contact Tania for assessments, Skype or clinic consultations, problem solving sessions, workshops and presentations, book interviews, book translations, or publishing, please contact Tania at tania@aspiengirl.com

For more information about Autism Spectrum Conditions in females go to:

http://www.taniamarshall.com and http://www.aspiengirl.com

Copyright Tania A. Marshall 2015