Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism In Girls and Women
The female profile of Asperger Syndrome has largely been ignored in research (as compared to male research) and in definitions of Asperger Syndrome. This is due to a strong gender bias, with females known as ‘research orphans’, according to Yale’s Ami Klin. Many girls and women with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism fly under the radar undetected by health professionals or are misdiagnosed, which then leads to years of misdirected treatment and interventions.
The diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome in girls and women is one of the newest areas in Autism research and in clinical/anecdotal experience. Most children referred for a diagnostic assessment for Asperger Syndrome are boys. However, in very recent times, an influx of females on the Autism Spectrum has caused researchers and clinicians to take notice. Females tend to be missed in the diagnostic process due to the following:
- They develop the ability to ‘disappear’ in a large group, often being on the perimeter/periphery or the ‘outer; of the group or of the social interaction of the group, the ‘quiet’ one.
- They tend to use coping and camouflaging mechanisms, which include imitating, social echolalia and acting to conceal their confusion when playing with others.
- They use the strategy of waiting,watching, observing carefully and then participating when they are sure of what to do, by imitating other people and/or what they have done previously. What they have done previously may be inappropriate to the current situation.
- They are usually quiet, are often well behaved and polite and thus left alone by teachers, peers or other support staff.
- The presenting issue (for example, depression or anxiety or an eating disorder) becomes the focus of the assessment, diagnosis or treatment, and the overall most fitting term (Asperger Syndrome) is missed. Sensory, co-ordination and/or communication difficulties have been ignored.
Girls with Asperger Syndrome can appear to be neuro-typical (NT) due to their intelligent coping strategies. However, these coping mechanisms and strategies and the amount of energy and effort expended in ‘keeping up appearances’ takes an enormous toll on their energy and emotions. This toll can be extreme and for these girls, leave them ‘at-risk’ for depression, anxiety-related disorders and/or eating disorders as a result. The tiredness, social exhaustion, irritability/anger tend to make them a challenge to live with due to them often :melting down, upon returning home from school.
Female ‘special interests’ are intense and often involve animals, fantasy, literature, celebrities, anime, writing or art. On the Autism Spectrum, girls tend to rigidly adhere to rules and routines, in addition to their own point of view. This lack of perspective taking can cause many difficulties in social, family and later, work relationships.
Girls with Asperger Syndrome, from very young, can be observed using and applying their intelligence (usually high average to genius) to be reflective, and often, obsessive in their thoughts of particular social interactions. Girls appear to be better than boys at masking the traits of autism in social situations,. However, girls are less able to do so in unfamiliar settings. They are often very curious about human behavior, questioning or thinking about social behaviors or unwritten social rules.
About Tania Marshall
Tania is working on her Doctorate/PhD in Autism Studies, specializing in females with Autism. She holds a Masters of Science in Applied Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She regularly provides diagnostic assessments, support and intervention.
Tania is currently working on her fourth book. She is co-authoring a book for professionals tentatively entitled “Assessment of Autism Spectrum and Asperger’s in Females: Comprehensive diagnostics and treatment planning for girls and women with autism spectrum conditions across the lifespan”.
To enquire or book assessments, problem solving sessions and/or support, please e-mail Tania at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tania is also completing the first three in a series of books on female Autism. Her book series is available for purchase at http://www.aspiengirl.com
To enquire about interviews, articles, workshops, or translations/translating of her books, please email Tania at email@example.com
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