Ask a Professional Q & A Series: Answering your Questions about Female Asperger Syndrome and Autism

Ask a Professional Q & A Series: Answering your Questions about Female Asperger Syndrome and Autism

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I am a developmental psychologist, researcher and writer, completing my Doctoral degree in Autism Studies. I am a freelance writer, writing articles on Asperger Syndrome and Austism and currently completing a book series on Asperger Syndrome and Autism in girls and women. I have worked within this area for over 15 years and have assessed, diagnosed and supported hundreds of individuals of all ages, with Asperger Syndrome/Autism. I also provide diagnostic assessments, intervention and support in my private practice and/or via Skype, Facetime, or other means. I have provided assessments as far away as New York, United States and the United Kingdom.

I have been inundated with questions, comments and messages about female Asperger Syndrome and Autism from a variety of countries. These questions have come from females of all ages, and some males too. My blogs have now been translated into three different languages. Whilst I do feel somewhat overwhelmed by the response, I am not surprised. It was only very recently that Asperger Syndrome was recognized and even more recent that we began to realize that many more females than we previously thought, were born with this neurological condition. We are also starting to understand that there is a distinct female profile, that females are diagnosed much later than males, are often misdiagnosed (yes, even by professionals). There are very few professionals who specialize in this particular area and there is very little information on females, as compared to the amount of literature available on males.

I have received questions related to: assessment, diagnosis, careers, mental health, social skills, identity, gender identity, self-esteem, co-existing conditions, the tricky teenage years, emotions, medication, pre-school characteristics, recommended books, resources and interventions, why get a diagnosis, and everything else in between. So what I thought I would do is start an “Ask A Professional Question Section” here on my BLOG and to be added to my website (under construction), in which I will pick an FAQ or two, or three:-) and answer them on a regular basis. I will also be asking other professionals to join me in the future. Please leave your questions in the comments section and I will endeavour to answer them as time permits. Thank-you.

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35 thoughts on “Ask a Professional Q & A Series: Answering your Questions about Female Asperger Syndrome and Autism

  1. Can mental health issues override the missed autism because it has been left so long?
    Daughter diagnosed at 15, above average intelligence and suffering with severe anxiety and depression.
    we noticed a change in our girl after a seizure (one off) at age 7.

    • Hi Kayla, that’s a great question. What I most often see is that the “presenting issues” that an individual is currently dealing with become the focus of the assessment and the bigger picture of the Autism or ASpergers diagnosis is missed. It is most common for females in their teen years to present with anxiety, depression, mood swings and/or and eating disorder. Often Aspergers is not apparent in girls until Grade 1, when social skills issues become apparent. I am unable to comment much on the contribution of the seizure to her anxiety and depression, although I am aware of some research for sub-clinical seizures in Autism. All the best.

  2. I was not aware you could do diagnosis on people in other countries. I live in the UK, how would I go about arranging a diagnosis with you. I am a sixty six year old woman who totally identifies with your summaries, had been searching for answers and explanations all my life and finally believes that having Asprgers fits the puzzle together. Thank you

    • Hello Dee Q, yes I do provide assessment and diagnoses to a variety of individuals via Skype. I closely follow Professor Tony Attwood’s procedures and have provided diagnoses to people in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. I am able to provide this to any country, in English or another language (with a translator). My personal assistant will e-mail you with the details. Thank-you for your enquiry.

  3. I have been thinking seriously about obtaining a professional diagnosis. My Gp seems to have taken my initial exploratory comments seriously saying “yes think you may well be” but at the time I was in the pre op stage of my hysterectomy which Was my final move in a battle against very severe pre-menstrual syndrome which was rapidly destroying my life. I am now post op and ready to look into being assessed for Aspergers however am really aware that through the NHS, this may be a frustrating, stressful road to nowhere. I am in the UK…who would be the professional that my GP would need to refer me to? Also Tania, how would I go about a Skype diagnosis with yourself and what would it cost?

  4. Can aspie women also leave questions or is this only for NT’s to receive guidance/information about aspies?

  5. My question is: How could I sometimes be such a bitch? After all, as an Aspie, I needed support and sympathy. Yet, I sometimes treated people so badly, either with unveiled criticizm, I ignored them, broke hearts and at the same time wasn’t able to take what I gave to others. How is this possible?

    • Hello Eva, what timely and great question you ask. I have often been asked this question and will write a blog on this topic in the future. However, very briefly, I have found in my clinical work that many adults with Asperger Syndrome or Autism struggle with communication, maintaining relationships, employment and friendships. I have seen many individuals with Autism or Asperger Sydnrome engage in “burning bridges”, leaving jobs or relationships without notice, blaming others and more. The combination of intense emotions, black and white thinking, a sensitivity to preceived criticism or actual criticism, theory of mind/mind-reading issues, communication issues and the the tendency to misinterpret other people intentions, all can work together to contribute to “burning bridges”, being unable to cope with the inevitable times of conflist or stress in relationships, of all kinds. Thank-you for your question.

  6. I have sent you an email about how I might go about getting a diagnosis through you, I live in the UK on a remote island off the northern Scottish coast. Thank you

  7. Dear Tania,

    I am 18 years old, female, and finding all the changes in my life a little too much at the moment. I coped with it all for a couple of years previously through an eating disorder and through OCD tendencies. Also, I’ve always just preferred to do my work, and getting good grades has always meant that people just expect that with me! But since year 10 (15/16 years of age) I have really been struggling to meet the requirements of the new levels of friendships that are required and it really frustrates me how so many people who fail all the time in school can be so good at it and yet no matter how hard I try it just exhausts me and I always get it wrong.

    I have been following your blog for a while now and it is the only thing that makes me feel like I’m not just wrong. If I were an Aspien, as you call it, I wouldn’t be wrong – just different. And maybe I could understand myself better and maybe others could too. I want so badly to try to get a diagnosis, but I don’t know how to go about it. If I go to my GP, I don’t want them to think I’m silly, or a hypochondriac, or just making something out of nothing – “a mountain out of a mole hill” I believe the right phrase is. Also, my parents have always been very against “labelling” as they put it; they don’t think it gains anything but just makes people act the way the “label” says they should. How can I tell them I need the acceptance and understanding (and inclusion to something) that “label” would bring? I’m just not sure I could manage at university without some kind of support – or at least people understanding that most of the time I do things differently. Most people just think I’m weird at the moment. I’m not – I just work differently to them – it’s a much more beautiful and creative way of working too!

    I printed off both your ‘characteristics/profiling’ lists for young girls and adult women and wrote all over it where it had relevance to me and where it didn’t – so much of it just made me feel like I wasn’t the only one like this for once!

    I am writing this on my phone, so I apologise if any grammar, spelling or punctuation is wrong. Also, my name is not María, but I do like that name and I wasn’t sure I wanted to put my real one on. I am using my pseudonym; María Gomes! [I wanted you to know in case you thought I was trying to deceive you]

    Thank you so much for all that you write. Sometimes at the moment, it’s just you who keeps me going!!! 😀

    Yours,
    María Gomes.

    • Dear Maria,
      I hope you find this reply. My daughter began to really struggle at age 15 too. Looking back to her early years the signs were there, we just thought she was quirky and very intelligent. The way you describe struggling and your school work/life, also is very like my girl.
      I just wanted you to know that you are not wrong and you are not alone.
      My daughter is nearly 18 and even though she had to drop out of college, she knows she wants to continue her education at some point, she has finally accepted that she doesn’t have to do everything at the same time as everyone else.
      She finds it difficult but she has given herself a break so that she can ‘recover and mend.’

      She got diagnosed at 15 and like you say, she feels better now that she knows why she feels the way she does, why she sees things in a different way. You sound like you would benefit from knowing too.
      I hope you find your way as I hope my daughter will too. I will think of you.
      Take care. xx

  8. Hello Tania. I was diagnosed two years ago at age 40. I was wondering what sort of resources or help are available in Sydney (western suburbs). I haven’t really been offered any sort of help at all other than details for a support group which was nowhere near where I live. The psychologist who diagnosed me said I could apply for disability benefits but I was rejected twice. I’m currently struggling with anxiety and depression as well as the daily struggles of being a mother of 3, as I believe that I am impaired in relation to ‘executive function’ and also difficulties in communicating my feelings and emotions which causes conflict in my marriage. I can’t really afford ongoing psychologist appointments so I’m receiving free counselling at a Women’s Health centre. Just wondered if there is anything else you could suggest at all that would be of benefit. Thankyou.

  9. Thanks for posting a questions blog! I have one that’s or which I have sought answers but not gotten any that really made sense.
    When I started college, I failed nearly every class and dropped out after 2 years. It was not because of socializing too much (I didn’t socialize at all), I never did any drugs, I never drank. I also did not get lost (which I read is can be a problem.) Then I took a year off simply to think about why I was failing. Now, 10 years later I speak 4 languages, have traveled the world, been in the peace corps, am completing a funded masters degree, and am planning on applying to a PhD program this winter. Before being diagnosed I saw those two years with shame and disgust at myself. I could not explain to a single soul why all that poor production occurred. Since then, every school I applied to had to see those transcripts. It has definitely prevented me from applying to any top notch school out of shame. now, For my PhD, I am applying to the very school dropped out of 10 years ago. They have one of the top program in the subject i want to study. Now I am in an interesting situation…. I will have to explain what the heck happened to the very school I dropped out of. Thank God I can now semi-attribute this to my Aspergers. I just blogged about it, which was the first time I had given it thought in a long time. It was still shamefully even to write, but using the Aspergers perspective helped. Can you try to explain why “we” tend to do so poorly as we start college?
    Thanks!

    • My 17 yr old daughter started to have trouble with school in yr11. She wanted to go to college and like you, do languages. She has more than enough ability and want, but she cannot go to college. She is terrified of people, places, things, thoughts, anything really. She was diagnosed last year, and because she was left so long without treatment, is in a bad place at the moment (in a pysc unit) but she does want to go to college and be a productive and valued person in society. My question to you is how did you get through your ‘bad patch’? And well done to you for getting through it. xx

      • I hope your daughter can get through her fears and get into foreign languages. They are a great thing, I think. As for me, if I look back, id say that during my bad patch i was, in a way, lucky. I stayed above water because of my pets.. I loved animals so I focused exclusively on them. While they prevented me from learning how to settle into the school life and a social life, they took me away from situations I knew would overwhelm me, so they prevented me from focusing on realizing that I was different. After I quit school I went to a trade school for a year to learn to shoe horses. For me that kept me busy but also gave me time to simply think how I needed to change myself if I was going to progress in life. While I had failed in my first two years of college, I now knew what it consisted of. I went back knowing what to expect, and was better able to control my environment and, in turn, I gradually taught myself how to succeed. Each year has shown vast improvement over the last.

  10. I am currently 21 years old. I’ve always felt that I was different. All through out school and even to this day, I am known as the “quiet” one; the one who doesn’t talk very much. I’ve always felt like I was the odd one out of almost every situation, but could never pin-point why. In school, I kept to myself 95% of the time. I would constantly draw in my notebooks and disappear until the day was over. I believe that I have flown “undetected” for so long because I am dismissed by most people as being quirky and artsy. I have always had a strong interest for art since a very young age. I have a hard time finding and keeping work since many jobs require your attention to be on many different things at once, multitasking, and I easily become frazzled and stressed. I have “burned bridges” and have quit jobs and even college without hardly any notice. I worry about my future and how all of this will affect my life very frequently. I have a strong family history of mental illnesses and drug/alcohol abuse and I wonder sometimes if it is because they couldn’t cope with the way that I feel on a daily basis. I find social interaction to be one of the most difficult areas in my life; I find myself analyzing other people’s reactions most of the time and comparing myself to others. The amount of effort it takes to try to look “natural” and “fit in” is exhausting and most of the time I find myself alone a lot, because being around people is actually work for me. I’ve been concerned about myself and have been wanting to seek help for a very long time, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I find it very difficult to express myself and what is going on inside of me without getting overwhelmed and very emotional.

    • Hello Ney, thank-you for your comments. Your description does reflect the unique characteristics of the adult females that I have worked with. However, only a formal assessment/diagnosis can confirm this. Many people with Aspergers experience what I call a “Social Hangover”, a hangover not from too much alcohol, but a hangover from too much socializing. You could try contacting an Autism organization or association or a public or private practice where someone experienced in the female profile might be? Take care.

  11. You could have written this blog about me! I identify with almost all of it. I always felt different, awkward in my own body and at times think maybe I was born the wrong gender, I had three friends throughout elementary school, and I was able to read and write before entering kindergarten. I remember my first book report being a dual-dissertation of sorts on Anne Rice’s “The Witching Hour” and her sequel “Lasher.” . Unfortunately here in the US throughout the 90’s the trend was to diagnose children with ADHD and Bipolar. So by the time I was 14 I was officially diagnosed ADHD, MDD, Bipolar, PTSD, BPD, NPD, HPD, and adjustment disorder with depressed and anxious mood. Hospitalized a myriad of times, and drugged excessively (Ritalin, clonidine, Seroquel, lithium, Depakote, Adderall, Adderall XR, Trazadone, Haldol, Zoloft, and Midrin for the migraines the stimulants were causing). I’ve been trying to get an accurate diagnosis for a long time and continuously get diagnosed PTSD chronic (which I would have to agree with) and BPD. I have an issue with BPD because it’s marked by severely unstable relationships and suicide attempts. threats, or self-mutilation and at least two self-destructive or impulsive behaviors that cause a significant detriment to their lives (i.e. gambling, drugs, promiscuity, reckless driving…) Although I’ve used drugs before at parties or in social situations because I couldn’t say “no” for the longest time, it wasn’t a coping or impulsive decision. My husband and I have been together for coming up on 9 years now and our relationship has been very stable with a few frustrations (I embarrass him by speaking my mind in public or with his family and my lack of interest in sex and physical forms of affection leave him feeling confused) but all-in-all it’s a stable relationship.
    How would I go about getting an assessment by you and would that assessment be valid in the United States? I’m desperate to get these millstones of misdiagnosis removed from around my neck.

  12. Hi Tania,
    What would be the benefit of getting a professional diagnosis? What would I do with that? I’ve taken the online tests and seem to be hovering somewhere beyond the “normal” threshold but not quite as high of a score as most people who have been diagnosed. Maybe you can send me info on diagnosis by you? Thanks!

  13. Thank you for your work in this area. I self diagnosed myself 10 years ago or so I now,I’m positive but have given up hope on getting any help or relief from my drs. Because Im being medicated as bipolar 1 with psychotic tendencies. Atleast with information I have found online I kinda have a little understanding of other peoples similar experiences. Maybe I can keep researching and it by myself and it can help me cope with a confusing painful world.

  14. Any time I try to point out the evidence to my family and drs they say it’s mania and bipolar and self diagnosis because that’s what bipolars do. I’m 32 I’ve been self medicating for 10 years and that’s what is causing the roller coster. I’ve been in mental hospitals and jail several times. On haladol lithium zyprexa xanex and on and on . . .
    I’m just so tired.

  15. I need help for my daughter. She has recently started grad school in a new city and is having problems. She is going for her PhD in neuroscience and is a brilliant student but struggles socially every day. She has not been diagnosed but rather diagnosed herself. I think she needs a support group or someone to talk to. Maybe you will find time to email me. Thanks Val

  16. I was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and I was wondering how you would recommend a woman on the spectrum to deal with extreme stress. Just a little about the situation: My husband and I have 3 children, our two biys have high functioning Autism and our daughter has social/emotional delays. On top of these odds my husband (who is 25) is in what his Psychologist has called the promodial/onset stage of Schizophrenia. He is aware that what he is experiencing isn’t normal, if/when he breaks with reality I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I am already processing more than I can handle and have shown signs of catatonia at my worst. Is there any advice you can give me?

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