The Neurodiversity of Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Females

The following article is copyrighted and may not be posted anywhere without permission from the author.

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In working with females (and males) on the Spectrum for approximately 20 years, I have learned a lot from my clients. When I first started out as a psychologist, I was seeing female on the Spectrum; they just were not called or labeled that back then. In working with hundreds of females, it is safe to say that there is much neurodiversity within this group. This is extremely important to talk about because these are their narratives.

By this, I mean that there exist varying presentations of girls and women on the Spectrum. Some are easier to diagnose than others. This is due to temperament, personality type, the severity or mildness of the person's specific Autistic traits, how many traits they have, gender differences, how much the traits impact on their ability to function, other conditions or disorders and much more.

Due to a variety of lagging skills and/or differences, many females with Autism do not get along with each other, yet many do, just like neurotypical people. Many females with mild symptoms are unable to get a diagnosis, even though their traits and exhaustion impact them on a cyclical basis. Those with the subtle traits usually never receive a diagnosis.

Now that I have worked with thousands of women, they have taught and shown me through their narratives, just how different they are from each other. It is important to discuss this issue so that no more females are left behind.

Stereotypes exist due to the history of Autism and describing boys rather than girls certainly comes into play. Other stereotypes include cultural perceptions and the social focus of culturally "female" interests. So, assessments based on males and cultural perceptions and biases are certainly factors. In my work, I have seen the stereotype of the "Tomboy" play a part in other females with a different presentation not receive a referral for an assessment or a diagnosis.

The use of a social mask, compensatory mechanisms, level of intelligence (for example, being 2e), being able to get by in life day to day and then have cyclical breakdowns, and the subtle differences all contribute to a delay in diagnosis or a misdiagnosis. These differences mixed in with genetics, temperament, personality, co-existing conditions, family environment and upbringing all impact and affect how Autism presents in a female (and male).

Subtypes or presentations are extremely important to understand if one is to be trained appropriately. It is imperative to understand how many different ways a female on the Spectrum can present to a clinician. A diagnosis is critical, not only for self-understanding; but for support, services, and academic accommodations. I am talking about how girls and women have presented themselves in my clinic over 20 years, from a variety of countries and cultures. This blog is but a small part of my book entitled, "Behind The Mask" due 2017.

There are a few ways that females on the Spectrum adopt a role. In particular, if they really want to fit in and conform with society. There exist some common types or sub-types of women on the Autism Spectrum. The reason this is important is so that, as I said before, no females are left behind, and that professionals are trained in the various presentations so that they do not miss a female and also to educate the wider population about the neurodiversity of neurodiversity itself! So, let's discuss just a few presentations:

TheTomboy is usually indifferent to gender, preferring to have boys for friends and dress in an androgynous way or dress in boys clothes. She finds it much easier to talk to boys (or men). However, some individuals have gender dysphoria and this is not to be taken lightly.

The Academic superstar uses her intelligence to achieve degrees, awards, honors and more. She has an intelligence above 130, qualifying for MENSA, and has used her intelligence to get through social situations. The higher the giftedness, the more different the presentation may appear.

The Passive female is a people pleaser. She is shy, quiet, cooperative, rarely asks for help and compliant, too compliant, and blends into the wall (in the classroom or at school). She rarely stands up to bullies and is often taken advantage of.

The Aggressivefemale has often had a history of misunderstanding and misinterpretations, both ways; on her part and on others parts. She often misinterprets others, burns bridges, is impulsive and is the type most often associated with or been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD traits.

The Scientific female may have a special interest in physics and/or Quantum Physics, mathematics, chemistry, animal sciences, biology or space, programming, just to name a few. Often, this type of woman is quite focused on their topic of interest and reaching high levels of distinction (a Masters or PhD).

TheStyleIcon is aware, even overly aware of style and fashion. She may work in fashion design, be an actor or a supermodel. She has got the outfits, makeup, hairstyles and appearance perfect. Her appearance tends to intimidate males and females, who are threatened by her appearance, presence or knowledge of the fashion and stylist world. She grasps small talk, making her appear to be neurotypical and allowing her to cope in social situations and fit in with her peers. Even if her appearance is eccentric, she gets away with it due to her other talents; whether they be a singer, a costume designer, an actor or DJ.

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The Housewife or Cook loves to entertain and is very good at it. She is whom people want to hire for their home. She loves to have people over, but remains the ultimate host, so as not to have to socialise with others. 

TheArtist gets away with being different or eccentric because society expects them to be that way, so in this way, they often remain undiagnosed until they fall off the rails. they may be the more eccentric painters, writers, actors, supermodels, singers, and band members.

TheJusticeWarrior is obsessed with justice, fairness, and right and wrong. These are admirable traits, but not when it turns into obsession, misguidedness or inappropriate recruiting of members. Some women (and men) are 'one woman' groups because others do not want to join their cause due to the social way they attempt to get others to join their cause. These people end up starting their cause over and over again. It is true (although some may not like to admit it) that some women (or men or neurotypicals) have a “misguided sense of social justice”, going too far or the wrong way of going about their crusade. There is a socially appropriate way to get people to join your cause. I have met clients (both neurodiverse and neurotypical) who have gotten into trouble with the law or are in jail because of their enlarged justice gland, lack of social context and impulsivity.

In summary, this is just a brief look at how girls and women experience Autism and the variety that exists in presentation. There are other presentations that will be discussed in my book. Girls and women vary differently from each other and also differ in their ability of lack of ability to use compensatory mechanism and/or coping mechanisms. They also vary in intelligence levels. Those who are both Autistic and Gifted have a different presentation. However; they all share the same core challenges (from mild to severe) and some remarkable strengths or gifts.

This blog is written to address the neurodiversity with a large group of females and has nothing to do with sexism or ableism, nor that neurotypicals cannot have the same careers. Most importantly, it is imperative that we understand the differences in neurodiverse females, the different ways they cope or not cope, and the different ways they present.

Within the Neurodiverse population, there is no particular way to be a girl or a woman. Many of my clients have all kinds of preferences and interests, including my Lego pens sets. Many of my clients have a wide and varied style of clothing, from fashion to boys clothes to Victorian clothing to gender-neutral clothing to completely loving being in a princess Tulle dress or an Elf costume. Some of my clients wear "boy" clothing and "girl clothing". Some like cargo pants, some like dresses and/or corsets, some like dressing up in their favorite character, some love femininity and some do not and many like books, stationery, dolls, and theater.

Finally, the purpose of writing about presentations is to leave no female out; to never exclude not even one female. We understand the neurotypical world (to the degree that we do), but we are only on the cusp of learning about the neurodiverse female world and what this group are truly capable of, when given the right support. This is about understanding females on the Spectrum and then designing appropriate interventions according to their presentation. For example, the passive presentation will need assertiveness training whereas a different social type will need a different intervention. It would be unfruitful to put all females in the same social skills or intervention group.

Whilst these girls and women are different, they all share the same common core characteristics, that of social, emotional, cognitive, sensory, intelligence differences, in addition to other co-existing disorders or conditions. This makes for complex presentations. By no means can one type be put in a box. A female can be 2 or 3 types or morph into all types throughout their life-time.

These are just some of the various ways that Autism presents, how some females may present and how they may cope with having a different brain. Autism influences many factors and all types and interests are just as important as each other. We need as many different brains and as many different neurodiverse females as possible. We also need to know the differences in presentation, so that we can now design and implement the right support and intervention for the right girl or woman.

Neurodiverse girls and women have much to offer, regardless of neurotype, interests, dress, differences and/or similarities. There are no stereotypes, just a variety of presentations and profiles, all valid and all very special.

#nomoreemalesleftbehind #beyourownsuperhero #aspiengirl #aspienwoman #aspienpowers #behindthemask

Behind the Mask 3D

Copyright 2017 Tania A. Marshall http://www.aspiengirl.com http://www.taniamarshall.com

No part of this may be used, reproduced, borrowed or copied. This is an excerpt from Behind The Mask

AspienGirl.com is pleased to be nominated for a 2017 ASPECT Autism Australia Award

AspienGirl.com is pleased to be nominated for a 2017 ASPECT Autism Australia Award in the Advancement Category, for advancing the area of female Autism. AspienGirl.com advocates for neurodivergent females, educating and bringing a strengths-based awareness about the autistic female presentation/profile, and contributes to its’ goal of “no more AspienGirls left behind” and “Be your own superhero”, being the best version of yourself. Females will continue to be misdiagnosed, mis-medicated and/or receive the wrong interventions, until research is conducted on females, female-based screening and diagnostic tools are created, gender differences are clearly understood, and female-specific interventions and professionals are trained to assess, diagnose and work with females. In order to assist in getting closer to these goals, the AspienGirl Project was created and has already donated 450 books and will continue to donate a certain percentage of its profits to sending out free books and resources to professionals, schools, teachers, special needs coordinators, libraries, and Autism organizations.

 

 

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Tania Marshall, M.Sc., AMAPS, is an international best selling author, psychologist, publisher, educator, 3X and most recently 2017 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category), recognized for her work in advancing the field of female Autism. Her first book, entitled “I Am AspienGirl©: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Young Females on the Autism Spectrum”, foreword by Dr. Judith Gould, won an IPPY eLIT Gold Medal Award in 2015 and is an Amazon best seller. I am AspienGirl has been translated into Spanish and is entitled Soy AspienGirl. She currently works with the gifted and talented, celebrities, performing artists, and twice-exceptional and/or neurodiverse individuals, across the lifespan. Tania was recently interviewed by Dr. Harold Reitman in a 2 part series by Different Brains, where Part I can be found here: http://differentbrains.com/aspiengirl-embracing-strengths-women-aspergers-syndrome-tania-marshall-edb-51/ and Part II here http://differentbrains.com/gender-differences-neurodiversity-recognizing-diversity-within-autism-spectrum-tania-marshall-edb-54/

Tania can be reached at admin@centreforautism.com for assessments, telepsychology (Skype) or clinic consultations, interviews, presentations, workshops, and/or conferences, translation inquiries, collaborations, publishing/book and/or media inquiries. She is an Australian Psychological Association (APS) Autism Identified Medicare Provider, a Helping Children With Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start Early Intervention Provider, a Medicare Approved Mental Health Provider and a Secret Agent Society (SAS) Trained Group Facilitator.

Copyright 2016-2017 Tania Marshall

Exploring Different Brains with Dr. Harold Reitman Part I

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Exploring Different Brains with Dr. Harold Reitman

Introduction – please click on the image to be taken to the Different Brains interviews available in visual interview format, podcast and transcript versions.

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I would like to thank Dr. Harold Reitman for contacting me and interviewing me, to Joseph and his team for putting together a wonderful series of important interviews. I would also like to thank Mike. More Coming Soon.

For impressions diagnostic assessments, Skype consultations, interviews, translations, book, workshop or conference  enquiries, please contact tania and admin@centreforautism.com.au

Copyright 2016 Different Brains and Tania Marshall

I Am AspienWoman wins a 2016 IPPY eLit Gold Medal Award!

The AspienGirl Project is pleased to announce that the sequel to ‘I am Aspiengirl’ entitled ‘I Am AspienWoman’ recently won a 2016 IPPY eLit Gold Medal Award in the “Women’s  Category” in April. I am AspienWoman is the culmination of a blog Tania wrote a couple of years ago entitled ‘Moving Towards a female profile of Asperger Syndrome’, with close to 300,000 views, to date. That blog is regularly updated. You may purchase copies at http://www.aspiengirl.com, Amazon or other fine books stores.

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AspienWoman April Elit Award1

 

2016 Award Announcements

Tania spends her professional time in private practice. She provides diagnostic assessment impressions reports regularly (across the lifespan), and provides interventions and support. For more information regarding diagnosis and assessment, bookstore wholesale discounts, book contracts, interviews, translations, workshops and conferences, please email admin@centreforautism.com.au

 

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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.

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.

AspienWomanApril25th2016

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?

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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

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.

20152017  All rights reserved Tania Marshall