Female Asperger Syndrome, Current Statistics and Gender Differences

I write based on my own clinical and anecdotal evidence,
research studies and the work of world experts.

The statistics for boys to girls with Asperger Syndrome sit at 1:4, so
for every 1 girl there are 4 boys who meet criteria for Asperger
Syndrome. However, for those of us professionals who work solely in
this field we know that the statistics reflect a prevalence rate of
Asperger Syndrome in girls that is in reality, 1:2, meaning for every one female, there are two boys. Dr. Judith Gould, director of the National Autistic Society’s Lorna Wing Centre for autism and co-founder of the Centre for Social and Communication Disorders discussess the difference in prevalence rates between boys and girls. The statistic most commonly reported is that ASDs are four times more common in males than in females. Many clinicians, however, believe that the ratio is as high as 16 boys to every girl. But Gould believes that significantly more girls have the condition than is recognised; she estimates the ratio to be 2.5 boys to every girl.

Girls with Asperger Syndrome present very differently to boys with the same condition and “fly under the radar of a diagnosis”, often being MISdiagnosed,
MISunderstood, MISmedicated and sometimes, institutionalized. In my
clinic, boys tend to be diagnosed before formal schooling or in
their primary school years. Whilst I have diagnosed girls with
Aspergers as young as two year of age, the majority are closer to
the teen years. They appear to be able to cope with the basic more
“play-based” socialization. However, in secondary school the social
world changes dramatically from play-based to a more socially and
emotionally based conversation, social hierarchies are more
apparent, and the typical “bitchiness” and “mean girl” behaviors of
teenage girls is distinct. This difference often flies over the
heads of the female with Aspergers, who are often left behind
repeatedly analyzing their social faux pas, social confusion and
replaying the day’s social events in their minds over and over
again, often late at night, in their attempts to make sense of
them. Their female peer group’s interests have changed from
childhood friendships to teenage talk, emotional conversations,
cliques, groups, backstabbing, and “bitchiness”. They find they
cannot understand or “read” the unwritten rules, the non-verbal
facial expressions/glances/eyerolls and the non-verbal body
language that is critical to being an important member of a group.
As much as they observe, copy, and mimic their peers, they finds
that they just cannot keep up or fit in appropriately. Their peers
sense that there is something “ödd” about the Aspien, despite the
enormous amount of energy that they generally expend in their
attempts to fit in. In secondary school, girls with Aspergers
utilize a variety of coping mechanisms in their attempts to “fit
in”, “pretend to be normal”, “be accepted”, hide and camouflage
their confusion, imitate, copy, fake it until they make it, but
still appear to come off just a little “ödd” or “strange”, despite
their best efforts. Most of the girls I have seen have had previous
diagnoses of anxiety disorder, depression, ADHD, an eating
disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, bi-polar disorder and
even Borderline Personality Disorder (although they are still young
teenagers) and at times, reactive attachment disorder or selective
mutism. An enormous amount of energy is spent on observing,
learning and trying to understand and then copying their peers
social behaviors. I have met females who have utilized some or all
of the following strategies: Reading body language books and
practicing in front of the mirror in a repetitive way until the
skill is perfected the mirror

Learning from television shows or books about others inner thoughts, feelings and
motives

Replaying specific daily social situations in their own play at home in an effort to learn and
understand

Using imaginary friends to specific daily social situations in their own play at home in an effort to learn and understand

Over-apologizing, appeasing or pleasing others, giving gifts for social faux pas or social
mistakes

I have seen many teenage girls who have been brought into to see me and are have been described as having “gone off the rails”, in terms of their appearance, their attitude,
their mood, skipping or dropping out of school, running away from
home, involvement in drugs, sex, crime and/or the Police. They later met formal criteria for Asperger Syndrome.

Image

Using “chameleon” strategies, where the Aspien girl can adapt and fit into a variety of roles. In one example, I met a female who successfully fit into a very rough
motorcycle gang, a conservative church sect, and a traveling
circus! She had acted so well for so many years that she came in
with clinical depression, having no idea who she was. I have seen
teenage girls with Aspergers reject all social norms/values and
turn to drugs and sex and even crime.

Image

Girls with Asperger’s need very specific and appropriate social skills
interventions designed for them, in terms of learning about levels
of friendships, boundaries, social hierarchy, the unwritten social
rules, non-verbal body language, cliques and groups and the role of
people in those particular groups. They also need interventions
designed to help them with identity, self-esteem, managing intense
emotions, rigid black and white thinking and negative thinking.
Most typically, Aspien girls have the greatest difficulty in the
adolescent years, when they tend to “go off the rails”. Most, but
not all, Aspiens tend to be non-conformists and conforming to
social rules they don’t understand begins to take it’s toll. I had
one parent show me a picture of her daughter just a few months
before she saw me. He appearance was one of a typical teenager.
Then I had the chance to meet her daughter, who had in just a few
months gone “goth”, gotten several piercings and tattoos, was using
drugs and hanging around “bikers”. This young teen was rebelling
against all those groups that had not accepted her. Her desire was
to be accepted and approved of by anyone. This group and the men
she was having sex with accepted her, approved of her and took care
of her. She felt both accepted and popular. It is imperative that
any girl who comes into a clinic with either/or an eating disorder,
social difficulties, intense emotions, difficulties expressing
themselves, anxiety or depression, must be screened for Asperger
Syndrome, in a female. Then, once a comprehensive and detailed
developmental history is taken by an experienced clinician, the
diagnosis of Asperger’s becomes apparent, and then the appropriate
intervention can take place. Currently, information on female
Aspergers and Autism is occurring at a
rapid pace and there will be a
knowledge explosion within the next 10 years.

A recent study Dr Meng-Chuan Lai of the University of Cambridge
found that Autism affects male and female brains
differently, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23613816

CAVEAT:
Generally speaking, my doctoral research is in the area of females.
Having said that I am not saying that males do not experience these
issues. I am merely writing about my
specialization.

Tania Marshall©. 2013-14.
Professional Q and A Series I. All rights reserved. Duplication in
whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank
you.

Professional FAQ Series: Highly Sensitive People, Female Aspergers, Referred Emotion and the Superpower 6th Sense gift

Updated December 11th, 2016

There has been intense interest in the area of high sensitivity, different perceptual experiences, and the 6th sense, including Synaesthesia and will be written about in more detail in the future.

Professional FAQ Series: High Sensitivity, Female Aspergers, Referred Emotion and the Superpower 6th Sense gift

My writings are based on my professional work with individuals of all ages, most diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome (and some with co-existing conditions). I work full-time with individuals of all ages with Asperger Syndrome or Autism. I have supported hundreds of females with diagnoses of Asperger Syndrome. I also blog, write articles and am now writing a book series.

images (3)

FAQ: My daughter was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome three years ago. Since very early on in her life, she has regularly told me things she couldn’t possibly know. She seems to just “know” things all the time. It’s spooky and I worry about her.

FAQ: I am a self-diagnosed Aspie and have known for a long time that I cannot cope being around people. I just get so emotional and at times, even break down crying. I broke down walking past an obese man the other day. I don’t know what it wrong with me.

FAQ: I am a diagnosed Aspie who has been told I “care too much” about the world. I can’t even watch the news anymore, without going into a meltdown over the latest war, injustice, or crime. How is it that others just don’t seem to care or that it doesn’t affect them like it does me?

I have interviewed hundreds of girls, teens and women with Asperger Syndrome who have talked to me about high sensitivity, referred emotion, a “sixth” sense, knowing things without knowing how they know them, “feeling” presences, knowing when people are lying (through their feelings), and much more. It appears that females with Asperger Syndrome have a unique way, or “channel”, of accessing information about others or about events, or another way of “reading” people. Many females I have seen have expressed difficulties reading people in the usual way, that is through reading others non-verbal communication (facial expressions, hand and body movements). However, all have discussed their unique abilities to accurately sense what they cannot easily explain.

When should you consider that you may have Superpower 6th Sense?

In interviews I have listened to females, who are extraordinarily sensitive to the pain and feelings of others, so much so, that they are unable to watch the news, read the paper, listen to the radio or watch horror or violent movies. They have discussed being able to feel other people’s feelings and being able to tell or feel when people are lying to them, even though they were given no indication through body language evidence, but had later on found out through physical evidence. They have described their sensitivity as akin to a “fragile flower with a gentle breeze blowing them right over”. They describe being in continual emotional pain in the presence of other people. Many females have discussed “feeling” the emotional atmosphere of the room, “feeling” someone’s anger (although the person said they were not angry, did not look angry, but were actually angry on the inside) or “feeling” someone’s sadness as they passed by the person on the street. They have also discussed experiencing referred emotion or others thoughts (picking up stuff from other people or being “invaded” by other people’s thought’s). Many of the females I have worked with have told me they have been told by others that they “care too much”, are “”too sensitive””, are “highly sensitive”, and/or “need to stop caring” or “harden up”.

Some females have discussed knowing about future events happening before they happened, experiencing “precognitive dreams”, experiencing extrasensory perceptions and describing their experiences as seeing pictures in their head of what they are supposed to know (a “knowing” of a future event, the location of an item or a person, where a person is).

Many females have discussed realizing that they need to limit the time that they spend around people or avoid social situations because they are overwhelmed by others moods, feelings, emotions and/or the emotional atmosphere or because they simply just “know” too much about the people they are around, even though these people are strangers to them. Some of them have discussed how they have immensely benefited from a medication to “take the edge” off their emotional sensitivities, learned how to harnass and utilize their extra-sensory abilities (including learning to differentiate between the emotions of themselves and those of others, how to shield and protect themselves, among other techniques), and what to do when they pick-up on or feel the pain of people or animals in their environment. There exists females with Asperger Syndrome who are professional psychics and/or mediums.

The Superpower of referred emotion, ESP, the “6th Sense” is a gift. In my experience, females with Aspergers tend to have this gift to a greater degree than others. This is not to say that males with Aspergers or people without Aspergers do not also have this gift. However, my research is on females with Asperger and so I write with this focus in mind.

Females with Aspergers are often much more aware of the emotional atmosphere that others miss. Many clients have discussed with me about their experiences in group, family, or conference settings, where they can “see” right through a person (their intuition tells them to be careful) whilst everyone else appears to really like them. Neurotypicals pay much more attention to other people’s words, non-verbal body language, actions, facial expressions, whereas Aspiens use a different sensing channel that tells them important information about a person. Learning to trust the “gut”, “ïnstinct”, “ïntuition”, “6th sense”, is crucial to overcoming naivety that tends to comes with being an Aspien, so that the individual is not taken advantage of.

Helpful Tips:
1. Knowledge and awareness. Believe your traits are real. Learn all you can about highly sensitive people, “empaths” and/or “ïntuitives”. Accept that you have this gift.
2. Learn about emotions. What are your emotions? What are degrees of delight and distress? What are other people’s emotions? How do you know what emotions are yours and what emotions belong to others?
3. Journal regularly. This will enable you to get to know yourself and provide a greater knowledge of what is yours and what is NOT your “stuff”
4. Learn to self-regulate your emotions
5. Learn shielding techniques, so that you do not ‘soak up’ others pain and emotions like a sponge.
6. Learn to separate your pain and emotions from those of other people, animals, nature.
7. Learn to trust and listen to your feelings, your vibes, your intuition. They are your guide in life.
8. Learn to embrace this gift, utilize it and trust it.
9. Take solitude (meditation, alone time)
10. Get enough rest and/or sleep.
11. Take minimum one day off per week
12. Cut down on the stimulation (TV, radio, newspapers, advertisements)
13. Learn to say Say NO
14. Be preventative. Take breaks often. Eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty.
15. Learn about your gifts, strengths, assets and utilize them.
16. Reframe your life based on your high sensitivity, your Aspergers, your whatever. This will take time for you to do.
17. Work on healing your childhood, your upbringing, your sensitivities.
18. Meet and be friends with other highly sensitive people.
19. Embrace your spirituality, whatever that is.
20. Use your sense of justice in a healthy and empowering way.

Helpful Resources:
1. Aron, Elaine. The Highly Sensitive Person, http://www.hsperson.com/
2. Bogdashina, Olga, Autism and the Edges of the Known World
Sensitivities, Language and Constructed Reality. (2010). Jessica Kingsley Publishers

images (2)

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

Professional Q and A Series I: FAQ’s about Female Asperger Syndrome and “Burning Bridges Aspie-Style”

Professional Q and A Series I: Female Asperger Syndrome and “Burning Bridges Aspie-Style”

images (1)

I have had a number of questions and comments related to what is referred to as “Burning Bridges”. Below are common comments/concerns that I have heard from my clients over the years.

“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 criticism, I ignored them, broke hearts and at the same time wasn’t able to take what I gave to others. How is this possible?”

“My daughter has a long history of ending relationships badly, walking out of jobs, packing up her room-mates belongings with no notice, and for no good reason. I’ve had calls from her former boyfriend, her former boss and now her room-mate. I am at my wit’s end and I feel she has got no future”.

“I have been in counselling for some time now and my psychologist has told me I lack empathy and need to work on my friendship skills, because I just can’t maintain a friendship.”

“I am writing to you because I have a long history of broken relationships, loss of jobs and relationships, and depressive meltdowns/breakdowns. I have thought about this alot and do find communicating with people stressful. I avoid conflict like the plague, am socially anxious and misunderstand people often. Why can’t I maintain relationships?”

“Whenever I get stressed or overwhelmed, things don’t work out, or I have trouble in relationships, I just cut ties with them like that. I pack up and move on, leaving jobs, friends, business partners, marriages, often not even giving them a valid reason for doing so. I just can’t deal with conflict”

“I have left a few situations rather quickly. Through counselling I realized some of my burning bridges were healthy and some were not”

images (2)
What is “burning bridges”?

Burning bridges is a set of behaviors in response to an event or events, often (but not always) disproportionate to the situation or event.

What causes individuals to burn bridges?

Briefly, I have found the following factors, in part or combination, to precede the burning of bridges, and of course, depend on the situation and context

The inability to manage stress, anxiety and/or anger

Misinterpreting or misunderstanding other people intentions

Difficulties communicating and/or working through the inevitable ebbs and flows of relationships

A meltdown, (depressive, toddler temper-like, violent, angry or suicidal)

Impulsive reactions, which are often then later regretted by the individual, but not always (i.e. packing their suitcases and leaving a relationship, throwing their room-mates belongings out, obsessing, stalking and harassing others)

Feel their lives will improve by changing friends, partners, jobs, countries

An inability to see other people’s perspectives, or understand other’s thought and feelings about a given situation

A tendency to argue and/or behave in ways, so much so, that I have seen individuals engage in behaviors that only hurt themselves, just to make a point, be the “winner”, or have the last word

A combination of blaming, passive-aggressive behaviors, avoidance of conflict, arguing rather than talking, criticizing and/or making excuses for their behaviors (“well, if you didn’t………, then I wouldn’t have had to throw out all your stuff!”).

The difficulty in understanding the unwritten social rules, of social and emotional reciprocity in relationships and how to maintain friendships or relationships.

Seeking revenge, stalking or obsessing over perceived injustices

A tendency to ‘catastrophize’ (thinking things are worse than they actually are) leads to panic, which then, in turn, leads to burning a bridge

Lacking the ability to understand the feelings and perspectives of others

A tendency to think negatively or in black or white terms

How Does Burning Bridges Happen?

In my professional work, I have found that children on the Autism Spectrum tend to fall into groups or sub-types. There are those who have a quieter, shier personality and generally dislike conflict or stress intense, keep their own opinions to themselves or take on the opinions of others, are unable to defend themselves when needed and are passive. There is also another group I have come across, those who tend to be overly-expressive in their opinions, despite the consequences. Some individuals in this group have been described by their family members as “över the top” or “drama queens”, “engage in publicly defaming others, playing dirty and extremely difficult to maintain a relationship with”. These two particular groups are quiet different in their presentation, yet share similar difficulties in communication, social and emotional intelligence, maintaining relationships, both context and mind-blindness and difficulties seeing another person’s perspective.

Both groups tend have difficulties keeping jobs, healthy friendships and partners. One group due to the inability to stand up for themselves, discuss their concerns with others and handle conflict when typical difficulties arise; and the other group, often having difficulty self-monitoring their behaviors and actions in the workplace, community, or in relationships, in essence, difficulty reigning their behaviors and emotions in. Their behaviors and lack of emotional control often scare, or intimidate their family members, co-workers partners, friends, or children.

Over time and development, individuals who have not been diagnosed and/or received appropriate intervention develop a number of coping mechanisms, usually in order to cope with the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome. Some adults have developed co-existing conditions, for example, personality disorders.

Is is ever appropriate to burn bridges?
That’s a great question. Sometimes, it is appropriate to leave a situation, and quickly, however, depending on the situation, in as professional a way as possible. Sometimes, it just isn’t appropriate or safe to do so. I have heard of many examples over the years where I believed it was in the best interests and healthy for the person to leave a situation, as quickly as possible. One example that comes to mind is a client who’s co-worker aggressively bullied her in front of her own client and that client’s young child. The client then intervened on her behalf to stop the bully and protect his caseworker. Serious forms of aggressiveness and bullying can and do occur in the workplace or community and are unacceptable, especially in front of children. I do not classify these situations as “burning bridges”.

What type of support or intervention is available to individuals who burn bridges?
Briefly, some of the following interventions and supports are useful in helping individuals improve the areas associated with the often seen impulsive and irrational behaviors associated with burning bridges

Social Skills training
Theory of Mind Training/Mind Reading Training/Cognitive Empathy Training
Emotion Management (Anxiety, Anger and Stress)
Perspective Taking Training
Speech/Language and/or communication training/semantic pragmatics
Social and Emotional Intelligence
Cognitive Affective Training (CAT Kit)
Learning to manage impulsivity
Assertiveness Training and learning to manage conflict in health ways
On going training in social awareness (learning how to read facial expressions and social interaction skills)
Training related to healthy boundaries and understanding and respecting the social hierarchy

It is important to remember that each individual needs to have the intervention specifically designed for them. For e.g., the quiet shy type highly benefits by learning boundaries, to assert herself by speaking up and standing up for herself in healthy ways whilst the dramatic talkative type benefits from learning to let others talk, slow down, speak and act in calmer ways, so that others are not threatened.

images

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

Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series: Actress Olley Edwards

This is my 6th Interview of people involved in the world of Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Previous interviews of mine include: Professor Uta Frith, Maja Toudal, Kathy Hoopman, Lynn Marshall, Rich Everts and The United States of Autism Movie.

This interview is the second in a series where I interview Mentor Aspienwomen from a variety of countries about their lives, Asperger Syndrome, their gifts and talents and more! Actress Olley Edwards is a professional actress from the United Kingdom and an Aspienwoman mentor, who seriously advocates for female Asperger Syndrome through by making a movie and writing a book about the condition.

944402_369630506482249_1663634783_n12

Tania: Welcome Olley and great to have you on join a phenomenal group of female mentors, in this interview series and future book!

Olley: Tania, thank-you for inviting me and it is a pleasure and a bit of a mission of mine to advocate for females with Asperger Syndrome.

olley film 2

Tania: I came across you in my research on female Asperger Syndrome. I had initially heard about you in terms of this incredible movie that you were making, at the time, called “The Kindest Label”. When I read your script I was very impressed. I also want to say that I love the title of the movie because one of the most common comments I come across for not having a female formally diagnosed is the stigma of a ‘label’. Please tell us about your movie?

Olley: ‘The Kindest Label’ is a short 20 minute film about the importance of an early diagnosis of females with Asperger Syndrome and the consequence of a late or missed diagnosis. The movie told from the view point of lead role “Belle”, not only as an adult with a late diagnosis but also by Belle’s younger self experiencing the lack of understanding and support she should have had. Belle is a complex adult with addiction issues living in temporary accommodation. She is trying to rebuild her life now that she has received her late diagnosis at 26. Her younger self who tells her story in flashback scenes is a clever and bright young girl who has very little support in school and in safeguarding issues.‘The Kindest label’ also shows the adult Belle, with scenes of how she now can see how her life could have been happier if she had been diagnosed sooner. It shows just how Belle’s life could have been with Asperger Syndrome, the “The Kindest Label” she ever had.

‘The Kindest Label’ is going to be entered into as many film festivals in UK and Internationally as possible, My aims by doing this are to raise awareness, (open a few eyes and prick up a few ears) and to hope that someone with the expertise, money and contacts likes it enough to make it into a feature film for a global audience. My film is intense, information packed, hard hitting snap shot at late diagnostic consequences but it could easily be expanded upon to make a ground-breaking feature. The movie aims at raising awareness and changing the perception of “what female AS” looks like forever.

film 2

film

Tania: How can people view ‘The Kindest Label’?

Olley: Due to festival regulations, I am unable to post film online until after festival use, to raise awareness in the meantime I am arranging private screenings and will endeavour to take film into secondary/high schools to use along with my book to talk about female Asperger Syndrome.

Tania: You directed this movie and you are an actress yourself?

Olley: I wrote, co-directed and acted in “The Kindest Label”. Luckily, being an actress, I have great actor, director, cameraman friends who came on board and gave up their free time and talent to make this happen. Playing Belle as an adult was a pleasure as well as hard work , to prepare myself for the “homeless addict” role didn’t wash my hair for 8 days and it also meant filming with no make-up or glamour, this felt very vulnerable as its normally these “costumes” as such that help me feel more confident when acting. I am however more than pleased with the end result as Belle is a very guarded yet unconfident young woman and that shows on tape.

Tania: How did you get involved in acting?

Olley: I started acting at a very young age; it started with dance lessons at 4 which grew into attending South Hill Park, the local arts centres drama classes every Saturday by 8yrs old. I became obsessed or should I say, hyperfocused with entertainment and was interviewing pop groups on Saturday morning TV by 10. I loved entertaining of any kind and took part in local productions and the school plays. My school was just a normal state school, it was huge, scary and I hated it. I went for one reason and one reason only, we had a great theatre and I use to skip PE and any lesson I could go unnoticed in just to pretend it was my drama lesson and go there instead. The teachers soon realised what I was up to but they let me get away with it most of the time. I got the role of the Artful dodger in the main school play, I prepared for this by constantly watching Oliver on VHS and copying the role of dodger over and over again. It was a boy’s role but loved playing a boy and was convincing enough to receive the school drama award for it. The next year I started lessons at a very well-known London Drama school. I only went one day a week but it was always the best day of the week. I felt so at home there and was offered a small role in Disney movie, which I couldn’t take up on, however the head offered me a full scholarship. Sadly I couldn’t attend fulltime as we lived to far away and the lodgings were very expensive. I can remember crying for a whole day in my room. I must have had the whole street thinking what a spoilt brat I was. I know now I wasn’t a spoilt brat, I was having a meltdown and unable to continue with my subject of hyperfocus.

BLtZkTvCQAAvytK12

I’ve always been an extremist 100% in or 100% out. Very black and white thinking. To me this meant I could never act again and I went downhill into an extreme teenage rebellion by the age of 13. I had replaced the friend and buzz of acting with secret drinking, drugs, you name it. This resulted in a teenage pregnancy by 15.

From the moment I knew I was to be a mum my hyperfocus was just that. To be the best mum I could be. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I loved being a young mum and I felt truly blessed. I was married by 18 and had my 2 other daughters within that marriage. My obsession was 100% on parenting and housekeeping. I lived in constant anxiety that I wasn’t the perfect mum, developed OCD and insisted on everything being lined up a certain way, certain coloured ornaments in in certain rooms and felt so empty that I started to diet a lot, weighing just 6.5 stone at 22. I was very happy being a mum. I live for the girls, I loved the routine of marriage but I did feel like I was just playing another role and something was missing. I felt I was never good enough but I was a great mum and wife I just had a huge chunk of my identity missing.

olley film

After my divorce, I had these awful voids of time where children were at their dads and step mum’s, I filled this void (which I can only liken to having 3 limbs removed) to go back to my first love, acting. My acting has gone strength to strength and even if I’m sleep deprived I feel acting energises me mentally. As any mum knows you have to put a brave face on a lot, any single mum with several children on spectrum will tell you how that brave face may as well be super glued on some days! Acting is once again, my safe place, whereby I can have escapology, display emotions, spend time with others, and cry on demand if required too….with ease.

556407_399912513391580_618513891_n

Tania: I have provided formal diagnoses and personally know many actors/actresses with Asperger Syndrome. Your own daughter Honey is also an actress and has Asperger Syndrome. She also starred in your movie. Did Honey naturally follow your footsteps, in terms of acting?

Olley: Honey has many talents. It would have been unfair for me to push her on the stage all “pushy mum”- esque. Honey also loves reading, history and sci fi. Honey is a really intelligent young girl but this intelligence was leading her to be very isolated and she was spending huge chunks of time alone in her room, not hours, not days but up to a week at a time in summer holidays. With the help of a bursary from South Hill Park, the same Arts centre I went to as a child, Honey was given a small role in the Easter show. I will never forget the first day when the teacher asked me if I knew Honey could sing. Actually, no , I didn’t know she could sing, Honey was almost mute at home after being drained from school. The first time I saw Honey acting and singing on stage I couldn’t believe it. It was like looking at a different child. Her Aspergers leaves the building the moment she is on stage or in front of a camera. As a result her confidence is so much more improved and she still receives a place every summer and Easter at South Hill Park. Honey also had the lead in a short film “A Fathers Gift” and the lead in ‘The Kindest Label’, my Aspergers film.

honey star

Tania: How is the diagnostic process in the UK?

Olley: The diagnostic criteria in the UK has well improved since I was younger. The doctors who diagnosed my two daughters were outstanding! Honey was diagnosed very quickly with Aspergers at 6 and Cherish was diagnosed with standard Autism at only 2 years (however I believe her to be more Aspergers). The criteria for teen girls, young women and adult women though I feel, is shocking. Female Aspergers looks so different to male Aspergers and women are still going misdiagnosed. Many of the Asperger traits look a lot like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder but they are merely co-morbid conditions to undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome.

Tania: Has Honey’s diagnosis and the new research on female Asperger Syndrome caused you to seek a diagnosis for yourself?

Olley: My parents have been and always are very supportive, In the midst of my teenage rebellion they sought help for me after I refused to go to school, spent hours alone in my room and had full blown tantrums (better referred as ‘meltdowns’). The doctor they saw called me lazy and washed his hands of me. After the routine of marriage I felt I was getting more and more anxious again, and with the fact I had two daughters on the Spectrum made me seek my diagnosis at last. The doctor I saw said on paper I was very Asperger’s, scoring sky high on a paper test. The Doctor however insisted that I couldn’t possibly be Aspergers on the basis I spoke about acting a lot (apparently people with Aspergers can’t act) and the fact I maintained eye contact (I stare).

I don’t know what he expected me to look like? Perhaps wearing a anorak and reciting train time tables (I do actually own an anorak and yes I do know the London train route a little bit too well but I also know not to make it common knowledge)?

I found it a puzzle as Honey is a great actress yet she is Aspergers? I wondered if females and males on spectrum presented differently. I went onto Google to research the differences in male and female Aspergers. The criteria felt like someone had watched me from birth and taken notes. I felt a rush of relief and sent it to as many friends as possible. I know in my heart I have Asperger’s, and I will now gain an official diagnosis outside the UK. My aim to do this isn’t to get support or services perse. I am 31 now, I cannot get my schooling or teen years back. It’s not even to let my inner rebel have her day and wave it in the face of the UK doctor who said Aspergers people can’t act. It is because, at last, I have my identity, my missing puzzle piece and above all I am proud of whom I am and that is an Aspienwoman, an adult female with Asperger Syndrome.

Tania: How do you think having Asperger Syndrome helps in terms of being a great actress or actor?

Olley: Females with Aspergers don’t make good actors, they are BORN actors. Neurotypicals spend thousands to learn method acting at university, but female Aspergers method act, without even knowing from day one. They are chameleon, watching people’s actions, mannerisms, accents and language and mimic this to get by, to socialise, to communicate. Acting is an Aspien girls second language, almost like being bilingual.

Tania: Now, not only have you made a movie about female Asperger Syndrome, but you mentioned earlier you have written a book entitled ‘Why Aren’t Normal People Normal? A Girl’s Survival Guide to Growing up With Asperger Syndrome’.

Olley: Yes, I have just finished it this past weekend and it is more of a guidebook for girls, in terms of what will help and support them as they develop.

Olleybook

Tania: Where can people purchase your book?

Olley: I am just now putting the final touches on my book. Once that is done, people can purchase it. I will let you know the details once we have it all set in place

Tania: It has been a real pleasure to interview you and you are such an inspiration to the many females with Asperger Syndrome. Thank-you for a fabulous interview and for doing what you do for the many females all over the world with Asperger Syndrome.

Olley: Thank-you for interviewing me and providing a platform like this where people can and learn more about female Asperger Syndrome, mentors, information and resources.

406329_396413553741476_809497136_n

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

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

tania headshot 010513

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.

shutterstock_94805260

Aspergers, Girls and the Social World: A Brief Look

I have mentioned previously in my work about what I refer to as a “Social Spectrum”, meaning that all people have varying levels of preference or ability to socialize. In terms of Aspiens, I have found that, as a group, they also have a social range. I have met Aspiens who at one end, the quite shy, introverted Aspiens who at times can be mute in social situations and need much encouragement to participate socially, in classes or groups. At the other end of the social Spectrum, some Aspiengirls present as quite extraverted, often ‘too’ social, in that they overstepping others boundaries and socially innappropriate. (Just to clear up any confusion, AspienGIRL™, Planet Aspien™, Aspien, Aspienpowers are from my new book series. The word Aspien means a female with Asperger Syndrome. Book Series and website coming shortly.)

9767404-happy-smiling-children-in-summer-nature-background

Aspiengirls may have a preference to spend their time in solitude and/or with animals, their dolls, teddy bears or imaginary friends or imaginary animals. Their animals or toys may be their best friends.

Aspiengirls who want and have friendships, are more likely to interact intensely with one other girl or boy. Remember, one of Aspiengirls superpowers is her ability to work exceptionally well one-one-one or presenting to others or a group. Her friend often provides support, guidance and social information to her to help her navigate the unwritten social rules and the playground. Aspiengirls are most often very loyal friends. They find gossip, bitchiness and back-stabbing a complete mystery and are uninterested in these types of behaviors.

Aspiengirls are known to be naive, socially and emotionally immature (often years behind their peers) and particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of, especially if they are lonely and desperate for a friend. Aspiengirls are often more successful socially with boys, as they find boys, generally speaking, less complicated, their ‘play’ is fun, more functional and interesting. Aspiengirls find their female peers engagement in conversational and emotional play boring and confusing. Many Aspiengirls fidn they have more in common with their males peers and get along with them better as conversation is less confusing and mutual interests more appealing.

There is a sub-type of Aspiengirls that “flitter” from group to group not forming any close friendships with their peers, not knowing or understanding how to navigate the various cliques or groups. Aspiengirls have trouble understanding the levels of friendships, the social hierarchy and the social roles that various members of a group or groups play. In school, girls with Aspergers can feel quite lonely, they may make friends with peers from a variety of other cultures, .

Most often, Aspiengirls have flown under the radar and may not be identified as all as being Aspien until the tricky teenage years. I have seen various sub-types in my clinical practice. One group of teenage Aspiens I have worked with is a group characterized by very good grades, an embracement of good moral behavior, and a late development of interest in romance. This group often finds it challenging to be assertive and stand up for themselves. Some of them may be described as ‘puritan-like’, rule-bound or late-bloomers. 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.

The other sub-type of Aspienteens I have seen is the opposite of the group I mentioned previously. Rather than embracing the moral code, they reject social, moral and authority codes, which combined with naivity, social and emotional immaturity, a belief in the ‘good’ in others, leads them a number of difficulties, ranging from experimention with drugs, to a history ofabusive relationships, continually being taken advantage of, in addition to dropping out of school. This type of Aspienteen has been described to me by many a parent as having “gone off the rails”. One particular example was of a parent who brought in pictures of what her Aspien looked like the year before and then showed me pictures of what she looks like now. There had been a dramatic change in appearance and attitude, along with her choice of social contacts, her sexual behaviors and dress. Some seek out a “counter-culture to fit into.

Social differences and difficulties are common among Aspiens and social skills training, drama lessons or coaching can be quite helpful. The type of social skills training is important and the above two groups need different intervention in terms of social skills training.

Tania Marshall©. 2013. All rights reserved. These writings are a part of the AspienGIRL™ Book Series. AspienGIRL™ and Planet Aspien™ are registered Trademarks. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.

Autism Interview Series: The United States of Autism Movie

BLtZkTvCQAAvytK1

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing an amazing man who travelled all over the United States of America, to provide awareness, advocacy and education about Autism Spectrum Conditions. His efforts and his movie provide a poignant movie about how Autism affects families across America. Please meet Richard Everts.

Tania: Congratulation on a fabulous movie! The United States of Autism is a movie that spans 11,000 miles, 5 first languages (English, Arabic, Spanish, Korean, and Chinese) and 20 families. Could you please tell us how this movie started and it’s evolution to now (where is being shown in movie theatres all over the United States of America)? As the Director of the movie, how did you become involved in this amazing project?

Rich: My son is on the ASD spectrum, and so I have a first-hand look into the spectrum with all its joys and challenges. For the film, my crew and I travelled 11,000 miles around America in 40 days interviewing families and individuals affected by autism. We captured about 100 hours of footage, and broke that down over the course of 20+ revisions and 2 years into the finished 90 minute product you’ll be able to see soon. Today, it’s taken a life of its own. We thought we’d do a small 40-city run in the US and that would be it. Now, we’re scheduled for almost 100 screenings, and requests are coming in from the UK, Canada, Australia, South Korea, and more. We’re beginning an Oscar qualification run this summer and hope that we can qualify to be in LA for the 2014 Academy Awards.

Tania: How did the movie land the Pepsi Refresh Project?

Rich: My wife and I started a Foundation in 2005 that supports families and individuals affected by autism. At the end of 2009, we began to look for opportunities to expand the reach of organization on a national level, and thought creating a film might facilitate that process. So, we entered our idea into the Pepsi Refresh Project contest in February of 2010, the first month voting would be allowed. The top 10 ideas in each category would receive funding, and our first month we failed in the last week by dropping to number 12 from 8. Luckily, that meant we qualified to re-enter automatically next month, and we made sure to qualify in March of 2010. After 59 straight days of a massive social media campaign, we placed 8th out of 10, and the rest is history.
676889_640

Tania: Please tell us about Tommy and the Tommy Foundation? How did the Foundation get started and/or become involved in the movie?

Rich: Tommy is now 14 years old and the inspiration for the Tommy Foundation. He’s on the more severe end of the autism spectrum, yet he still will sit through the entire movie whenever we play it! While most of our mission at the Tommy Foundation includes activities and events for families and individuals, we do awareness projects from time to time and this was a great way to help with the overall autism movement.

Tania: How did “The Refresher”, at 3 years old, get involved in helping you promote the movie?

Rich: He’s one of the children of a local family in the film, and he was excited to play a part in helping make things happen. We had a whole green screen setup at our home, and filmed 2 videos with him in it. I would say that he was one of the great inspirations for the contest, and as a non-union actor he was worth every penny.

maxresdefault

Tania: How many families did you interview and what did you learn from them?

Rich: We interviewed 21 families and individuals affected by autism, and we learned a ton from each of them. One of the challenges with the film was of course reducing hours spent with every family to 3 minutes of footage; so unfortunately, we lose something in the translation to the screen. However, each family or individual presented a unique lesson to me as I travelled, and I’m thankful for that experience.

Tania: What is the message of the movie?

Rich: One of the great things about the film is how we incorporated the American experience into the story. We have a wide variety of religions, ethnicities, races, socio-economic statuses, and more in the film and autism reflects itself in those threads of society similarly. While part of the message is a unifying one for the autism movement, a part of it is a unifying message for the US and world as well.

Tania: What kind of response and feedback are you getting from organizations and people who have seen the movie?

Rich: The feedback has been astounding, even to us who produced it. We’ve had so many tears, laughs, and stories it would be impossible to put them all down. There are some controversial things in the film of course, yet without a doubt we’ve made huge impact wherever we’ve gone, especially as we’ve donated 25% of net ticket sales to a local organization/family/individual wherever we’ve had a showing. Change happens at the local level, and we’re enabling people to make a difference in their communities.

Tania: Where can people find out more information about the movie (website?; YouTube?; Facebook? ; Other?)

Rich: The best way to follow the film is at http://www.usofautism.com/, or our twitter @usofautism. We’re also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-United-States-of-Autism/225733958739

The official page to read more about the film and it’s availability is here: http://www.janson.com/rights/2013/03/06/the-united-states-of-autism/

Tania: Do you plan to follow the families into the future? Do you have any further plans, possibly a second movie?

Rich: This first movie was incredibly exhausting to put together on such a small budget having put in over 4000 hours just myself, so I’m ready for a little break. However, I would say that perhaps in 10 years I’d like to maybe do a small 30 minute follow-up with each family for posterity’s sake. An “Autism Around the World” film would be great to put together as well, and we could make an incredible movie out of it. I think I’d need more than $50k to make that happen.

Tania: When might we be able to view The United States of Autism movie here in Australia, or in other countries?

Rich: We’re working on it. We’re a small operation, so converting everything to PAL can take a while. If anyone wants to send some good vibes and a few coins our way to help speed up the process, I won’t turn them away! I expect a Blu-Ray/DVD release in Fall of 2013, and hopefully can arrange a movie run Down Under in Australia this summer.
Tania: Thank-you Rich for allowing me to interview you about your fabulous movie. We are looking forward to future Australian screenings.
Rich: Thank-you Tania for the interview and your support. I will keep in touch with you about future screenings, further movies and the families.

The official page to read more about the film and it’s availability is here: http://www.janson.com/rights/2013/03/06/the-united-states-of-autism/

photo-main

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