This is a recent FAQ on self-deprecation in neurodiverse females. As always, If you like it please share and leave your positive comments or other questions below. This video was made by the Neurodiversity Academy, founded by and funded by AspienGirl girl.com
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.
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 email@example.com
On the Bright end of the Autism Spectrum and the female Autism Crisis: How and Why Do Bright Autistic Females fly under Professional Radar?
Female Autism is a new and complex area of research with information in this area of Autism growing exponentially. Both empirical studies and qualitative differences are starting to show show that females ‘meet the diagnostic criteria’ in different ways from males. This then leads to females being misdiagnosed, mistreated and/or medicated. In 2015 alone, there have been over 15 gender studies published regarding the differences between males and females. While research is starting to catch up with clinical and anecdotal research, the time it will take for this to trickle down to professionals and those at the ground level may take many years, with females continuing to be under diagnosed and/or misdiagnosed. Many girls and women exist today without a diagnosis. She may have even been assessed by a professional working in the area, but was told she did not meet the “criteria”. If a female can get an accurate diagnosis, she is then often left without intervention and/or support. This is what I call the ‘Female Autism Crisis’.
The ‘Female Autism Crisis’
There is a lack of awareness, understanding and education regarding the female profile or ‘phenotype’, a range of often subtler characteristics, strengths and challenges that do not fit the male profile nor does a female with a diagnosis of Autism feel she fits that profile Common characteristics have been outlined in my initial blogs which were then turned into my book series (bestsellers I Am Aspiengirl and I am AspienWoman).
There is a need for research on:
the differences between neurotypical girls and Autistic girls
camouflaging of autistic symptoms and impairments, adaptation, learning, masking or compensation abilities
diagnostic and classification challenges
the factors that increase or decrease the risk of a female being misdiagnosed or completely missed; the consequences associated with this
information as to how culture, social factors, gender and/or familial upbringing play a part in female Autism
Why do Autistic females fly under the professional radar and why will this continue to occur for some time?
- Autism was and still is presumed by many people, professionals included, to be a “male” condition. Some professionals acknowledge that females have Autism and may be unaware that males and females often present very differently.
2. Adherence to a very strict DSM5 criteria which has a gender bias. Whilst DSM 5 has hinted at sex differences in Autism, it does not acknowledge brighter individuals. It also does not elaborate much on what these actual differences are or whether there is a female profile or phenotype.
Unfortunately, some girls are now being diagnosed with the DSM5 Social Communication Disorder (SCD)
3. A female phenotype is emerging that suggests an inherent gender bias. The Sfari webinar entitled The Female Autism Conundrum is a great place to start to understand this bias
4. Professional ‘bias’
The child’s behaviors are more a function of the families “alternative” lifestyle
The child does not present with significant enough behaviors, appearing to be “normal” externally
The child does not present with the “male” stereotype or “female” stereotype of what Autism should look like
The childs anxiety, eating issues or behaviors are the focus and the diagnosis is missed
Strict adherence to the diagnostic criteria
5.The emerging female phenotype or profile
A steady collation of anecdotal, clinical and autobiographical reports and current research discuss different presentations, phenotypes or a “female profile” and when assessed with “male-biased” or male-centric tools, many females slip through the cracks. Females on the Autism Spectrum can and do hold eye contact and make superficial conversation. If fact, they can hold superficial conversation for an entire session with a professional!
The girl does not have stereotypical repetitive behaviors
1. There is a lack of assessment tools created for females across the lifespan. The ADOS often shows elevated traits, but not enough to meet the criteria for a diagnosis. Females are often missed because they do not meet the cut-off score, although there are often clues in the ADOS results. Females can have the ability to discuss many social-emotional areas by responding cognitively well. However, many parents, school officials, and/or professionals have found that those social-emotional areas are not often displayed or used adequately, and often then, see the individual using other strategies to cope. It appears that the characteristics and traits as captured by “gold standard” assessment tools may be male-biased due to the gender-centric items that contribute to the scoring. A further comprehensive assessment and/or a second opinion then reveals the individual does meet criteria for Autism or Asperger Syndrome.
2. Females often can and do engage in superficial conversation, make good eye contact and conversation, for the first initial session or hour. This can confuse professionals who are used to seeing particular social clues more immediately and who may think that a female is just “too social”.
3. A lack of understanding regarding coping strategies, compensatory strategies, masking behaviors and the more subtle presentations. Female body language can be expressed quite differently as they learn to act, pretend, mask and compensate for their social difficulties.
4. A lack of trained professionals working in the area of female autism
5. Confusion as to the diagnostic overshadowing, for example, whereby a female may be diagnosed may be told she is “shy” rather than “social anxiety”, may be diagnosed with an “eating disorder” rather than Autism.
6. A lack of understanding how females with Autism present across the lifespan
7. A lack of both quantitative and qualitative data and research regarding females
8. Co-occurring conditions can make assessment a complex and challenging process for diagnosticians working with adults. Whilst many adults have been or are misdiagnosed with a personality disorder, there are adults with both Autism and a personality disorder or those who have been misdiagnosed with Autism and really have a personality disorder
9. A lack of knowledge about the heterogeneity within the female group and the variance in how it presents. There exist different subgroups in females with Autism and range from a more “male” autism profile-type presentation (maybe diagnosed earlier) to those with many “masking” characteristics, where professionals or family members may not believe the person who is telling them about their diagnosis. The female group as a whole consists of much heterogeneity and thus females can present in sub-types (for example, a tomboy, a fashion princess, a bookworm professor type, the athlete). This further causes confusion for diagnosticians who are not familiar with the range of presentations within female Autism (often diagnosed much later, if at all). There is a tendency for an “obsession” to become the person’s identity.
10. For some young females, the need does not appear to be “obvious”, or the “issues” are misinterpreted, UNTIL the teenage years. Presenting concerns may be interpreted as another disorder or generalized. For example, “she’s just got some social issues”, “she”ll grow out of it”, “she is just shy”. Some females present with an eating disorder and Autism is never considered.
11. Some common misconceptions or myths about female Autism can contribute to this issue: “She can make friends, make eye contact and socialize, so she can’t have Autism” “She is too sensitive, so she can’t have Autism” “She holds down a full-time job, so she can’t have Autism” “She has too much empathy so she can’t have Autism”.
12. Females tend to exhibit better expressive behaviors (reciprocal conversation, sharing interests, integrating verbal/nonverbal behavior, imagination, adjusting their behavior by situation) despite similar social understanding difficulties as males), present with different manifestations of friendship difficulties (better initiation but problematic maintenance, overlooked rather than rejected by peers, better self-perceived and parent-reported friendship), and different types of restricted interests and less repetitive use of objects.
13. Some common female differences include: less repetitive behaviors, a greater awareness of the pressure and desire for social interaction, a passive personality, often perceived as “shy”, a “loner”, a tendency to imitate others (copy, mimic, or mask) in social settings, a tendency for social exhaustion (or as I like to call it a “social hangover”), a tendency to “camouflage” their difficulties by masking and/or developing strategies to compensate for the challenges and difficulties they are facing, a tendency to have 1 or few close friendships, a tendency to be “mothered” in a peer group in primary school, BUT often bullied in secondary/high school.
14. There appear to be better linguistic abilities, more imagination (fantasizing and spending time involved in fiction and pretend play and when observed closely the play can be observed to have a lack of reciprocity, to be scripted and/or controlling.
15. Less restricted interests/activities tend to be common involving people and/or animals rather than objects/things (e.g., animals, stationary, soap operas, celebrities, pop music, fashion, horses, pets, and books/literature), which may be seen as less recognized as related to autism. She may be viewed pr perceived as just a “moody bookworm”.
16. A lack of understanding sensory sensitivities and how they impact the ability to function from day to day. An individual may not be able to explain what they are experiencing. In particular, professionals may be more likely to view an individuals’ comments about how they perceive the world as “psychotic”, rather than sensory processing disorder or sensory sensitivities.
17. Diagnostic confusion and not asking the right questions or clarifying what the client has said, can lead to misdiagnosis. Many adult women have multiple labels or diagnoses before they receive the correct diagnosis. As mentioned previously, a lack of understanding as to how sensory sensitivities affect an individual can lead to misdiagnosis. Having a fantasy world and imaginary friends or animals can lead professionals to suspect prodromal schizophrenia in a girl or adolescent. A girl who has developed routines and rituals around food and calories, nutrition and/or exercise may be diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and the Asperger Syndrome is missed. Borderline Personality Disorder is a common misdiagnosis with females usually not fitting neatly in the diagnostic criteria. Furthur complications include individuals who meet criteria for both Autism and a personality disorder.
Professionals may not understand that many females have the ability to “feel” other people’s feelings and this can be quite overwhelming for them. They may not trust talking about their hyperempathy, hence they will be misunderstood. Females may not trust other people due to the ‘cognitive dissonance’ between non-verbal body language and what she “feels” off the person. In combination with social and relationship challenges, her behaviors look like Borderline traits or Borderline Personality Disorder.
Until professionals catch up with current research on females, they will continue to be diagnosed and/or misdiagnosed with:
Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety
The new DSM5 diagnosis of Social Communication Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Schizophrenia or Schizotypal personality disorder
18. Cultural bias can leads to under-identification. For e.g., some immigrant women have been unable to gain an assessment as their differences in communication and behavior are not seen or viewed as unusual, but more of a ‘cultural’ difference
Even if a girl has subtler difficulties than other children with the disorder, those problems may nevertheless have a tremendous impact on her life.
Girls appear to use their intelligence and their abilities to to learn quickly how to combine non-verbal and verbal behaviors in addition to maintaining a reciprocal conversation and be able to initiate, but not maintain friendships. In combination with less to no and different restricted interests and an inability to communicate their needs, girls appear “less” impaired than they really are, especially in the school environment. Females on the Spectrum present with a “look” to them that suggest they are merely more sensitive, emotional and/or anxious than others.
Autism is particularly challenging to detect in girls, especially bright young girls, because generally there are little to no concerns at school. Typically, the Autistic female is doing everything to hide it, from using her cloaking device (hiding in a group) to blending in with the wall (hiding in the classroom) to chameleonism (adopting the social behaviors of another student or adult), allowing them to be much better socially over Autistic males but not neurotypical females. Their ability to hide their Autism is a superpower, but there is a high cost to pay.
Seen in private practice, the subtleties in bright females are abundant, from subtle clues externally (from a slight grimace in their smile to over-exaggerated body language) to social scripts (only observed if you see the girl a few times) to older children or teens who are questioning their gender (because they have always been unable to relate to their peers). Some females want to become boys, some are happy with their androgyny, some are happy to remain female and some change their gender entirely.
Observing, describing and understanding the unique presentation of autism in girls is the beginning to improve identification rates and create unique resources just for females. Understanding the heterogeneity of this group of females is also very important. In my 2nd book I Am AspienWoman, I discuss the differences and subtypes. Developing diagnostic tools is imperative as are intervention resources specifically for female
Tania can be reached for fee-for-service impressions assessments (in person or Skype), consultations, problem solving consultations and/or support, interviews and/or presentations/workshops, and/or book translations at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tania divides her time between full-time private practice, research and writing her books series.
To subscribe to the AspienGirl newsletter or to become and affiliate and earn 10% on all books referred, go to http://www.aspiengirl.com
To purchase I Am AspienGirl or I Am AspienWoman or pre-order AspienPowers or I Am AspienBoy, go to http://www.aspiengirl.com
For more information about female Autism or female Asperger Syndrome, go to http://www.taniamarshall.com
Future Books and Webinar Series
I Am AspienWoman releases at #29 Amazon USA, #1 in Australia (2 categories) and 1st spanish world female autism conference
Pre-orders of I Am AspienWoman paperback from the AspienGirl webstore
Pre-orders of I Am AspienWoman hardcover from the AspienGirl webstore
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.
20 Reasons for obtaining an Adult Autism diagnosis
One of the most frequent questions I am asked is about the relevance of obtaining a formal diagnosis or formalizing a self-diagnosis. My 2nd book, I Am AspienWoman alludes to this very topic through powerful images, experiences, thoughts and feelings of many adult autistic women. There are many valid reasons for obtaining a diagnosis and the majority of women who receive one explain the benefits in the book. I have included a couple of pages from the book and you can now pre-order I Am AspienWoman, available in eBook, paperback and hardcover, at http://www.aspiengirl.com You will receive $10 off if you order an I Am AspienGirl© and I am AspienWoman Combo. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did writing it!
Tania is available for in-person or Skype consultations, assessments or problem-solving sessions. To book appointments or discuss and/or book availability for presentations, conferences, publishing, translation and media interviews or inquiries, please email Tania@aspiengirl.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner for her first self-published book entitled “I Am AspienGirl© : The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Young Females on the Autism Spectrum”, foreword by Dr. Judith Gould. The sequel to this book entitled “I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Adult Females on the Autism Spectrum”, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols is available September, 2015. Tania is currently writing the third book in her book series entitled “AspienPowers: The Unique Constellation of Strengths, Talents and Gifts of Females with Autism Spectrum Conditions”. The Spanish version of I am Aspiengirl© , entitled Soy AspienGirl is now available. Tania’s work has been translated and/or cited in numerous publications including Sarah Hendrickxs’ recent release entitled “Women and Girls with an Autism Spectrum Disorder” (2015), foreword by Dr. Judith Gould.
Tania currently works in busy full-time private practice, providing diagnostic assessments, intervention and support to males and females ages 2-76 years of age. Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner.
© 2015-2017 All rights reserved Tania Marshall
Autism spectrum conditions, including Asperger’s syndrome, are challenging to identify in adults. Without appropriate assessment, many individuals may go undiagnosed, without appropriate support and treatment.
Many girls and women are going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because the majority of the research has been conducted on males and there is a great need of research based on females compared to NT females, research based assessment tools for females and interventions for females. There is also a great need for these tools to be made readily accessible to professionals, in other countries and other languages. At present, there are few professionals in the world both trained and experienced in assessing and/or working with females on the Spectrum, across the lifespan. At this point in my career, I have worked with hundreds, closer to 1,000 females, from ages 18 months to 78 years of age, of various sub-types, symptomatology, mild to severe traits, a variety of levels of Giftedness, many professional performers (singers, musicians, comedians, actors, models), professionals athletes, professional artists, professional authors, high-profile individuals, all at different points on the Social Spectrum, some with gender dysphoria, some with sexual fluidity, parenting and being a mother, being in trouble with the law, stalking and obsessiveness, working in the sex trade, being sectioned into a mental health facility (and the experiences that go with that), have work-related challenges, and much more.
Females with Autism or Aspergers may be picked up for Autism in the teenage years with depression, anxiety or an eating disorder, if they are at all. Many females exist who are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and continuing to have mental health problems because of this. Some are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which may or may not be appropriate, although many have BPD traits, and I have worked with individuals who have both. For adults, no-one knew of Asperger Syndrome or Autism back in their childhood. So a comprehensive early childhood and teenage autobiographical account is an extremely important piece of an assessment. In addition, other perspectives from people who know the person very well are important. A comprehensive assessment of an adult can include a variety of assessment tools, depending on the person. It also involves childhood photographs, report cards and comments, parental and/or partner perspectives, formal assessment tool(s) and an exploration of abilities, talents and/or gifts.
The vast majority of women I work with are on the bright end of the Spectrum, and tell me their reasons for seeking a diagnosis range from self-understanding and awareness to improving their relationships, to improving their works relationships, to treating their anxiety and or depressive episodes. and are not seeking services, support, nor government support pension or services. They are wanting to know why they have “felt different” for so long, wanting to know what career is best for them, wanting to know how to structure their lives. They don’t want to be on government disability not do they see they value in that. They like working, want to work and contribute.
Presently there are ZERO adult assessment tools for females, very little research that is based on females and no specific research based interventions for females. This is a crisis for females. It is challenging for females to find a professional or organization familiar with the female autism research, how to assess females and then how to support them.
When I conduct impressions assessments, the assessment of adults explore the areas of social communication and interaction, repetitive and stereotypical behaviour, sensory issues and abilities or gifts. Feedback is provided, recommendations, highly recommended resources and a “What Next?” discussion is also involved.
Generally speaking, my comprehensive adult diagnostic impressions assessments include the following:
While my diagnosis is based on the current DSM-5 Criteria, it is by no means a cut and dry process. The DSM is a working document and as such, does not accomodate well to females on the Spectrum.
Diagnosis, ultimately from my perspective, is best done when in collaboration with the client (and their partner or spouse when relevant) as a way to inform, educate, reflect and empower.
Tania A. Marshall is an award winning and best selling author, a 2019, 2016 and 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Awards Nominee (Advancement category) and a psychologist. Her first book, I Am AspienGirl: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Gifts of Females on the Autism Spectrum, Foreword by Judith Gould, UK, is an Amazon best-seller and a 2015 IPPY eLIT Gold Medal Book Award Winner.
I Am AspienGirl has been translated into both Spanish and Italian (release dates of July and August 2015 respectively).
Tania has completed the sequel to I Am AspienGirl, entitled “I am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Females on the Autism Spectrum, foreword by Dr Shana Nichols (lead author of Girls Growing up on the Autism Spectrum). The release was 2015. This book includes a section of 24 females, all diagnosed as on the Spectrum, showcasing their strengths and also offering important advice to others. Tania is proud to announce that her 2nd book “I Am AspienWoman” recently won an IPPY eLIT Gold Medal in the “Women’s Issues” category.
Tania is an Australian psychological society (APS) autism identified medicare provider,
helping children with autism (HCWA) early intervention service provider, a better start early intervention provider and an Australian government medicare approved mental health provider. She is also a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) social skills practitioner.
Female Autism Infographics to share for awareness and education. More Coming
The following article is copyrighted and may not be posted anywhere without permission from the author.
For more information go to:
To contact Tania regarding consultations, assessment, problem-solving strategies, Skype consultations, book distribution, interviews, book translations, publishing queries, please email her at email@example.com
Welcome to another Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series, where I interview female role models and mentors diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and/or involved in the world of Autism or Asperger Syndrome.
In this interview I interviewing Brandy Nightingale from the United States about her life, Asperger Syndrome, her gifts and talents and more! Brandy Nightingale is a jack of all trades and received a late diagnosis in 2010.
Tania: Welcome to the Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series Brandy! It’s fantastic to have you here where we interview females on the Spectrum about their lives, their diagnosis and their unique talents.
Brandy: Thank-you so much. It’s an honor to be here and to be a part of this important interview series!
Tania: When did you receive your formal diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome?
Brandy: I was formally diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in November of 2010, at the age of 35.
Tania: Please tell tell me about your work/career life.
Brandy: Well, I was a teen model. I now work in the feature film industry as a Visual Effects Coordinator. I was a personal assistant to three celebrities before getting into VFX. I own my own local pet care business, The Peaceful Pup (thepeacefulpup.com). I am a retired stand-up comic (performed for 8 years). I’m married to an eccentric NT (2 years). I’m a survivor of childhood physical, mental, emotional & sexual abuse. I’m a survivor of school bullying. I have an active blog (http://brandynightingale.blogspot.com).
Tania: Wow Brandy, that;s incredible. I’m always amazed at what females on the Spectrum can do. Tell me more about your writing please?
Brandy: I just completed a personal memoir, Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir. It’s a shocking yet humorous memoir titled, Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir, which, from the perspective of an autistic child, explores personal stories of living with and attempting to rescue her alcoholic, drug addicted mother from self-destruction.
Tania: Wow, that’s fantastic! You certainly have been and/or are involved in a number of careers and interests. You mentioned to me about also doing some advocacy work?
Brandy: My newest goal is to work with girls/women on the spectrum, helping them to embrace ‘what is’, which is their autism, find their individual strengths and passions, and put those to use in order to become happy and successful.
Tania: Awesome! What are your Superpowers?
Brandy: Since I was a very little girl, I was able to recognize I had what I believed were superpowers. The first one I noticed was that I could hear what others couldn’t. The slightest sound of a leaf falling to the ground, a dog barking neighborhoods away, or even my mother whispering in the next room, I could hear it all. (I admit this superpower didn’t make surprises easy for others, which is fine, as I’ve never been one to like surprises.) This superpower has come in quite handy in life. In my adult years, I can hear instantly if my car isn’t functioning properly, if the toilet is broken, if there is a leak in a pipe, if a creature is lurking in the garden. My hearing superpower has turned into an incredible asset, enabling me to diagnose and repair pretty much anything. It’s also helped me to isolate particular sounds such as determining a territorial dog’s bark from a fearful dog’s bark, an honest voice from a dishonest voice. I’m able to use this ability when I work with animals and meet new people.
Tania: What amazing Aspienpowers you have and I love the way you utilize them, in addition to the way you view them. What advice would you give to other Aspiens?
Brandy: My take away from life and the wisdom I’d like to pass along to fellow female Aspiens is this: listen to yourself without the voices and opinions of others. Really sit with yourself and listen to what your body tells you about your needs, wants, and most of all, your passions and talents. What makes you feel giddy inside? What can you spend hours working on? What is it you do that seems to make time disappear? If your body wants to read, by all means let it read. If your body wants to write, by all means write! If your body wants to build, by all means let it build! Although we all have responsibilities such as school, work, or even families to care for, we MUST make time for our passions and develop our talents. We Aspiens are more specialists than generalists, meaning we can be really good or even genius at a topic or two, beyond what most can comprehend. Isn’t that incredible? That’s a superpower most of us share. It is people like us who create new gadgets, who have a special ability to connect with animals, who have a special ability to focus on small details of tasks for much longer than others. We are the ones who have the innate ability to solve problems for the world. More than ever, the world needs our superpowers, so let’s fine tune them and let them shine!
Tania: Fantastic Brandy and I just love you positive strengths-based positive attitude, something this Interview Series and the Aspiengirl Project is all about! People have been emailing us and telling us how they love this approach. How can people follow or reach you?
Brandy: I can be found at:
- Blog: brandynightingale.blogspot.com
- Twitter: bnightingale11
- Facebook: facebook.com/everythingshunkydory
Tania: Brandy, thank-you so much for being a part of this fabulous movement. That of providing awareness, hope, inspiration to other females on the Autism Spectrum.
Brandy: Proud to be a part of it Tania and thank-you for asking me to be a part of this Project, along with some other pretty cool Aspiens!
Brandy Nightingale was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2010 at the age of thirty-five. An entrepreneur, visual effects coordinator on feature films, retired stand-up comedian, and writer, she resides in beautiful Ojai, California with her husband, three rescued dogs, and two happy hens.
To learn more about female Autism/Asperger Syndrome, check out the Aspiengirl book series at http://www.aspiengirl.com where some of these mentors are included in the Mentor section!
Autobiographical Narratives of Adult Females on the Spectrum
This blog is a sample of soon to be released book entitled “Behind the Mask: The autobiographical narratives of undiagnosed females on the Autism Spectrum”
Over the years I have listened to the narratives of many individuals on the Spectrum. I have interviewed and listened to females, read their autobiographical narratives (a 3-4 page written narrative from their earliest memories until early adult years) and provided support and intervention to them and their families. I have also interviewed and listened to their partners, mothers, fathers, siblings, children, carers and/or their doctors, psychologists and other professionals. Within this unique group of females, interesting themes emerge from their narratives. Briefly, what follows is just some of the many common themes that I have identified within the narratives of the females that I have worked with. Thank-you to the fabulous women who gave permission to use their own words. If you are looking for a fee-for-service assessment or support, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Thank-you.
1. A strong feeling of being “different”, “odd”, “weird” or feeling as though they are from another era or planet, and/or feeling like the “black sheep” in my family.
“I have always been trying to figure out what was wrong with me and why I am so different”
- A strong will and sheer determination
“If I want to achieve something I will do it and I’m prepared to put the work and effort into getting it. Nothing will stop me”
3. A lengthy history of therapy, counselling and/or medication.
“I have a history of “labels”, therapy, counselling, group work, you name it. I just had another five labels attached to me…borderline personality disorder, anxiety, some mood disorder, depression, OCD and some more crap therapy, and medication, which has only partly resolved my issues”.
4. Being invalidated, and unheard.
“I have been told I cannot possibly have AS because of my successes, the way I dress, my eye contact, the way I communicate with others, my ability to socialize, my verbal abilities and my intelligence. She said I don’t need any help and was unwilling to diagnose
- Low self esteem
“I have had very low self esteem from very young, but bizarrely I have a confidence to do my own thing”
- A history of being bullied, teased, manipulated and lied about
“I experience ridicule, criticism, humiliation, psychological bullying, and teasing, even towards me by those on the Spectrum. I thought people on the spectrum didn’t do those things. I joined a group of female Aspies. I thought it would be supportive and helpful. I was wrong”
- The experience of education/school
“From the second I was picked up from school (after my first day) right up to the second I finished my final paper, fourteen years later, school was a psychic nightmare beyond any measure, for me”
8. An uneven skillset
“The teacher told my mother that I was emotionally immature. I was exceptionally bright, determined, strong-willed, naive, and intelligent with hyperlexia and dyscalculia”
- I feel very intense emotions in relation to animals, and inanimate objects. By the age of seven or eight I had become so deeply sensitive to any sort of criticism.
“I cannot watch television, listen to the radio or watch violent/horror movies. Being on a anti-depressant has helped me be less sensitive. I need that to cope in the world”
10.Social echolalia, masking and fitting in
“I altered my entire phenotype; my true self was hidden and made invisible, even to my parents. I changed the way I walked, my tone of voice and I practiced smiling at myself in the mirror. I suppressed every urge to express my feelings and beliefs. I still don’t know how I managed it because I am a naturally very emotionally intense human being. I hated people asking me what was wrong, or why I was staring at their lips. I hated myself for feeling so different. I didn’t know why I couldn’t look people in the eyes; all that mattered was that I learn to look normal”.
- A deep love of fantasy and other-worldly themes
“Fantasy was my primary source of satisfaction. It was in the moments that I was alone that I dissociated, escaped into my very own safe little world. My Imagination was my salvation. I had friends, and I lived in nature. Often I was Pocahontas, or a fairy that could fly away. I wrote long, complex narrations about fantastical animals and magical people.
- Finding refuge in animals and objects
“Every afternoon after school I would, to some extent, feel very tired, moody, irritable and/or angry. Human affection could not console me. I rather found refuge in my pets; they were my real friends. I felt that I could trust them to love me unconditionally. There was always only one of them that I could give all of my undivided attention to at any given time. I considered myself the world’s best animal trainer, and handler- except not including human beings. Fortunately, I naturally found behavior a vast topic of interest. I managed to pull off normal, just in time for the school bell to ring signifying ‘home time’!”
- A history of eating issues and/or an eating disorder
“My eating disorder is a way of controlling my life. I have always been picky with food and have huge sensory sensitivities”
- Life is more challenging for me compared to my peers
“I have been married, had children, jobs, a life…but life just seems to be so hard. I often say, “Geez, just living day to day is hard for me.”
15. Years of Searching.
“I spent years searching, looking answers. I joined clubs, groups, religions, group therapy, AA, even a cult. I realized I was really just hoping to find the answer to why I felt so different.
I am Aspiengirl, I am Aspienwoman books and Aspienpowers can be purchased from http://www.aspiengirl.com
Tania is a best-selling author, writer and psychologist. She is available for assessments, consultations (in-person or Skype), interviews and/or presentations at email@example.com
For more information on female Autism/Asperger Sydnrome go to : http://www.taniamarshall.com
Tania Marshall. 2016. All rights reserved. Thank you.
This interview is the fourth in a series where I interview Mentor AspienGirls or Aspienwomen from a variety of countries about their lives, Asperger Syndrome, their gifts and talents and more! I founded the Aspienwoman and Aspiengirl mentor project to showcase females of all ages who act as mentors and role models to others on and off the Spectrum.
A young Honey Parker singing her heart out
Tania: Hello Honey and thank-you for agreeing to participate in the Aspiengirl mentors interview project, where I interview girls and women on the Spectrum from a variety of countries and backgrounds. As you know, I was introduced to you after I interviewed your fabulous mother, UK actress and director Olley Edwards, who had just released her pioneering short film on Asperger Syndrome and females, which stars you, and also she had just published her first female Asperger Syndrome guidebook!
Honey: Thank-you for asking me. I am happy to join my mother in such a cool Project.
Tania: You appear to have a very busy life. You are an actress going to school and you are also a young female on the Spectrum. When and how did you receive your diagnosis? How old were you at that time?
Honey: I was diagnosed at age 6, at hospital. I was always very clever and I could read at three. I hate change, eat the same foods on the same days of week and when the school did a surprise practice fire alarm, I hated it. I often got sad and angry when I got home. When my baby sister Cherish was born, it was a huge change. When I visited them in hospital I didn’t cope well. The nurse told my mum “don’t worry my autistic daughter did that too” but mum didn’t know I had Aspergers then, so that’s how it started.
Tania: You certainly displayed some traits. Sounds like the nurse was spot on with your diagnosis. In terms of acting, was it a natural progression from watching your mother?
Honey: No! I watched a panto (British tradition of winter musical comedy theatre) and told mum I wished to do that too! So she made it happen for me by contacting the local theatre. I’ve been hooked and I love it. Since then, I’ve done a panto, TV shows and two films.
Tania: What is your secret to living successfully, as a young girl with Asperger Syndrome/Autism?
Honey: Be positive, take days off, and make the most of ‘hyperfocus’.
Tania: I’m really glad you mentioned a strength, or aspienpower, as I refer to them. I appreciate your strengths-based approach to living, as an Aspien. This is what the Aspien Mentor Project is all about. Hyperfocus, like other asperpowers has a double-edged sword, but I have seen people create websites, write a book or create a song, and more, when they are in the ”ásperzone”. What advice would you say to other young females on the Spectrum?
Honey: Go for anything you want to do, don’t let anyone say you aren’t capable, never give up.
Tania: Awesome advice coming from an 11-year old. What strengths do you think Asperger Syndrome has brought you, in terms of being successfulas an actress?
Honey: I can copy people really well! That’s always good for acting
Tania: What are your goals for the future?
Honey: I want to achieve so many things; I want to be in the musical wicked! Keep getting really great grades at school, design clothes and sing sing sing!
Tania: Honey, thank-you so much for agreeing to be a Mentor. And thank-you to you Olley for raising such a fantastic girl, who is now 11 years old, a grade A student and head of anti-bullying organization.
Olley: Honey has come out of her shell as direct result of diagnosis and correct support and schooling. We hope this may help mums who have just found out and provide hope. Thank-you for creating this project and inviting us.
Tania: That’s fantastic to hear Olley. The diagnosis can be, but unfortunately isn’t always, a starting point or turning point for others, to a life where the individual now understands why they feel and think differently and hopefully receive the appropriate supports and/or interventions.
Olley Edwards, Honey Parker and other actors/actresses of the movie ‘The Kindest Label’, a short film about female Asperger Syndrome awareness at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ctn6uBmUVgk