Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series: Brandy Nightingale

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.

 

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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:

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.

 

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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!

 

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ImageTania Marshall©. 2013-2014. AspienWoman Interview Mentor Series. All rights reserved. Thank you.

 

Post-Diagnostic Themes from the Autobiographical Narratives of AspienWomen

Some Post-DiagnosticThemes from the Autobiographical Narratives of AspienWomen

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

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Many female adults question and reflect upon the whether or not they should seek out a diagnostic assessment. A common pathway to a diagnosis is via their own child's diagnosis. Another common pathway is through Google, also known as self-assessment. Many female adults either seek post-diagnostic support and/or write to me post-diagnosis, discussing some of their most common thoughts and feelings.

1. A sense of relief is the most common reaction, post-diagnosis. Finally, there is an explanation for the difficulties and challenges experienced, to date. Finally, they are getting somewhere in terms of getting the questions they have had throughout their life answered. Finally, they switch the labels, keeping the appropriate ones and  inappropriate "label"'s

"I think I had an idea in my head that once an official diagnosis was obtained my world would open up and all of a sudden my difficulties would melt away. (I didn't think that one through very well!). But of course you wake up just the same …. I'm finally getting to a place where waking up as me is ok! I am 41 and spent years thinking I was defective so it's going to take a few more to disregard that belief"

2. Later on, other emotions may appear, such as anger and grief and lots more questions. Usually, the anger stems from the often obsessive "what-if's". What if I had been diagnosed when I was in school? What if my teachers, family members knew I had Aspergers, rather than being "naughty"?  What if the teachers knew I had Aspergers instead of being labelled dumb, lazy, angry, too shy, socially anxious, bi-polar, borderline? What if I had had learning support? What if? What if? What if? I could have…got through school, university, my courses, med school…..? Maybe my marriage would have…. Maybe I could of had a career in…? Maybe, maybe, maybe.

"Before, I was a little scared that you would say I don't have it, and I will fall apart again wondering why I am the way I am. And feel a bit silly telling the few people I have mentioned my Self Diagnosis too. Even though I have answered alot of questions, I find I have a lot of "what if's?"

3. A reframing takes place, one in which the individual goes from present day backwards in time reframing her life experiences, events, relationships, in light of her new diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome or Autism. This reframing provides a catharsis, much understanding and mourning. It is then that the individual sees herself through the lens of Autism, presently and in the future.

To Be Continued…

Tania can be contacted for assessment, diagnosis, intervention and support, in addition to interviews and articles regarding her books. Contact her at tania@aspiengirl.com

Tania currently spends her professional time divided between private practice, research, and writing and looks forward to releasing the next installment in her AspienGirl™ book series, available at http://www.aspiengirl.com

Aspiengirl™ and Planet Aspien™ are registered and trademarked. Copyright 2013-14

Emerging Themes of Autobiographical Narratives by Females on the Spectrum

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”

Updated 23/09/2016

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 tania@aspiengirl.com  Thank-you.

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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”

  1. 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

  1. Low self esteem

“I have had very low self esteem from very young, but bizarrely I have a confidence to do my own thing”

  1. 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”

  1. 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”

  1. 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”.

  1. 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.

  1. 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’!”

  1. 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”

  1. 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.

 

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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 tania@aspiengirl.com

For more information on female Autism/Asperger Sydnrome go to : http://www.taniamarshall.com

Tania Marshall. 2016.  All rights reserved. Thank you.

Sneak-A-Peek of I am AspienWoman: The unique characteristics of adult females on the Autism Spectrum

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Have you ever wondered about a quirky family member? Maybe she is your partner, your mother, your grand-mother, aunt, sister, niece or even your teacher? You may have wondered why she seems “different”, ”odd'” or even “cool”?  Have you ever wondered why life seems, at times, so challenging for her?  She is very bright, has a superior memory and great sense of humour.  She finds other people, stress, emotions and organization a challenge and she often suffers from a “social hangover”. Her peers or friends gracefully met their milestones, yet she remains perplexingly both ahead and behind her peers.  

You may have wondered where she disappears to at family get togethers, only to be found playing with the children or animals. She may be the “black sheep” of the family, have unusual habits and be highly intuitive. She is an Aspien, a woman with Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism. She may be a high achiever, goal-oriented, perfectionistic, and quirky. And yes, she may be your local teacher, nurse, artist, musician, actress, model, or even your doctor.

An Aspienwoman may have unfinished courses or degrees or may have achieved her education later than her peers. She is very bright, however you can’t figure out why she is so disorganized or has difficulty managing her emotions or stress. She is a high achiever with a collection of asperpowers that help her reach any goal she has her mind set on.

An Aspienwoman has a unique constellation of aspienpowers, super-abilities, strengths and challenges. She often feels as though she is from another Planet. If you are looking for a book on the often perplexing and unique adult female Autism Spectrum traits and characteristics, then this is the book for you. Watch for ‘I am AspienWoman™, coming soon.

Q: What does “Aspien” mean?

A: The terms ”Aspien”, Äspiengirl”, “Aspienwoman”, “Planet Aspien”, and it’s derivatives were recently created and trademarked. This terminology came about from years of working with females, of all ages, on the Spectrum, who most often talked about feeling different, feeling like they don’t belong and/or are from another planet, universe, time zone or era. A book series is a natural progression from my clinical work.  This book series is an answer to the current gender bias and educates the reader about females on the Spectrum who are also known as “research orphans” (Klin).

Q: What are Aspienpowers?

A: Aspienpowers are a unique set of strengths often seen collectively in females with high functioning autism or asperger syndrome

This book will be available on Amazon, in E-book and on http://www.aspiengirl.com (under construction). Each book includes a list of characteristics, traits, strengths and challenges, a table, and more!

The first book in my series is entitled “I am AspienGirl: The unique characteristics of young females, with Asperger Syndrome”, coming soon!

Tania Marshall 2013.  All rights reserved. Duplication, in whole or in part, is explicitly forbidden. AspienGirl™ and Planet Aspien™ are registered and trademarked names. Thank you.

AspienGirl Mentor Interview Series: Actress and performer Honey Parker

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.

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                                 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Tania Marshall©. 2013. AspienGirl and Aspienwoman Interview Mentor Series. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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